'Within The Eye of The Beholder: The Gina Villalobos Story'
Already a rising star in much of the world, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Gina Villalobos is ready to introduce the U.S. to her infectious brand of country rock. Her latest CD, Miles Away is set for release on Face West Records on April 3rd.
Villalobos’ critically acclaimed, commercially successful first album, Rock N Roll Pony launched her career in the UK and Europe. It was an album that almost never happened. Villalobos lost sight in her eye after suffering a traumatic and life changing accident in October of 2003. The accident left her retina detached and she became 100% blind in her right eye. The harrowing event put a screeching halt to production and completion of Rock N Roll Pony.
It was a dark and painful period in her life, but eventually Villalobos found refuge in her music. The healing and transformative power of music led her out from under the covers and back into the studio to complete Rock N Roll Pony. She wrapped herself in her art, using the recording and completion of the album as a healing process. The experience let Villalobos dig deeper, tapping into emotions she’d never felt before. Ultimately out of the darkness came a bright, shining light. It centered her as an artist and led her to the infectious, raw, deeply emotional songs that have become her trademark.
Villalobos made her breakthrough when Rock N Roll Pony finally gained a release in the UK and Europe in 2005, with a huge endorsement from legendary BBC Radio 2 DJ, Bob Harris. The buzz surrounding the record made it a must-have commodity for discerning music fans and Villalobos took advantage of the excitement by touring extensively in the UK and Europe. She also made stops in Australia and New Zealand. Along the way she racked up rave reviews for her albums and live shows in such esteemed publications as No Depression, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Harp, Uncut, Country Music People, Maverick,NetRhythms and Rolling Stone (Germany). This, along with a number of live radio and TV appearances, ratcheted up the heat on Villalobos' suddenly red-hot year.
Her career was suddenly in overdrive and always an attentive writer, Villalobos used the experience for inspiration to write, record, produce and deliver a second solo album. Miles Away was released in the UK and Europe on May 8th, 2006. Topping Rock N Roll Pony would be quite a feat, but, if anything, Miles Away garnered more enthusiastic and critical plaudits in the press, and support from BBC Radio 2, than its predecessor.
Fans and critics alike are enthralled by Villalobos’ earthy, raw mix of rock, folk and country. Her effortless segues from hushed whisper to throaty growl are evidence of an artist in full command of her craft. Both the voice and the songwriting are tools Villalobos uses to evoke emotion in the listener.
Taking it from the top and it seems that your new record label, Face West is indeed an artist-focused label - being that it offers straight-up licensing deals with career artists who own the masters to their recordings. So, in this day and age, what does this mean to an artist to completely own their own masters ... and is there a downside, perhaps? "There is always a down and upside to everything. For me it's great to own my own masters considering I paid for the recording. It enabled me to find the right company to license my masters (my record) to. When one licenses their masters to a record company, they are giving that company the right to market and sell it for a certain amount of time, and with in that time you split the profits."
"You just have to make sure to find the right company that works for you."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "I always say…with a smile… “I play some kind of rock” It's 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 that makes you happy and sad at the same time. You know…. “Some kind of rock”."
Your album title Miles Away is an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it, perhaps? "Yes, there is. When I was writing the songs that ended up being on the record, it was as if I was painting a picture of another reality…. my own inner reality where I came face to face with something. For me, this face off between my own inner-reality and myself is the origin of all the songs on 'Miles Away' and is an ongoing theme that repeats throughout every song on the record."
"In the end I felt lifted above it all, to a place of inner transformation, to a place “Miles Away. It was at this point the whole record came into clear focus for me, hence the title, “Miles Away”."
As your first album, Rock N Roll Pony nearly never got off the ground due to a traumatic and life changing accident in October of 2003 - an accident that has since left you 100% blind in your right eye - can you easily discuss what happened that day? And perhaps also how you managed to still find the strength to challenge what life had thrown at you and persevere onwards and upwards? "I can discuss this. It's not easy or hard. It's a strange combination of feeling like I'm talking about somebody else, yet, at the same time it feels very personal and chillingly real. The two feelings kind of cancel each other out I suppose. Weird."
"I had a work accident that left my retina detached. The Doctors were unable to reattach after 4 surgeries that took place from Oct- Dec of 2003. I'm blind in my right eye. I am looking forward to the day when technology can fix my eye. I believe I will see that day in my lifetime and again, will be able to see the world how I once perceived it. I say this to myself every day, more than once. I am also very thankful that I have my health and vision in my left eye. There are many worse things that could have happened to me."
"Life throws everybody different challenges that our out of our control sometimes. How I deal and react to it is in my control though. This is what I Have learned."
Whether it be as a musician or as a human being in general, what have been your biggest obstacles to achieve since the accident? And do you still strive to achieve some to this very day, perhaps? "I would say the physical and rehab part. Every body is left or right eyed, as they are right or left handed. I was right eyed. For 33 years I sent signals to my brain from my right eye. It was a gradual process, relearning how to reroute messages to my brain via my left eye."
"That coupled with the fact that I have zero depth perception (and never will) and 100% of my visual field is gone and I have to navigate thru life with retinal flashes, made the rehabilitation part very challenging. Simple tasks like shaking someone's hand, poring coffee or any liquid into a glass, not being able to tell when it's full or empty, cooking, tieing shoes, walking up and down stairs, basically anything that required eye hand coordination and depth perception, kind of everything. I miss playing tennis."
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I would not know because I completely and totally do not have these concerns at heart when I write and make my music. I do it for myself."
Please tell us more about what was going on in your life when these new album songs were being written and recorded "These were [all] ongoing pieces of work. So lots of different things were going on in my life. I can't remember specifically my experiences and correlate them to my songs. I wrote them all between Dec 2004 and Dec 2005, post Eye accident, on tour in numerous anonymous hotel rooms. I spent a lot of time away on the road, out of the country. It was a lonely, exciting and claustrophobic period if that makes sense."
Knowing that you strive to create songs that make an emotional connection to your listeners, what was one of the more euphoric moments your encountered whilst recording this album? "Just the simplicity of completing it. Sequencing the songs. Doing the final listen downs and feeling really proud of my work."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why? "I have NO Idea….”Shine Like it Does” by INXS. Was that cheesy though? Here is cheesy…something off of Phil Collins' No Jacket Required Record. I owned the record. It had that creepy cover the one with his floating face, remember?"
Lastly, and throwing in a last minute comedic fast ball out of left field, ... Exclusive Magazine love Penguins, do you?! "Sure…. I'm down for birds that can't fly!"
If you would like to win a SIGNED copy of Gina's new CD, just answer this easy question: Which well-known female songstress was playing at the Santa Barbara County Bowl when Villalobos, twenty years old and a major fan, caught her performance! For that experience, and the conversation she had with this lady after the show, changed everything for Villalobos.
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful new SIGNED CDs. Just send us an e:mail here with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: GINA VILLALOBOS SIGNED CD to:
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