meta-scriptBehind The Board: Shooter Jennings On Growing Up In Music, His Dad's Best Advice & Producing Great Records |

Shooter Jennings


Behind The Board: Shooter Jennings On Growing Up In Music, His Dad's Best Advice & Producing Great Records

The GRAMMY-winning producer, who has recently made albums with the likes of Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker and Marilyn Manson, takes on his journey Behind The Board

GRAMMYs/May 4, 2020 - 11:58 pm

GRAMMY-winning producer Shooter Jennings hit the ground running, born into a family of musical royalty with parents Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings. And Shooter has taken what he learned from those early experiences and turned them into a spectacular career as a producer. In the latest episode of Behind The Board, we learn more about his journey and how he's never done learning from the artists he works with in the studio.

"I learn from every record that I do. I'm very fortunate because I'm getting all this knowledge from other creative people that serves me in other areas, and I love that," he said. "I'm really respectful of the fact that they take me into their band. Getting to jump in and get in the mix is addictive. It's really fun. It's kinda like going on a date, a first date where you really like the girl [laughs]."

Shooter talked about learning from his experiences growing up on the road and in the studio and how it's led him to a life of learning from the artists he works with, each one offering something different to teach him.

"All the records that I've worked on this year have had their own special experiences," he said. Shooter produced Brandi Carlile's By The Way, I Forgive You album followed by Tanya Tucker's Whille I'm Livin', both of which earned GRAMMY Awards. Most recently, Shooter has gone back to his hard rock roots, producing the latest album by 4-time GRAMMY nominee Marilyn Manson, a project that had a huge impact on his career and life.

"The Marilyn Manson record was hands down the most big journey I've ever been on," he said. "It's really this poetic journey with him, and it's like this wheel of chaos that has been spinning for a year and a half of my life that I love. My life is completely different because of that record." 

In the video above, Jennings also discusses what makes a perfect record and reveals the best advice his father ever gave him.

"My dad said to me when I was younger, 'Don't ever try to be like anyone else, because you're never gonna be,'" Shooter shared. "It took a long time for me to really get that, you know. But, that to me has always stood the test of time."

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Vincent Neil Emerson



Vincent Neil Emerson Enters The 'Golden Crystal Kingdom' Of Gut-Punching Country Music

Inspired by several years of life changes, Vincent Neil Emerson's new album, 'The Golden Crystal Kingdom,' tells Western stories that honor his past while keeping a steady eye on the future.

GRAMMYs/Nov 6, 2023 - 02:40 pm

Growing up in Van Zandt county, Texas, it would be easy to say country singer/songwriter Vincent Neil Emerson was bound to follow in Townes Van Zandt’s footsteps, after whose family the county is named. But to Emerson, it never felt like a sure thing. It still doesn’t.

"I don't think I really had a defining moment of that feeling like, oh, I can do this, because everything's so uncertain. It's like anything in life, nothing is really guaranteed," he says.

Emerson’s nuanced, honest songwriting often draws comparisons to Van Zandt, John Prine, and Guy Clark and has earned his songs appearances on "Reservation Dogs" and "Yellowstone." His latest album, The Golden Crystal Kingdom, is produced by Shooter Jennings and out Nov. 10.

Emerging from several years of life changes fatherhood, marriage, and a new band Emerson crafted an album of Western stories that serve as both an ode to how he got here and a declaration of intent for the future. He deftly tackles Indigenous history (Emerson is Choctaw-Apache), reflects on how we live and what we value, and explores the life lessons in love, loss and disenfranchisement.

Drawing inspiration from across the music spectrum – he’s a huge Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Neil Young fan – Emerson’s careful not to sample too much from any one style, choosing instead to focus on honesty, and letting the music serve the story. The result is a set of moving, stripped-down songs, each of which illuminate a small slice of the human experience.

Emerson started his singer/songwriter career as a teenager, getting himself a long-forgotten crappy guitar and jumping in feet first – "I learned three chords and I tried to write a song immediately." Quickly he started busking and attending open mics, gradually building a repertoire of folk song covers and eventually writing the songs for his first album, Fried Chicken & Evil Women.

At the release of his sophomore album, Vincent Neil Emerson, fellow Texas songwriter and producer Rodney Crowell summed up Emerson’s potential to carry on the Texas singer/songwriter tradition: "It’s possible young Vincent will plant the flag of his forbearers firmly in the consciousness of a whole new generation." As Emerson sings in the title track from his latest, The Golden Crystal Kingdom, "heavy is the head that wears the crown."

