Singer-songwriter and California native Gina Villalobos dove into her music career during her early 20s and has since released five solo albums and created music that has been featured in several hit television series. Her alternative country genre brings ample amounts of soul, and every day she continues to compose and produce music. CULTURE caught up with Villalobos to learn about her journey as a musician and her relationship with recreational and medical cannabis.
How did you get started creating music?
By playing make-believe Beatles when I was a kid. I was Paul, my brother was John and different neighborhood kids rotated between George and Ringo.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Really when it comes down to it, I’m influenced by things that I experience and how I relate and react to my surroundings. Music is just like a language so by default what informed my musical senses was all the music my mom listened to when I was a kid. I got lucky though she listened to stuff like Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Cat Stevens, Carole King, The Beatles, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John—bands like that set the stage for my personal taste I suppose. In high school, I went through a big Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin phase—oh and Neil Diamond! I also listened to bands like The Specials because my older brother was into them. I was also listening to stuff like The Psychedelic Furs, Wham, The Violent Femmes and The Cure. In college, I was obsessed with Rickie Lee Jones, Liz Phair, Prince, R.E.M, Nirvana, The Jayhawks, World Party, The Waterboys, The Pixies, The Breeders, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Travis, The Verve, Richard Ashcroft . . . then came Wilco and Son Volt and 1,000 others. But those are the bands I listened to when I was younger.
“I think [cannabis] should be legalized on a federal level and the revenue should be used to pay for things we need like healthcare and education.”
You have a long history with music. What are your biggest takeaways from this journey?
It’s all about the song. If a song can’t be performed with just a vocal and a guitar or piano and captivate an audience, it’s not really a good song. It should be whole in its most naked form.
Have you consumed cannabis for either recreational or medical purposes?
Do you choose to smoke cannabis? What’s your favorite strain?
I like to smoke pot; that makes cleaning the house fun. I don’t know the name, but I think it would be fun to be a pot strain name.
How do you feel about legalization? What could be done better or differently?
I think it should be legalized on a federal level and the revenue should be used to pay for things we need like healthcare and education. I live in California and we got it wrong here. For example, the billions in tax revenue do not go toward the General Fund for education and infrastructure, as most people believe. The tax revenue goes into the California Marijuana Tax Fund. The money will pay for mostly new programs that didn’t exist before it was even legalized—not towards stuff we actually need like infrastructure and money for schools. Oh, and a big portion of the money will pay for research on the impacts on legalization. What a waste.
It would be like getting a huge sum of money and instead of fixing up your broken down house that needs a new roof, new plumbing, new walls and a new foundation you decide to add on a new room and then pay for a study on the impacts of adding on that room. This doesn’t make sense to me. So yeah, let’s do it on a federal level and use the money on things we actually need for the American people.
“I live in California and we got [legalization] wrong here. For example, the billions in tax revenue do not go toward the General Fund for education and infrastructure, as most people believe. The tax revenue goes into the California Marijuana Tax Fund. The money will pay for mostly new programs that didn’t exist before it was even legalized—not towards stuff we actually need like infrastructure and money for schools. Oh, and a big portion of the money will pay for research on the impacts on legalization. What a waste.”
Anything you’d like us to know about touring and recording?
Touring isn’t what people think, it’s hard work. I’d say 90 percent of it is driving and being trapped in your vehicle. Then you have the highs of the shows where you let it all hang out then the low solitude of your hotel room. There really isn’t time for anything else. It’s not psychologically normal. It’s counterintuitive to all we know about well-being. Lack of sleep, eating at weird hours, no exercise, alcohol, etc. It’s can be easy to let your mind and body slip if you don’t keep yourself in check. I call it keeping your “tour tank” full by staying hydrated, forcing yourself to get back to your hotel as soon as you can after your gig. Try to find vegetables . . . stuff like that. Recording is like painting. It’s my absolute favorite thing to get the lighting and mood of a song just right. It’s also probably pretty annoying for engineers I work with. I’m happy to work up and record three completely different versions of the same song. I love that challenge. The possibilities are endless.
Artist Name: Gina Villalobos
Location: Los Angeles, California
Most Recent Album: Sola