Checking In: Gina Chavez Talks to the Moon

Latina dynamo isn’t simply sitting around chillin’

Last week, Gina Chavez graced the cover of the Chronicle in a guide to new murals on the outside – outside, outdoors, topside. If that doesn’t make Austinites homesick, reading the Latin American ambassador’s note from her shelter resonates equally forceful, its nervy energy emblematic of the singer’s live prowess – now livestreaming daily.

Gina Chavez recording a Tiny Desk Family Concert locally, March 13, 2019 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Gina Chavez: I am sheltering with my wife in the house we bought a few months ago. We moved out of a 1-1 condo, which was awesome, but way too small for Gina and all her instrument babies. I am so grateful for our new home right now!

My wife's incredible cooking and our daily living room workouts are keeping us healthy. I can see the moon from our back porch and have my own studio that’s become a maze of tripods, cables, and mics as we experiment with nightly livestreams.

That said, it's not all sunshine and roses.

I've been really hard on myself to be uber productive since I have all the time in the world now, and yesterday it all got to me. I had a mini breakdown, took a two-hour nap, cried, and then found myself talking to the moon, so, you know, one day at a time, haha!

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

“Yesterday it all got to me. I had a mini breakdown, took a two-hour nap, cried, and then found myself talking to the moon, so, you know, one day at a time, haha!”

GC: I got back from a short duo tour in D.C. and Pittsburgh on March 8 and that’s when it all started going down. At those shows, we were in the phase of trying to take it seriously, while bringing some fun and light to the situation. From stage, we taught the audience how to master the elbow bump and non-touching selfies, saying, “Of course I want to sell you CDs and shirts, but don't touch me!”

Now, even that feels like a world away.

SXSW pulled out and within days, nearly 20 shows dropped off our schedule. Of course, I’m extremely glad that cities, venues, and presenters everywhere were proactive in making that call. We have to shelter in place and do this for the good of each other.

Fortunately, I work part time for an incredible nonprofit, the Center for Public Policy Priorities. I’ve been there more than 10 years and am so, so, so blessed to have the support of CPPP, my supervisor, and all of my coworkers right now. I'm honestly not sure what I would do without that stability.

Many of my bandmates, however, are not as fortunate.

I’ve been livestreaming on Facebook every night at 8pm to create connection and also gather as much support as I can for the Gina band familia. Personally speaking, I'd say it's all hitting right about now. We’re 20-plus days in and, you know, moon-talking.

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person – at a show, at Central Market, at SXSW?

Levi Ponce’s new mural of Chavez at 2400 East Cesar Chavez. “Levi Ponce truly graced me with this honor,” the singer told Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires. “I hope that it may grace our Latino community for years to come.” (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

GC: I have no idea, haha!

All I know is that doing livestreams every night is hard! I’m a classic extrovert and feed off of live human interaction. I’m the kind of person who gets off stage with more energy than I had when I got on, because it feeds me to be around people, meet them, hear their stories, share a hug. But when the stage is a camera, it’s like performing to concrete.

Wow, I just realized I've been livestreaming for 20 days straight. And I'm not even straight! Geez, no wonder I’m talking to the moon, #facepalm.

Apparently, it’s taken me 20 days to realize I definitely need human connection, so I'm launching a new series called Quaran-Gina Q&A. I’ll feature my bandmates and fab artists like Carrie Rodriguez and Jackie Venson where we check-in, ask silly questions, and swap songs.

AC: Everyone is having to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

GC: OMG, the screen time. I think last Friday was when the entire world discovered Zoom. I spent my entire day on back-to-back Zoom calls and now that is daily life. It's amazing how sitting around in sweatpants, snacking, and staring at a screen can get to you, haha.

“Wow, I just realized I’ve been livestreaming for 20 days straight. And I’m not even straight!”

But I’m grateful to have the internet and the ability to connect with each other on video in real time. The nightly live streams have given me a kick in the pants to produce content more regularly, while trying to navigate the best way to release my new album. Yay, new music!

It’s a wild new world out there and while most of it sucks, at least we have free or cheap tools at our fingertips. And I feel fortunate to have some small thing to offer people a way to escape or chill or get their minds off of the shitshow outside. The livestreams have been a big shift in our routine, but these new constraints have given my wife and I a reason to explore new skills like sound engineering, lighting, operating multiple camera angles, etc.

One thing is for sure, we are not sitting around chillin’!

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

GC: I’m the kind of person who actually needs space from music sometimes. I’m more likely to listen to a podcast – like Brene Brown's new podcast Unlocking Us that Carrie Rodriguez and I co-wrote the music for (*squeal*) – or dive into a tutorial on new equipment, like my Boss RC 505 loop station.

The music I prefer is opening the sliding glass door while our neighbor’s rooster goes off. And I love when the birds start their gossip, while the wind tosses the trees around and the stray cats prowl the weeds. The sounds of our new backyard make me happy and bring me peace.

But... only after a morning workout fueled by Cardi B, Rosalía, Beyoncé, Ximena Sariñana, Chance the Rapper, Calle 13, y más.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Gina Chavez, Jackie Venson, Carrie Rodriguez, Cardi B, Rosalía, Beyoncé, Ximena Sariñana, Chance the Rapper, Calle 13, Checking In 2020

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