But it’s not a crown Emerson’s ever going to take for granted. Instead, he’s focused on making good music that’s honest and relatable. Ahead of his album release, Emerson spoke with about finding his voice, the importance of Indigenous stories, writing love songs, and artistic freedom.

The Golden Crystal Kingdom is an interesting name for an album, and for a track. I'm curious where that came from.

I'd rather just leave it up to speculation. I don't want to tell people what it means, let's leave some mystery there. I just want people to have their own opinions about it and not be swayed by what I say about it.

Okay, I can respect that. Can you tell me about writing the title track?

I wanted to write a song as my dedication to the dance halls and honkytonks that I've played over the years. A lot of bad times, actually. But some good times, too.

You said on Instagram recently that you write from the position of somebody who doesn't fit in, because that's how you feel.

I felt like that most of my life. I feel that way a lot of the time. So I'm trying to write from a place that's honest. If you're not honest, some people can never relate to you. I just want to make good art. And the best way I've tried to do that is to be honest about life.

Tell me a little bit about writing "The Man from Uvalde." It's a pretty intense song.

Well I was watching the news [of the school shooting in Uvalde, TX], I was living in San Antonio at the time. And that was right up the road from our house. The melody just kind of jumped out of nowhere, and the lyrics just started coming to me.

I saw what happened to those children. I thought about my son, it’s just a pit in my stomach. I was terrified at the thought of that, and I could only imagine what the parents of those children that lost their lives felt.

Yeah, of course. Has anything changed for you in writing songs since becoming a dad?

I guess not. I'm still trying to figure out how to write good songs.

I think you're doing okay. Speaking of which, what’s the story behind "Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint," the album’s last track?

My wife brought home this stack of old Western comics from the ‘60s. And I read a story about Little Wolf's invincible yellow paint in there. Basically, there was a medicine man who was told that he needed to motivate these warriors and try to convince them to go into battle against people who had guns. They knew they were going to die if they went, because they did not have guns.

He came up with this yellow paint and he said that no arrow would pierce you, no bullet will pierce you; if you wear this paint, you'll be protected. I don't remember the rest of the story off the top of my head, but that's where I stopped writing. I was like, I don't want to paint the end. But I do say in the song "everything is dead," like 12 times.

There's a line in there that says, "keep your prayers that I find my worthy death." There's this idea of a warrior needs like a worthy death, and I literally meant, take your prayers back. I don't need your prayers for that s—.

It's a gut punch of a concept, right? Because we know how that story ends. You don't have to put it in the song.

Then there's the whole idea of being sold something from one perspective, we're being sold this thing that's really not going to help us. And on the other side, maybe it did help. Who knows?

It meant a lot more to me when we made the music video. We had an Indian relay racer named Sharmaine Weed. It feels like it's more motivational — "I have been down but I'm not out yet." I wish I could take credit for [that casting]. But it was actually Mike Vanata from Western AF. It's sort of an old West song, but it really brought it around into modern times putting that imagery behind it.

Over the last couple of years you've gotten more comfortable or more vocal about being Indigenous yourself. Was it just natural to start talking about it more, or was there some motivation there?

Well, I'm 31 years old now. When I first started playing music and playing shows, I was young, I was in my early 20s. People change and grow up and mature, and I definitely have over the years. I wrote all those songs off my first record when I was 22, 23. And I recorded them when I was 25. And finally put it out when I was 27. And I'm still carrying around who I used to be in those old songs.

I'm ashamed to say, but I didn't really care as much about where I came from. I just wanted to go somewhere and be someone else. As I got older, I started talking to my grandmother about things and remembering where we come from and going to powwows growing up and stuff like that. I think it's important to hold on to that. I don't want to be erased. I don't want my family history or my culture to be lost or forgotten. So that's a big reason why I embraced who I am.

You’re getting put on some lists of Indigenous country musicians. Country music is notoriously really, really slow to change. And even when it starts to open up, there's often setbacks. What would you like to see from music in terms of representation and inclusion?

I feel like it’s less of a country album and more of a rock 'n' roll album. There's still some country songs on the album, but I've always loved country music.

There's not enough diversity or inclusion. And there's a lot of great, great Indians in country music and music in general. And we don't really see a lot of those people at the front. It would be nice to see more of that.

What are some of the most rock songs on this album for you?

"Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint" definitely feels like a rock 'n' roll song to me. "Hang Your Head Down Low." I was listening to a lot of Dylan at the time. And I wanted to write a Highway 61 Revisited kind of sound. It just depends on how we play it live too. Because sometimes my guitar player will play more country licks on the Telecaster over the song. And all of a sudden, it turns into a fast paced country song.

I just stopped worrying about what genre it is and just started writing whatever feels natural and good.

I sometimes think journalists and PR people are the only ones who think about this anymore.

Well, genre is very helpful for categorizing things, for promoting things and reaching certain audiences. But there’s certain combinations that come along with each genre of music and certain things that people expect. That’s why I think it gets dangerous for the art, for the artists.

"Dangerous" is a really interesting concept. Can you say a little bit more about that?

Well, I think it's dangerous to the artists, but it's also dangerous to the art. If you’re not allowing people to express themselves or if you're giving them pushback or putting someone down for moving in a certain direction or doing a certain thing that you don't like it hurts. It doesn’t belong. It feels like you're killing off parts of people.

There's a couple of love songs on this album too. And I'm curious where those come from. You just got married, right?

Yeah, I just got married. "On the Banks of the Guadalupe," I wrote that for my wife. It's hard to write love songs. It's hard to write like that and not feel like I'm sounding cheesy.

It sounds incredibly hard. I think it would be a lot easier to write songs about characters, like the album’s open track "Time of the Rambler."

I wrote that song in Shooter Jennings’ basement, while we were recording the album. It was maybe a couple of days in, and I stayed in his basement of his house. And he has a nice room setup down there, you can see the highway from the basement. I was just looking at all these cars and driving up and down the highway. And that's where some of the lines came from.

Where do you find the characters you write about?

Just from how I feel and the things that I've been through and done. Sometimes just taking inspiration from things I've seen and just hanging out in the back of my mind somewhere. I might have seen a movie or maybe I've met someone firsthand who, and told me about some experiences they had, it's all over the place.

Where do you see yourself fitting in that Texas singer/songwriter tradition?

I'm okay with people lumping me in with those guys, that's great. I love all that stuff. I don't think that it's fair to compare any artist against another. Art is so subjective, and it's personal and so open to interpretation. But it's nice to be mentioned in the same sentences as guys like Townes Van Zandt. I'd hate to be compared to him because he's an incredible writer. And he did so much. It's an honor. To have a legendary guy like [Rodney Crowell] come at you and say some really nice things, it just meant so much. 

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Jessi Colter
Jessi Colter

Photo: Chris Phelps


Jessi Colter's New Album 'Edge Of Forever' Is Timeless In Every Sense Of The Word

On 'Edge of Forever,' the 80-year-old outlaw country star doesn't sound like an elder stateswoman. Her latest could have been released in 1973 or 2013.

GRAMMYs/Oct 31, 2023 - 02:20 pm

As one of the lone women in the outlaw country milieu, Jessi Colter has navigated the music industry with grace for more than half a century — through false starts, lulls, and the death of her husband and collaborator, Waylon Jennings.

But while some living legends can feel a touch frozen in time, Colter is constantly in motion.

"We've just returned home a few days before the Hall of Fame performance, and my house is a wreck," she reports to, upon landing back in her Arizona climes. During a brief  conversation, she's speed-eating lunch and jumping in a car; she even suspects this interviewer was multitasking as well. ("Are you doing dishes?" Colter inquires, in response to an errant clank over the line.)

That consistent movement — of body, of creative practice — allowed Colter to cook up one of her most inspired albums. Edge of Forever — produced by GRAMMY nominee Margo Price, and mixed by Colter's son, three-time GRAMMY winner and five-time nominee Shooter Jennings.

Backed by Price's crack band, tunes like "Standing on the Edge of Forever," "Lost Love Song" and "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus" crackle with potency — and have all of the impact of her early work, prior to all these spins around the sun.

But this timelessness doesn't mean it's simply retro, or '70s; it moves through time. Edge of Forever couldn't have happened without the lumps she's taken in the country machine, or the jubilations.

Furthermore, it proves that the hitmaker behind "I'm Not Lisa" and "What's Happened to Blue Eyes" back in '75 remains a force — as a feisty, vital country-music matriarch. Below, Colter chats with about Edge of Forever, and what's on the other side.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Congrats on the release of Edge of Forever. I think the word "timeless" gets thrown around a little too much, but the description fits here.

I had one fellow, I asked him how old he was. I figured he was 20 or 28 and he was 60. I think it was [for] Variety. When I first talked to him. And he said it just has such a feeling that it takes him back to the '70s, and I wasn't sure what he meant exactly. I just am who I am and that's who I'll always be.

