Photo Credit: Jonathan Timmons
Gina Sobel is a multi-instrumental virtuoso who has worked in just about every genre of music imaginable, from hip-hip, to bluegrass, to Sephardic ballads, and everything in between. Gina spends the majority of her time collaborating in the studio and on stage with fellow musicians working on solo projects or with her bands, the high-energy funk aficionados Choose Your Own Adventure, and the lo-fi Jazz outfit Gold Sounds. She has played gigs at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the 9:30 Club, the Richmond Folk Festival and many more. Somehow she found the time in her busy schedule to chat with us about her various music projects, the simplicity of apples and honey, and her struggles making achievable to-do lists!
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GatherDC: You’re originally from the area and you’ve stayed. What is it about the DC region that keeps you here?
Gina: I grew up here in Northern Virginia. When I got older and started going to jams and playing shows, I began to discover the depth of the local scene. It’s collaborative, supportive, and full of incredibly talented people. It was a great place for me to learn how to be on stage as a teenager at open mics hosted by places like Stacey’s Coffee and Iota (RIP). It has also been an amazing place to share my art as a professional musician. The scene also really encourages me to constantly push myself and to stay creative, and there are endless opportunities for collaboration!
GatherDC: What would be your dream day in DC/NOVA from start to finish?
Gina: I’d start with breakfast outside somewhere. I often end up at Le Pain Quotidien in Mosaic or, if I’m in DC, the patio at Big Bear Coffee. After that I’d maybe take a little morning hike, maybe at Lake Accotink? While there I’d definitely keep my eyes peeled for herons and turtles. After the hike I’m going to lunch at Viet House in Fairfax. They have the best vegetarian pho around and the vegetarian summer rolls are insane!
Then I’d stop by Action Music in Falls Church to try some guitars, followed by dinner at the Fancy Radish on H Street. It’s seriously artful vegetarian food. Their Instagram always makes my mouth water!
Finally, I’d wrap up the night with a show at Black Cat to see a friend’s band and maybe sit in for a couple tunes. Then some late-night beers and vegan corn dogs at Galaxy Hut in Arlington.
GatherDC: Dream Day aside, how do you typically wind down at the end of a long week?
Gina: Drinks with friends, camping, painting, gardening, long road trips to anywhere…or nowhere in particular. Also, jewelry making – check out www.islandofsmallthings.com.
GatherDC: What’s the best thing you’ve done over the last year?
Gina: A weeklong backpacking trip in the Maze in Canyonlands National Park. Also, finally getting to play with my funk band Choose Your Own Adventure for the first time since February 2020. It was like we hadn’t spent a day apart!
GatherDC: What’s a new hobby you’ve gotten into over the course of the pandemic?
Gina: I’ve picked up the fiddle! I’ve played in bluegrass bands for years in the role of the fiddle player…but doing it on the flute. It’s really great to re-learn these tunes on the instrument they were actually developed on.
Photo Credit: Tristan Williams
GatherDC: What’s something you would like to pick up over the course of the next year?
Gina: To write reasonable to-do lists. I’m pretty Type B, so the only way I stay on top of everything is to keep detailed lists. Unfortunately, these lists often include things like: “excavate inbox back to March 2019,” or “plan to record 4 new tracks in one day,” when I’m already teaching all day. I end up being disappointed with myself, even though there’s no way to actually do the things on the list. So I’d like to learn how to write actual, useful to-do lists.
GatherDC: Apart from making to-do lists, what’s a life experience at the top of your bucket list?
Gina: To play flute with Bill Frisell! (Check out the albums The Intercontinentals, Big Sur, Unspeakable and With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, if you want a starting point!)
GatherDC: How do you find yourself connecting with your Jewish identity or community?
Gina: In 2018 I was a part of Virginia Folklife’s Apprenticeship program, studying Sephardic ballad, singing with Susan Gaeta and by extension, Flory Jagoda. It was an incredible chance to reconnect with the Jewish community through the arts. Susan and I started a modern Sephardic fusion band called Minnush, and we recently (remotely) played the JxJ Festival. You can follow us on IG @minnushminnush.
Photo Credit: Ariana Miklowitz
GatherDC: Do you have favorite High Holiday foods?
Gina: I love the simplicity and joy of a good plate of apples and honey. Outside of that, my family makes matzah ball soup for every holiday, and I can never get enough of it. Also, my mom has mastered my Grandmom’s charoset, and we’ve been experimenting with her rhubarb apple sauce – it’s nice to bring those flavors back into our lives!
Photo Credit: Gina Ashley Travis
GatherDC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Gina: Before a big show in Richmond one time, I was talking with one of the musicians from the headlining band. We were discussing a mutual acquaintance in the music scene who had been less-than-cool recently in his interactions with other people. I said, “But he’s such a great player!” and the other musician responded, “Man, everyone I know is a good player!”
To me this means that we choose who we surround ourselves with, who we play with, who we accept gigs with, who we make art with. There are so many talented people in the scene – if someone is not a nice person, it’s just not worth wasting the time and emotional energy to play with them. Also, it’s so hard to make good art when you’re sharing a stage with people who are hurtful or who you dislike or mistrust.
GatherDC: When Jews of DC Gather…
Davita: Gina: …we realize we probably went to summer camp together.
Check out Gina’s music on IG: @gina_sobel and Facebook: www.facebook.com/ginasobelmusic
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