Gina Chavez is an 8 time Austin Music Award winner whom the city declared a “Gina Chavez Day” in 2015. She is bilingual singer-songwriter with multiple albums and a new EP called Lightbeam. Her latest single is “Let It Out.” The latest video from the album is “Heaven Knows”
FEMMUSIC is honored to speak to her before her Denver appearance.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Lightbeam?
GC: We ended up having to re-imagine the beat for the first single, “Heaven Knows.” The first one we laid down was solid, but landed a little too far on the folk side and I wanted a more contemporary feel. Dwight, who used to tour as the drummer for Enrique Iglesias, ended up re-recording the drums for the track, something he hasn’t done in years!
FEMMUSIC: What was your vision for the EP?
GC: The past couple years I took some time off to write. My only vision was to dive into the art of songwriting; to let go of boundaries, genres, and just spend time with pen, paper and my guitar. I was pretty surprised when these soul-tinged love songs bubbled up. It was exciting to explore a different side of my sound and lyrical themes of faith and love, sacrifice and wholeness as my wife and I approached our wedding day after twelve years together.
FEMMUSIC: Dwight A Baker was your producer for the EP. How did you meet him? Why did you choose him produce? What was he like to work with?
GC: I had been impressed with Dwight’s work from afar (MISSIO, Alpha Rev, The Wind and The Wave, Josh Abbott Band). We were introduced through a mutual friend, and I had these five tracks in need of production, so it was a natural fit. I liked his vision for the EP, mainly keeping it tied to the live sound with simple instrumentation featuring the vocal. He enlisted some of Austin’s finest — Conrad Choucroun (drums), Steve Terebecki (bass) and David Boyle (keys) — and they knocked it out of the park! We tracked bass and drums in two days, barely running each song more than 3 times before David added his magic on keys and synth. Dwight is a great vocal coach and so beast on the mix! I had a finished EP in eight days. Boom!
FEMMUSIC: What lessons did you learn making Up-Rooted? How did that change how you approached Lightbeam?
GC: I consider Michael Ramos, who produced Up.Rooted, a true mentor. He taught me how to write to my voice, especially that there is more depth in the lower-end of my vocal register and empowered me to trust my instincts in the studio by listening to my ideas and helping me bring them to life. The recording process for Up.Rooted was a true labor of love, and one that lasted 10 months on and off. That experience and everything I’ve learned in the years since, prepared me to head into the studio with Dwight and bring Lightbeam to life with few challenges.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about your songwriting technique.
GC: I tend to start with rhythm and melody. Many times, I’ll sing nonsensical words or sounds over a chord progression and then find the words that seem to fall into place. That’s what happened with “Heaven Knows.”
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
GC: Ooh this is a tough one. I feel like I take little, subtle things from so many songs that it’s hard for me to think of one that’s had a huge influence. The third song on this new EP, “Let It Out,” is a fusion of Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Blondie and I had no idea those influences were even in there!
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
GC: Honestly, I have been very blessed in my career. I mean there have definitely been moments where men have mistaken me for someone’s intern or a “merch girl” or don’t take me seriously until I’m ready for the show in contacts, a dress and makeup. The double standards are annoying and frankly ridiculous, but I tend to put that energy into my show instead of getting upset. And the men in my band are truly thoughtful people, constantly working to better themselves as musicians and in their personal lives. We have some great conversations on the road.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
GC: I would love to tour with Natalia Lafourcade! She is a Latin Grammy winner with incredible songwriting, musicality and uses her platform to speak for justice. We had the chance to open for her in Austin and I had the chance to hang out with her backstage. She is pure grace and class and has built a career on her own terms.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
GC: Ooh another good one. Hmm… I’m struggle with questions like this because I’m a pretty practical person, so I know I can’t just change inequities or lack of access with a magic wand. I also know that I myself am very privileged and I’ve had incredible opportunities to tour the world and share music with people’s everywhere. But if I did have that magic wand, I’d want to change something that permeates music and every other sector, that is present in every culture throughout the world — the fact that women and girls who speak up are seen as “bossy” and “difficult,” whereas men and boys who do so are seen as “leaders.” Women are expected to be quiet, subservient. It’s the one thing that every culture in the world shares and it’s time for a change.