But anyway, he loved it. He said it really felt, for him, comfortable. And I understand what he's saying. There's a whole lot out there that's not so comfortable.

Interesting. What do you hope people take away from your music?

Well, certainly that, and I hope I communicate with feelings they've had. I loved it on "I'm Not Lisa," when the little girls would send me tapes of themselves singing it. I thought I have communicated, because when I write it's very inward of my experience or somebody really close to me and so forth. So that's how it goes.

Take us back to your early conception of Edge of Forever — the spark that lit a flame.

Well, I had songs. And I became acquainted with Margo, and she helped me out on a Facebook flash [giveaway] of my book An Outlaw and a Lady, for Harper Collins, that I wrote with David Ritz.

And this was 2015. She was pregnant with Ramona when we cut this album and she was about to have the baby. So as far as the genesis, it took two or three visits together, and [her husband] Jeremy [Ivey] and she both intimated that they would love to see me do an album.

It was years later that we did it. And we did it quickly and directly, because she was about to have her baby. And so it didn't take the kind of time that I'd taken on other albums, but it's taken time to wind its path to the yellow brick road, which seems to be Appalachia Records, who she'd worked with before.

[Label owner Loney Hutchins is] great to work with, and I've never worked with a small label that worked with other indies. But anyway, they've been terrific. And so we just kind of were drawn to each other. And I had these songs that she reacted to, and then there was a couple others, then one written on the spot.

And so it just happened and now it's taken the legal teams, and the manager — this and that, so forth. Anyway, it's worked out. It worked its way to here.

Can you talk about your dynamic with Margo and Shooter?

Yeah, it's fantastic. It's easy. I've worked with Shooter before on The Passion of the Christ, where he wrote on the spot with me. It was an album that went with The Passion of the Christ; It wasn't a soundtrack.

We wrote a song called "Please Carry Me Home." If you haven't heard it, try it, because we wrote it and he produced it on the spot. Then [my daughter] Jennifer [or Jenni Eddy] and I actually wrote "Secret Place," which is on this album, a number of years ago.

Waylon was still with us, and he heard that song — and he didn't often say just this, but he said, "You've got to do that." And it's just been in my pocket.

Often, artists keep songs that inspire them. They don't use them until the time is right. And so there were a number of songs that I had been holding onto. "Lost Love Song," "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus." I totally rewrote that spiritual except the bridge.

Anyway, the dynamic was fantastic with Margo, with Shooter, with Jennifer Eddy Jennings, my daughter; her father is Duane Eddy. Waylon was a wonderful father to her. So, it's been a gift; the whole thing has been a gift for me.

Working with Jenni Eddy must have a gift among gifts.

Oh, yes. She's so gifted and a great singer. She just hasn't come into the public yet, but she's working on a number of things.

And Struggle Jennings, my grandson, recorded a great album with her called Spiritual Warfare, where Struggle is rapping. [Jenni] sings, and she wrote the songs, and then he raps. And it's interesting.

I don't know what she'll end up doing. Her voice is much more melodic than mine, and she sings beautifully with me. It would be worth working to her and Jenny Lynn Young accompany me, if and when I perform. It''s magnetic, the whole thing.

As a singer/songwriter myself, even something I wrote a year ago can feel alien to me today. Can you talk about reacquainting yourself with tunes from many years ago?

I understand that, but if you love a song to start with, you'll always love it. And so that's how it went with me.

"Maybe You Should Have Been Listening" was one of Waylon's favorites on my classic albums, and "With or Without You" was something I wrote a number of years back for a girlfriend of mine who went through being stood up by a well-known man right before their wedding.

Little Stevie Van Zandt loved that song: "With or without you/ I'll go on alone… And like Bob Dylan said, if it's not right, it must be wrong." I love that. And if people would remember that. "Angel in the Fire" I wrote some time ago. I love it every time I sing it, with Lisa Kristofferson in mind.

"Lost Love Song" was a song that I held in my pocket to inspire me. It is talking about the prison of love. I never have been able to find who wrote it. He may be living, he may not, because I had this years before Waylon went, which was 2002.

"Hard On Easy Street" was great fun. I did it on an album that I [do not] yet have the right to publish. Never came out. It's a great song. "I Wanna Be With You" is always an upper, and percussionists particularly love that song because it's such a rhythm.

