Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/courtesy of the artist
NPR LIVE SESSIONS/KUTX – Musicians: Gina Chavez, vocals, guitar; Lilli Hickman; vocals; cameras and edit: Michael Minasi; audio mix: Jake Perlman; producer: Deidre Gott
Queer, Catholic and unapologetically herself, Gina Chavez possesses a warm, alluring voice that compels you to sit up straight and listen. The multi-ethnic Austin native has come a long way from when she picked up a guitar for the first time during college. She’s racked up 12 Austin Music Awards, recorded a well-received NPR Tiny Desk and embarked on multiple international tours, including performances as a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador. Her bilingual Latin pop spans past genre boundaries, covering everything from acoustic folk-pop in 2007 debut Hanging Spoons to simmering R&B-soul in 2018’s Lightbeam, which soundtracks her love story with her wife.
Chavez sharpens her first all-Spanish language album La Que Manda, or The Woman in Charge, with a new defiant edge and sonic exploration. Inspired in part by her observations on the road, it is a starkly feminist work detailing a woman’s journey to empowerment — both a healing catharsis and a rallying cry. Produced by a team of award-winning artists (Thom Russo, Fernando Lodeiro, Adrian Quesada, Linda Briceno), the album has since earned a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop/Rock Album. Standout track “Ella” seeks to highlight survivors of domestic violence. Filmed during the pandemic, the accompanying music video shows dancers reclaiming spaces in tandem with their bodies as Chavez sings: “Toda la historia callando una verdad / Hemos tenido el poder” (“All of history has been quieting a truth / We’ve had the power”). — Annie Lyons