By: Kat Harlton
Gina Lam, known for her stage name and character Ginalina, is a West Coast singer-songwriter nominated for a 2019 JUNO Award in the Children’s Album of the Year category for her album “It Takes a Village”. Her first JUNO nomination was in 2016 for “Forest Friends’ Nature Club”, which features educational music that airs regularly on Kids’ Knowledge Network television. Ginalina is popular for her multi-lingual songs inspired by nature, healthy families and strong communities.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Gina and discuss her career, balancing family life, and her Juno nomination.
Kat: Can you talk about what it’s like to write music for children compared to adults? Does the process differ? How do you approach it?
Gina: Ultimately, I am a singer-songwriter who loves to express what is going on in my life musically. At this stage in my life, every album I’ve released tends to reflect what has been happening with my family. For example, my third album, Home Is Family, is about things that came up during our school year, like learning about each other and how we work as a unit. And, with four kids, it’s only possible to do it by having a community around us helping out and It Takes a Village is tied together with thinking about that.
Now that I’m doing family folk music as a career, I have had to consider how to craft something that satisfies people’s expectations of what they want in a live music experience while staying true to who I am as an artist. It’s an amazing challenge to commit to creating fun, relevant, and age-appropriate content, while also considering timeless themes and strong folk-roots music arrangements that I love and appreciate. I am an emotional writer, and have not strayed from that – I’m comfortable singing about things that may make children reflect and experience different feelings such as sadness, hope, or disappointment, as well as joy and happiness! In whatever I do, I try to keep things real.
Kat: Can you share with us what the Journey Home Community means to you, and why their work is important?
Gina: Journey Home Community is a small non-profit organization that connects with refugee claimants to assist them with the processes involved in applying for immigrant status. I was introduced to this group through a good friend and staff member there, who shared some moving stories of courage and resilience with me. I think what touched me most was that this group served their clients out of a sense of love and respect for the whole person, the whole family – and really worked to provide them with an authentic sense of welcome along the way (inviting them to meals, personal visits and so on). This aligned so beautifully with the community theme of my album, It Takes a Village, and it is a pleasure to use my music to contribute to their work.
Kat: What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
Gina: Unifying the creative element with the music business side of things has been one of the more challenging aspects of developing my career. I’ve been in the children’s circuit long enough to have garnered some reputable awards and credit but coming up with ways to apply business models to stretch the delivery of my music has been a steep learning curve. I’ve met great people and peers along the way who have helped me along the way, and securing a TV show on the Kids’ Knowledge Network, titled Ginalina’s Music Club, and also on www.kiddodle.TV in the US, have been particularly effective ways to reach a wider audience across the country and internationally.
Kat: How do you incorporate your family life into your music?
Gina: I write family music rooted in real life – themed on a big idea we are looking at over the year such as the wonder of nature, or the meaning of family, or the value of community. Things I write are inspired by everyday stories, emotions, insights, and relationships. As a parent with four young, vivacious, and thoughtful kids, not a day goes by where there is not something exciting, hilarious, or touching that happens that is fodder for a great song. In this way, they play a big role in ensuring that my songs are honest, relevant, and fun.
I also love to bring my family into the studio for special roles! I’m really intentional about saving particular backing vocals or parts for them, it makes the end result much more meaningful to all of us. My husband plays the accordion and has brought his fun personality into the records! And I have a jiggy trilingual call and echo song about growing up from an apple seed into an apple tree, and my kids are the echoes!
Kat: What does being nominated for a Juno Award mean to you?
Gina: It’s a thrill to be nominated for a Juno Award this year. I write from honest, thoughtful, and grateful places with the hope that my songs will resonate with, inspire, and be a source of joy for my own family, as well as for other children and families for years to come. To me, the most exciting part about this Juno honour is that it allows my music to be presented in front of more ears, and so has more opportunity to impact and delight others.
For more on Ginalina Music, see: https://www.ginalinamusic.com