Today’s Feature, June 20-21, 2007: Gina Villalobos

January 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm (Today's Feature)

The story of Gina Villalobos seems something of the great American
novel, more than real life. As you get to know her, hear her music and
explore her world, you can’t help but root for the woman who has
triumphed over every hurdle life has brought. She is about as unique
and determined as they come; refusing to let her “war wounds” get the
better of her. With twist and turns of growing up, trying for years
to find your niche in the music world and sustaining a serious injury
to her right eye, being told on Christmas Day (2003), that she would
remain forever totally blind in that eye. Events like that would crush
an average person but it takes a true artist to turn a situation
around by any means and luckily for us Villalobos chose music as her
vice. Where as most would just sit and sigh in the face of
discouragement, Villalobos not only picked up the pieces but throws
them in your face. Her latest release, Miles Away is proof her
determination and drive. With A blend of folk, rock and Americana,
sweet harmonies, with lyrics that will make you cry, laugh and rejoice
in the fact that years of great work continues to pay off. Read her
XXQs to find out more.

XXQs: Gina Villalobos

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Gina Villalobos (GV): I had a couple of guitar lessons when I was
about six or seven years old. Nothing major just learned three or
four chords. I just kind of always picked the guitar up after that
point, on and off throughout the years and taught myself the rest.
There was always music and musicians in the house. I soaked it up. I
remember having a book called the Complete Beatles. It was a book
with ALL of the Beatles songs in it. I learned so many guitar chords
from that book.

When we were kids we had a “Band Room” in the house with guitars,
guitar amps drums etc.. During the long hot summers we would make
noise in that room ALL day and ALL night long. We lived in a rural
part of southern CA called Lake Sherwood, wildfire distance from
Malibu. In the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s it was a patch of
country-side, with about 50 houses that surrounded the Lake, we kind
of ran wild and could be as LOUD as we wanted, be whatever we wanted
and we wanted to be in a band. It would not have been the same if I
didn’t grow up there. Good times.

Back to the “Band Room”. My favorite instrument at the time was the
drums but we all played everything. Our house sat at the edge of a
big open field, formally named “Maid Merian Park”. From our band room
we had a wide-open view of the field. We used to wait until we saw
someone approaching and launch into our best version of whatever song
we were playing at the time.

Anyway, that’s how I got started in Music. Most kids play “House”, we
played “Band”.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that made you decide music is
going to be a profession?

GV: It was more about coming into myself and being aware of whom I
was. I never said to myself…”I am deciding, right now, to be a
professional musician”. It was more like, “this is what I have always
been, (a musician) “.

PEV: What was it like the first time you performed live and when was it?

GV: Oh my God! It was when I was in college in Santa Barbara. We, my
band Liquid Sunshine, played at The Pub on campus. I think it might
have been a talent show or something like that. It was so long ago it
is hard to remember. I do remember being nervous. It was about 1991.
We played a few of my songs, maybe three. I remember nervously
bumping into my band mates or them bumping into me. We had crappy
instruments. It was adorable. We got another gig quickly there
after. It was so bad!

PEV: Your career has spanned many genres of music, which do you find
to be the best fit?

GV: If anything I have come full circle. Musically, I feel like I have
been standing under the same umbrella of “some kind of rock”, for the
last 17 years and as a writer have been coming from one place. From
day one I have been writing little pop folk songs. Through the years
and my growth as a musician and writer, I think it’s natural to
experiment with new instruments and sounds, and to start wrapping your
songs in different packaging. It’s never a conscious decision, as most
people would think, its just part of the growing process as an artist.

With that said, my first band was very acoustic based, one could say
it was the folksiest of my projects, just two acoustic guitars, vocals
and harmonies. My second band was the same thing except instead of
two acoustic guitars, one was plugged in and I added bass and drums.
My current stuff is just a combo of the two. I have songs that have
crossed-over to all three of my bands.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio?

GV: It was so long ago, about 17 years. It’s hard to remember. There
have been so many hours of memories and music between now and then
that it makes it hard to recall the experience in detail. I was just
talking about this last night with my guitar player after practice….it
only cost $1000 to record my first CD. We recorded in a studio behind
a music store on State Street in Santa Barbara I remember it being
exciting and there being a lot of reverb! I think that is why I have
such a fear of reverb today! I was kind of tortured by it.

PEV: When you write music, what kind of element do you prefer to
surround yourself in?

