By Kris Gruber
20 May 2021
During the course of our interview Gina Powers frequently stopped to console Atomic Coffee patrons wrestling with the suction-heavy door between them and Broadway (“The Atomic Door Dilema”), that indeed they were not alone in their struggle, offering them lighthearted banter in her rich and resonant speaking voice.
Her self-proclaimed mission is to “put good things in the world.” She used the analogy of dirt in a glass of water, explaining how the only way to remove the dirt is to “keep adding more water until the dirt goes away.” She went on to say that the best parts of religious or spiritual traditions are like that, in that they are about adding “more love and more good.”
Spirituality is a strong part of Gina’s songwriting. She says, “The musical gifts that I have, although it’s up to me to practice and build my skills, in the practical way, that comes from outside myself.”
I quickly surmised that both singer and band may be challenging to categorize.
The Gina Powers Band Facebook page lists them as an “Alternative Country/Americana songwriting band,” but Gina credited local musician Anthony Lamb with the more apropos moniker of “Emo Country.” “Emo” is forever connected with angst and perhaps hyperbole.
Surely the Gina Powers band pushes far past those adolescent connotations into a broader realm of ethereal, raw, interrelatedness. Building on the idea of “emo,” Gina said, “I like to think of myself as ‘outlaw country,’ but in truth, I write about the dark things that I wrestle with inside myself. . .even when I write a bright song, underlying that is oftentimes some pretty serious subject matter. . .‘Chicken Pot Pie’ is one of those examples -- it’s about abject poverty and finding joy and connection . . . it’s not socio-economic status, it’s none of that, but everybody, everybody, has a memory of chicken pot pie.”
We moved on to an in-depth discussion of the gorgeous and poignant song and video “How’s This Go” (released May 7 on YouTube and currently at 14,000+ views as of this article).
Reflecting on her own losses (“Since I was a little girl and lost my mom I've been seeking a way to connect in an authentic way.”) she said, “Describing that feeling of having life, the emotions of life, circumstances, truly overtake you and make you feel like you’re off your feet and underwater. . .that feeling of I didn’t get enough breath before I went down.” She goes on to refer to some of the motifs in the video -- angel wings, a church -- as a “wrestling with my spirituality and what loss can do to your spiritual experience.”
Gina’s daughter, Cheryl Carlton Powers, features prominently in the video, and Gina explained her significance, how she represents the part of her that is pure and untouched. “You know, before the world interrupted my vibe.” We discussed how the end of the video shows Gina smiling after rising up in a tub of water, having found herself. “You make a choice at some point to seek light.”
She sung the praises of filmmaker Kyle Medenwald (“ShadowLight Films”) remarking on what an honor it was that he was inspired enough by the song to help her create the storyline -- “He got it.”
She tells me of her fears about putting out the video, “because it’s vulnerable” and because it’s a different version to what’s on the record that she did with her full band. “It’s a produced version that was so big it needed a movie to it,” she comments. Her gratitude for the strong support and positive feedback for the video is touching. It is clear in her sentiments that each and every fan is important to her.
Speaking with effervescent enthusiasm for her fellow musicians, she says, “I consistently do my best to surround myself with musicians that have more talent, more training, more skill, more experience because I just want to be the best musician I can be, and I started late.” We talk about the collaborative nature of the band, and how she trusts each member to write their own parts, which they then arrange together. Decisions get made up to and during the recording process.
She goes on to say how she “isn’t new," having sung her whole life, but she never saw herself as a musician. “I've been so blessed to be embraced by this music scene . . . they have built me up. I would not be Gina Powers, musician, if it weren't for the music scene setting the bar as high as they do, and allowing me to enter the room . . . and they do. They let me in every time.”
She adds that there were still doors that were locked to her that she had to kick her way through, but “the gatekeepers at certain levels and in certain ways are there for a reason.” Speaking of an increase in skills (stage performance, etc.), she continues, “You know you have leveled up when you get to go in this room now.”
I ask her the classic question about her influences. She rattles off too many to list. Her passion for the subject is most evident when she describes first hearing “Midnight Train to Georgia '' at two years old in the back of her mother’s Camaro (“At that time, in my life, there was no food necessary beyond chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. . .I remember thinking this song makes me feel like chocolate cake makes me feel.”)
We discuss our mutual appreciation for Foreigner (“Don’t get me started on Foreigner 4”) and she lets me in on her fantasy of putting together a tribute band sometime. We laugh about the teenage desperation to collect as much music as possible. “They’re still looking for me at Columbia House.”
She talked of being “captivated by the process” (of songwriting) and not knowing when inspiration is going to hit. She marvels over the processes of other musicians, like local Darrin Wentz. “He writes these songs that have these insane twists at the end that are just like a gut punch -- they’re phenomenal.”
With matter-of-fact honesty she states,“I have no intention when I write other than to articulate what I’m experiencing. I just tell the story from my body -- with sound.”
Our interview/therapy session comes full circle like her persona in the “How’s This Go” video. She tells me, “I work harder now, and it’s cost me more on some level, personally, to be a musician, than in any other thing, and I would do it no other way. I have a sense of peace about who I am and my place in the world that has not existed since I was a child.”
Lots of duo shows are on the docket this summer with Gina and former guitar player Chris Argenziano, and her voice dances with excitement when she speaks of her “main project” with the band: more songwriting. She anticipates my question about future goals: “To continue to write songs, meet amazing people, and connect . . . and see where it takes us.”
And I’ll be holding her to the Foreigner tribute show.
The Gina Powers Band is:
Gina Powers- singer/songwriter/rhythm guitar/piano
Mitchell Rittenbach - bass
Russell Pfaff - percussion
Andrew Knudson - lead guitar (summer)
The Gina Powers Band. Departure, 2020,
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