Image © Face West Records 2007
(15 July 2007) Raw and edgy, Gina Villalobos serves up an emotive selection of tunes in Miles Away (Face West Records (USA) FW001, 2007). Her alt-country sound continues with her distinctive vocal roughness, intensity and compassion. Likened to Sheryl Crow, Gina's sound stands out in an individualistic way. Her heartfelt songs have a tenderness underneath the tough exterior.
This LA born singer/songwriter grew up around Malibu. Her father was a respected cinematographer and her mother took great interest in music. Her parents later divorced when Gina was eight years old. But, the musical influences continued and Gina would often find her mother playing songs by famous country artists with people like animator/writer Jack Spears, a fixture for years at Disney Studios, Billy Joe Walker, now a leading session guitarist and producer in Nashville, and Don Robertson, who’d written hits for Elvis, Dolly Parton, Glenn Campbell, and others.
Gina learned to play the guitar as well as teaching herself to play the drums. After high school, she moved to Santa Barbara where she tried to find a course of study to no avail. At age twenty, she went to a Rickie Lee Jones concert which became a life changing event for her especially after speaking with Rickie after the show. Gina said that "Music was already the most important thing in my life. It woke me up in the morning and kept me up at night. But from the moment of that concert, even though I still don’t know why, I knew who I was."
She dropped out of school and became a full time musician. She led a band, Liquid Sunshine, for about five years; they released three CDs and worked mainly college gigs along the West Coast. When that ran its course, she started another group, the Mades, and stuck with them until 2001. She then started her solo career because "it was important for me to be in charge of my own destiny." In October 2003, she sustained serious injury to her right eye in an accident. Everything in her life was put on hold for months to come, as she underwent four major surgeries before being told, on Christmas Day, that she would remain forever totally blind in that eye. The effects of this development were profound, enduring, and disturbing. The accident occurred during the time she was recording Rock n' Roll Pony and the desire to complete this album led her back to the studio after numerous months. That album began her transformation into a writer and performer.
"After I lost the vision in my eye, my songs became vessels that led me face-to-face with my inner reality. I believe this enabled me to go places I had not gone before as an artist and to heal in the process. I began to dig really far down into my art. I was looking for something I hadn’t been able to reach prior to that. What I found began to make me feel whole and normal again." The album was a huge success, but dark times continued to plague this artist. Living on the road month after month, performing far from home, she began to feel cut off from the world. Depth perception issues, tunnel vision, retinal flashes, and other consequences of this event forced Gina to suffer disorientation and nausea for nearly two years.
The emotional toll of that existence propelled her towards a new perspective and she began writing the songs for Miles Away. "You could interpret it as saying that I was miles away from myself, though to me I was miles away from anything, from everything, from something. I felt like I was everywhere and nowhere. But something did come out of that - the music. Even now, I have to remind myself every day that there was a silver lining to it all."
Her steadfast quality is evident throughout these ten tracks. Her country rock sound incorporates earthiness, brashness and melodic textures. She wrote nine of the ten tracks, the exception being the reinterpretation of Barry Gibbs cover "If I Can't Have You." Gina sings with her heart on her sleeve in an honest, yet bittersweet way. Her straightforward country rock sound combined with a lyrical reflectiveness establishes an inspirational connection between Gina and her audience.
Miles Away displays Gina Villalobos' edginess, raw roots and catchy country melodies to the delight of her listeners. The music is deep, dark, soulful and reflective. Her
life's journey has helped her to bare her soul and talent, creating a tapestry of poetic and well constructed songs.--Audrey Elliot in New York