GV: Oh it doesn’t matter. You kind of just have to be ready to go
with it when a song comes. I have written in all kind of
environments.

PEV: Is there one aspect to your music, be it the type of songs,
acoustic/electric, range in vocals; you find yourself leaning towards
more then others?

GV: Not really. Mid tempo, hooky-repeating lines are always fun to
sing. I like to repeat lines and try to evoke new meaning into each
by flipping the melody around. But really…any song where I feel like
I have had a complete thought, where I can say to myself, “this is
what I was trying to say when I set out to write this song and I feel
like I am actually saying it”. Those are the songs I lean towards.
Ultimately those are the ones that end up being on your records.

PEV: What can we expect from your latest release, Miles Away?

GV: A blend of Folk, Rock and Americana, articulated with Drums, Bass,
Twangy Electric Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, Pedal Steel, keyboards,
Vocals, and sweet harmonies. It’s mid tempo, great for driving, raw,
emotional, vulnerable, rocking at times, tender at times, music!

PEV: Describe the feeling the first time you started to write Miles Away?

GV: All the songs on the record were ongoing pieces of work written
between Aug 2004 Dec 2005. Lots of different things were going on in
my life so I didn’t have any “one feeling”. I never set out to write
an album so there was no point in time that I officially “started to
write Miles Away”. I just wrote songs. It was not apparent to me I
even had a collection of songs that would make a good record as a
group until 2/3 of the way through recording my songs. The whole
thing did not really come into focus for me until the very end.

PEV: How is Miles Away different from other albums out today?

GV: It will make you feel happy and sad at he same time!

I play Roots Rock… Americana. It’s not a cutting edge format. I have
never claimed to be doing anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s
a classic format. My challenge is to try and offer up something to
the listener that makes them feel differently when they listen to my
music opposed to someone else’s. I think it’s a good thing if I can
give the listener his or her own experience. If my songs can make
them look inward, I think that’s the point at which I connect to the
listener, and hopefully that is what makes me a little different from
other albums put there.

PEV: In all your travels, which city has been your favorite to perform
in? And which offers the best atmosphere for music appreciation?

GV: Ummmmm (long pause) Auckland, New Zealand.

PEV: Is there someone that you wish to collaborate with that you
haven’t gotten a chance to yet?

GV: Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Tom Petty.

PEV: In your opinion, who is an artist to watch today?

GV: I am listening to a bunch of older music right now. Let me think…
Maria Taylor or Carrie Rodriguez

PEV: What’s something we’d be surprised to hear about Gina Villalobos?

GV: I don’t know what people’s perceptions of me are so I don’t know
what would be surprising to people. Let see…I am not a huge music
fan, meaning I’m not up on who is who, what record is coming out etc.,
hence my answer to above question.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to your success?

GV: If things happened over night I would be able to answer this
question with a black and white answer, but it didn’t. I have been
doing this for 17 years and slowly building my career. I am just a
normal person to my friends and family. They treat me like anybody
else. They are happy for me when I achieve something I have been
striving for, jut as I would if they did.

GV: They have been really excited about all of the traveling I have
been able to do.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Gina Villalobos show?

GV: A variety of things. Either full band or more of a broken down
version of that. Sometimes I like to add instruments that were not on
my records, like Cello. I have been playing songs from my last two
recordings

PEV: How has life on the road and touring been for you?

GV: Life of the road is nothing like most people perceive it to be.
It’s a lot of work….Rock n roll is a lot of work. For me, life on the
road has been a mix of great memories along with some memories that at
the time didn’t seem so funny that I can laugh at now. It’s pretty
physically exhausting but at the same time pretty exciting to be in a
different city or different country on a nightly basis. The
lifestyle can be pretty unhealthy unless of course you are of Madonna
status and are followed around by cooks, trainers and assistants. For
most of us this is not the case.

PEV: Describe the feeling of hearing fans sing along with you when you perform.

GV: It’s great if I forget the words! Seriously though it’s a great
feeling when it’s not your friends or your family singing a long.
It’s indescribable.

PEV: So, what is next for Gina Villalobos?

GV: Don’t know…. I have been doing this for 17 years. There are only
a small percentage of musicians who are of that rock star status. The
other 99% are working musicians like myself. I live CD sale to CD
sale (literally). Currently there are no funds for future projects.

For more information on Gina Villalobos, check out: http://www.GinaVillabolos.com

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