Hola Iowa Interviews Award-Winning Artist Gina Chavez

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On Saturday, April 15, Gina Chavez will perform as part of the “Live at the Temple Concert Series” at the Temple Theater in Des Moines.
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Gina Chavez is a wife, philanthropist, and an award-winning independent musician. She is a 2020 Latin Grammy nominee for Best Pop/Rock Album, 12-time Austin Music Award winner; including 2019 Best Female Vocals and 2015 Austin Musician of the Year. On Saturday, April 15, Gina Chavez will perform as part of the “Live at the Temple Concert Series” at the Temple Theater in Des Moines

Q: Hola Gina, thank you for making the time to talk with Hola Iowa! And could you tell our audience that will be checking you out for the first time this Saturday in your concert, what they can expect? 

A: Sure! I am very excited to be performing in Des Moines! I haven’t been back to the area since before the pandemic, so we’ve got a whole new show. I have songs from all of my records, but especially from my latest album ‘La Que Manda’ which was nominated for a Latin Grammy. Honestly, I love to take audiences on a journey. I think it’s a rhythmic journey, it’s a journey of the heart and I love to do everything from the heart, helping people think a little bit, but also just shaking our hips and having a good time.

Q: Congratulations on the nomination! ‘La Que Manda’ that’s your 2020 album in Spanish. Tell me how important that album has been to your fans and to your development as an artist? 

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A: Great question! Yeah, I think it was really exciting to put out a record, I put it out during the pandemic and it allowed me to connect to fans at a time when we weren’t even leaving our houses. So, to me the most exciting thing about ‘La Que Manda’ was digging deep, but then having that music actually connect to a larger audience, and especially all over Latino America. Spanish is not my native language. I didn’t grow up speaking spanish! Sigo aprendiendo, you know, me falta un montón, but like I love the Spanish language siempre me a llamado la atención. So to connect with an audience in Latino America with an album that’s not in my native language and to have people resonate with that has been really awesome. It’s been the most beautiful thing and of course to have a stamp of approval from the latin Grammy’s is amazing! 

Q: Well, now you have that in common with Selena too because Spanish wasn’t her native language. 

A: ¡Eso! 

Q: Tell me, what were some of the musical influences for you growing up and which artist do you follow now? 

A: I am from Austin. My mom’s from the Dallas area, my dad’s from San Antonio and so we spend a lot of time traversing the state of Texas in a car. And I grew up in the era of cassette tapes. I remember listening to the cassettes that I loved. There’s an artist from Texas named Lyle Lovett, The Judds, Little Richard, Michael Jackson. Those were kind of my go-to cassettes when I was a kid. You know, and I think the music that I play is pretty different from those, but I do think there is something about combining different influences that has a place in my music and so there’s a little bit un poco de todo. When I was in college, I did a study abroad year in Argentina, and so I lived in Buenos Aires and I heard Chacarera and then Nueva Trova. I just really got inspired by a different type of Latin Music that I’d have never heard in Texas. And so, voices like Mercedes Sosa, Violeta Parra, and Sofia Rodriguez me inspirando un montón during that time. I guess my music is like I said, un poco de todo. I think artists that are exciting to me, are Natalia Lafourcade, Lido Pimienta from Colombia, Sebastian Yatra, Rosalia, Bomba Estereo, Jorge Drexler, and then Emily King and Brandon Carlisle here in the states. 

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Q: ¡Muy buenas opciones! What do you think now, well actually it’s been for a while now, I remember the big wave of Latin American Artists like Ricky Martin and Shakira making the big splash into what they call the crossover. It seems more common now that artists from Latin America are making the crossover and even in Spanish. I think the success of the movie Encanto really opened that up, and some of those artists you mentioned are part of that soundtrack. How do you see it now that mainstream audiences are consuming Spanish music? 

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A: So for me as an independent artist, I remember I put out a bilingual record in 2014 and I have songs that are bilingual and I feel like fans have always understood. They listen to a song and they are like “cool it’s a bilingual cumbia” you know, no one is thinking about it and not understanding it. But the industry isn’t set up to understand bilingual music, so it’s like if I want a radio promoter they don’t get it and they’re like “where do I put it”. The lanes of the industry I feel like are very limiting and the cool part is when you have huge artists, for instance when Justin Bieber jumped on ‘Despacito’ for me as an independent artist I’m like “YES!” because now it’s opening up a whole new lane for people that when they are walking through Starbucks, they are hearing a bilingual song and it’s becoming normal and so now of course fast forward years later, and it’s like Bad Bunny is literally just blowing away records. He’s the biggest artist in the world and has nada que ver con musica en ingles. There’s a part of me that is like “Boo-ya!”. We’re out here as a huge market and I feel like the English language industry and media has been largely clueless, so for me I think it’s great! I think it’s amazing and I see only good things because it helps carve a path where somebody like me is sitting there digging with a tiny shovel like “come on guys!” and so when somebody opens up bigger lanes in the pop industry, I think it does good things for everybody else coming along. 

Q: Thank you and I wouldn’t want to let you go before you tell me a little about Las Niñas Arriba college fund. Tell me what it is and how you came about to start that? 

A: Niñas Arriba is a college fund that my wife and I started after we lived in El Salvador in Soyapango for about a year, and we lived with nuns, we worked with girls in an all girls school in a gang dominated part of San Salvador, called Soyapango. We were just so moved by our experience and connected to the young women that we lived with and taught, that we wanted to kind of maintain contact and see if we can continue being supportive in their lives, and we started this very small but mighty college fund that we’ve now entered in the 13th year, this is our 13th year. We now have six graduates who have gone through private catholic universities, they all have their degrees. We started a six month paid internship program so they all have been able to get paid experience outside of that. We now have a new cohort of four young women who are currently completing their studies, and they will also receive a paid internship afterwards. It’s all just been through fans here in Austin and beyond, who have wanted to help the cause and these young women are truly remarkable, and they just like any of us deserve a chance and that’s what we have given them, a door. They’ve had to go through it and do the hard work and they are truly remarkable young women. 

Q: Thank you and thank you for all that work you are doing and we’ll make sure to put the address for the website so people can go there and donate some money and learn more about the organization.

A: Of course! Claro! 

Q: Well Gina, thank you for making the time! I look forward to seeing you on Saturday. Muchas gracias por tu atencion

A: Muchísimas Gracias a usted.

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