By: Cassie Zimnoch and Erin Kovar
Deemed the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” Austin, Texas is home to some of the top music festivals in the nation and a growing grounds for influential artists across the globe. With Austin’s annual SXSW music festival kicking off this week, we are excited to see several Press Junkie clients amongst this list of influential artists. We had the opportunity to sit down with award-winning Austin singer/songwriter Gina Chavez to get her take on the expectations of this year’s festival as well as a few favorite memories of SXSW past.
Press Junkie: Having performed at SXSW multiple times in the past and having won several Austin Music Awards at the festival, how do your expectations differ going into this year’s festival compared to previous years?
Gina: This year’s SXSW feels like a whole new ballgame! Last year we played a dive bar and this year we’ve been invited to play some really incredible shows, including two official showcases with some of the most phenomenal local acts! We’ve been rehearsing three days a week for this and we’re ready to make some waves; to show the world Austin isn’t just great at hosting parties. We are the party!
Press Junkie: Whether it be a memorable story from a past SXSW experience or a standout moment on stage from one of your previous performances there, what is your absolute favorite memory from the festival?
Gina: I grew up in Austin and SXSW always fell during our Spring Break, so it might seem strange that until a few years ago, I was never even in town for the festival, ha! After realizing I was missing out on one of the most important music scenes in the world, I decided to volunteer. My first year, I was a stage crew at the former club Copa on Congress Ave. for a world music stage. That year, I was in a constant state of jaw-dropping elation as I witnessed a young Choc Quib Town — now Latin-Grammy award winners — tear up the stage with Afro-Colombian hip-hop, while Alash transported me back in time to the plains of Siberia with their eery Tuvan throat harmonies, and the LA-Spanish band LoCura inspired me to dive deeper into my Latin roots via music.
At SXSW years later, I would hand my album Up.Rooted to one of the co-hosts of Alt. Latino — my favorite NPR podcast — who happened to be at a Latin music showcase at the Palm Door on 6th. Grace would have it that the woman standing next to her would lean over to me and whisper, “I thought that was you! I have your album and would love to feature you on All Things Considered.” WHAT? I kept my cool and got her card. A month later we were at the NPR studio in DC recording a feature spot that would take my indie album to the top of the iTunes and Amazon Latin charts in mere hours. A glimpse into the power of indie music, SXSW and public radio!
Press Junkie: In your latest album “up.rooted” you express what it means to be an ethnically mixed American woman trying to find where you belong. How has living in Austin and performing at local festivals like SXSW that attract diverse crowds helped define your music style and who you are?
Gina: Oddly enough my journey to discover my lost Latin roots through music began when I left my hometown of Austin to study abroad in Argentina. Since then, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for all that Austin has to offer, including this incredible music-loving community, support organizations and international attention at festivals like Pachanga Fest and SXSW.
I think most of my musical style comes within; from trusting my instinct as an artist then finding talented people like Michael Ramos, who produced my latest album, to help shape and capture that sound in the best possible way. Once we had a record we were proud of, we worked on how best to represent that sound in a live setting. Our musical style continues to grow with each performance, which teaches us something new about ourselves as performers and about our fans and what they want. This year, we’re more excited than ever to share our sound with people from all over the world; at SXSW and beyond!