"Standing on the Edge of Forever" was a new song I wrote in the last 10 years [about]a relationship that just won't come together, and that's what that's about. But it's also, as Lenny Kaye edged me on to say, This is it, either or. It's that time you come to and it's enough of whatever it is, get on or get off.

"Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus" — oh, that's one of the great songs of all time. James Cleveland wrote it, but I rewrote it. But I don't find to ever get any income from that.It's just a great song talking about how it is. If you're going to do right, you may be alone.

"Fine Wine", Jennifer wrote that with some accompaniment by Margo, and it's talking about early widowhood. And it was how it was maybe four years ago, even though that was a 16-year mark of loss for me, I had been alone for 16 years when I said I'm open for love.

And as things work out and good things happen, I met my current husband, a rancher, horseman from Wyoming, and took it a few years to kind of get to know each other, but we're having a good time.

With Edge of Forever out in the world, what are you looking forward to in the near future?

Right now, I'm looking forward to a documentary I've been working with [a production team] on for eight years. It's called They Called Us Outlaws. Eric Gaberman, partnering with the [Country Music] Hall of Fame did so much research on our time — and the sentinel turn of music in our generation — that I said yes.

[It's a] film coming with so much fact, and then he brings it into the present. Those that have a mindset more to try to do what they wrote and how they did it. And the "outlaws" was more or less a branding in a time that branding wasn't even known, and it stuck. So, it's been useful to a lot of new artists coming with new sounds.

Jessi Colter

*Jessi Colter. Photo: Chris Phelps*

You've lived through so many epochs in the music industry, When you look back on your decades in the industry — all the triumphs and losses — what do you think of?

Well, there have certainly been chances. Don Was ran into us at the Crazy Horse in Orange County. He showed up in the dark, and scared me because I didn't know who he was. While Waylon was doing the show, and he just talked a minute and said, "You know what, Jessi? The '70s were so much fun."

There was something about that that was the beginning of a lot, but it was the ending of something. It was a major turn with the University in Austin having been exposed to a lot of rock. So when Waylon and Willie came with their sound there, they reacted more like a rock group — Waylon did not cross boundaries in those days. You didn't do it. The companies wouldn't allow it.

So, it was an amazing procedure that took place and we were so glad to be part of it. Since then, it's kind of rolled with the punches, and Americana has gotten its feet.

And Shooter has been miraculous in some of the things that he's yielded already. But Waylon and he both don't go for prizes. They do help you, but you have to have that creative want to.

When he was 16, he didn't want a car; he wanted Pro Tools. So, he started early on his path and is doing great. He was a little before his time in performance and then working through being the son of Waylon Jennings, he worked through that and did great.

He loved his father dearly, and he now is a great spokesman for his father, which I love. But all in all, we'll just have to wait and see what's going to happen around the corner.

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Gina Chavez Behind the Board Hero
Gina Chavez

Photo: Courtesy of Gina Chavez


Behind The Board: How Gina Chavez's Process Allows Her To "Sink Into Creativity"

For independent Latin folk artist Gina Chavez, greatness is defined by fully expressing yourself creatively — and as she reveals, that mentality has been the key to her success.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2023 - 07:02 pm

The peak of Latin folk singer Gina Chavez's creativity traces back to the beginning of her career — before there was any pressure from big-time executives.

"The 'ignorance is bliss' kind of vibe allowed me to do what I felt called to do," Chavez reveals in this episode of Behind the Board. "At this point in my career, I'm trying to get back to that space. I realize what a blessing that was to be in a moment where I was just like, 'Let's do this. Who cares?'" 

These days, Chavez's creative process begins with the rhythm or a "vibe," which she explains could be a chord progression or beat. Through this method, she created her 2020 effort, La Que Manda, which checked off a few of Chavez's goals: release a full-length project in Spanish, and qualify for the GRAMMYs and Latin GRAMMYs — all while building a community with her music.

Chavez received a Best Pop/Rock Album nomination at the 2020 Latin GRAMMYs, where she reconnected with peers she's met throughout her career — with whom she remains in touch with today. "We're constantly reaching out about new music," she says. "It's a beautiful community, which to me is what the Recording Academy is all about."

Over the years, Chavez has realized that having the courage to put music out in the world is the most beautiful part, regardless of the success. "If you're a creator and put yourself out there, that's great. That's the kind of greatness we need," she proclaims. "You never know who you're going to connect with. We all need someone to shine, so we can know that we, too, are bright."

Press play on the video above to learn more about Gina Chavez's relationship with music, and check back to for more new episodes of Behind the Board.

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