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Gina Villalobos - Interview

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 17 / 9 / 2005

Gina Villalobos - Interview


Gina Villalobos' album 'Rock and Roll Pony' has earned her folk artist status, but also has roots in country and rock. She talks to Sarah Johnson about the accident which damaged and nearly lost her her sight, depression and her plans for her next record

Four rings and the telephone receiver clicks. A loud rock tune blares down the phone and a tired but cheerful Californian voice says: “Hi I’ll just turn my music down so I can hear you better.” Gina Villalobos is recovering from a hectic day at the recording studio working on her new album, that was perfectly on schedule until yesterday. “I had a really expensive mistake yesterday and I’m still sort of recovering from that. I lost a load of work and I’m going to have to re-do a bunch of stuff, but hey life goes on.” The new as-yet-unnamed album is set for release in the UK in early March on the Laughing Outlaw label and is a lot darker than Gina’s last album, 'Rock and Roll Pony'. Gina's debut album, 'Beg From Me', came out in 2003. This was followed up in 2004 by 'Rock and Roll Pony' which is the album that has gained Gina folk artist status. Her music may have its roots in folk but there is a definite rock influence as well. 'Rock and Roll Pony' is a good mix of country and folk but has some rockin’ guitar riffs thrown in as well. The lyrics are light and easy going but it hints that the next record will have even more depth and versatility. “The new record will be coming out early next year. It’s a lot of hard work recording it but it's going well." “I was listening to it the other day and it’s kind of depressing actually. There are a lot of keyboards in this one, I mean it’s the same band as before but just with a lot more keys.” Before 'Rock and Roll Pony' was released Gina went through a period of deep depression after a bad accident left her blind in her right eye. This has obviously influenced her new music pulling away from the brighter, summery feel of 'Rock and Roll Pony'. Constant travelling around has also influenced Gina’s new music. “It can be really tiring and missing home can get you down as well. It creeps in to your soul. All this moving around kind of leaves you unsettled. Travelling every day, being in a different city, sleeping in a different bed, it’s just not healthy." “I mean I don’t stay in five star hotels or anything. A lot of people say to me 'Hey, you're living the dream and the life', and yeah it is great and it can be a lot of fun but it’s also very hard. Some days when you haven’t slept and you’re not drinking enough water because you’re just on the road for so long, it can be really hard on your body. It’s not a very healthy life style.” Despite this Gina is keen to get back on the road again once recording is finished. Her second UK tour starts in October and she can’t wait to come back to Britain. Gina’s latest video, for her song, ‘What I’d Give’, shows a lot of footage from her first UK tour and hints at a love for its green hills and old buildings. “I never planned out the video to ‘What I’d Give.’ I just thought 'Hey, I need a video' and I had all that footage." “I have a friend who is an editor and she just said 'Give me what you’ve got' and then she came up with the video. I really like it. I was so happy with the finished thing." “The UK is great. I was last over there in May and it was really fun. It’s all a bit blurred up now but I really love it over there. I’ve been home in California now for about six or seven weeks recording, so I’m kind of ready to get up and go. I can’t wait for the tour.” Before Gina decided to go solo she was in rock band The Mades. With them she supported The Breeders, Frank Black, Counting Crows and Weezer. “We played with The Breeders at a few festivals. It was just like any other gig but really cool to be playing at that time with them. It was just after they had started playing together again. I also played with Frank Black and enjoyed that a lot more because we were just playing small clubs and I got to hang out with him back stage which was really cool. He was a lot of fun, a really easy going guy." “Supporting Counting Crows was way back in the 90’s just before they broke over here. They became huge in the States literally just a few weeks after they played with us. They had their first album come out and I didn’t know much about them, maybe heard their song once, and then all of a sudden they were huge. I was like 'I just played with that band.'" "Playing with Weezer, that was totally unplanned. We just got the chance to open up for them and we did.It was fun.” Despite the heavy touring schedule of the band their success was short lived and they decided to go their own way. “The guitar player quit. To quote him, he said, ‘I want to quit the band to become a man.’ Also we had been planning on doing more touring. I had spent thousands of dollars on recording and stuff and then the rest of the band just said they didn’t want to tour. It was a bit of a shitty time but in retrospect it was the best thing for me and now that I have gone solo I don’t have to worry about things like that happening.” Funding her own recording and producing her own albums is something Gina has always done. All of her records, including the new material, have all been paid for out her own pocket. “I just want to make music, and that’s what I’m doing. I wouldn’t really want to do it any other way, and it’s not like I had huge labels knocking down my door. This way you can do what you want to do. No one is going to tell you they want a different sound or try and get you to do things their way. I mean if I had someone throwing money at me then fair enough, but I want to do things my way.” 'Rock and Roll Pony', which also came out on the Laughing Outlaw label, has gained a lot of attention in Britain. While classified as folk it has also reached an indie rock fan base. The album has been played on the BBC Radio 2 'Folk Show' and has been reviewed in several music magazines. Just before the release date Gina, however, had the terrible accident that has affected her sight permanently. “I had the accident in October of 2003, and it left me with four to five months of surgery. Life is different now but you just get on with things." “Basically I fell and hit my head so hard that it detached my retina. At the time I also sprained my ankle and even though my head hurt really bad it kind of diverted my attention away from it." “It wasn’t until a few weeks later that a black curtain started to fall over my vision and things became distorted and really bizarre. It was very, very scary, and I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I didn’t know if it was some sort of drug flash back or what. Then every thing just went black. Skip to me having a whole load of surgery !” “It affected my whole life and I think my songs as well. I mean for a start when I get to a venue I don’t have in depth perception now. I can't see the crowd. I can't see the band. Also I can’t just drive to a gig any more.” Gina's depression lasted for several months after the accident. Eventually she was able to get her album finished and released and to carry on making music. “For a while I was really depressed. You know, I mean every one gets a bit depressed once in a while but this was really depressed. I wouldn’t leave the house or even shower and that lasted for about four or five months. It was 'Rock and Roll Pony' that got me back out there really.” Music has been at the centre of Gina’s life since she was a child. It was her mother that first developed her interest in music and also encouraged her to play instruments. “My mom always had music playing in the house and it was her records that got me interested in music. She listened to stuff like Carole King, Neil Young, Loretta Lynn,The Eagles, Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt, and Willie Nelson." “It became more of a lifestyle really. My mom played guitar with her friends and there were a lot of musicians that lived nearby where I came from.” When asked what music she is in to at the moment, Gina starts rhyming off bands from her ipod. “They are all in alphabetical order,” she laughs, “Ryan Adams, Aimee Mann, Ann McCue…. Brad Byrd….Eleni Mandell….Glen Phillips… Laura Veirs… Neil Young… Ryan Adams, Rolling Stones… The Pixies,” The Rolling Stones, have you heard their new song ? I ask. “No, is it good ?” Yes it is, I tell her, I have actually just bought the single for my Dad. “Cool, I think I might buy that on itunes right now actually. What is it called?” Gina asks and I hear the clicking of a mouse as she searches through itunes. Unfortunately the name of the song completely leaves my mind at this point and I have to run upstairs, find the single and get back to the phone to answer that it is 'Streets of Love'. “Cool I’m buying it right now,” she says.

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Gina Villalobos - Interview

Gina Villalobos - Interview

Gina Villalobos - Interview

Gina Villalobos - Interview

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