Mexican-American, singer-songwriter Renee Goust writes bilingual songs about gender equality, the LGBTQIA+ experience, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her music tells stories of queerness and diversity through a fusion of genres.
(Para leer la entrevista original en español, haz clic aquí.)
Renee has collaborated with artists like Diana Gameros, La Bruja de Texcoco, and Audry Funk, has produced and performed music for Jessica Méndez Siqueiros’ films ‘The Last of the Chupacabras’ and ‘Pozole’ (Disney and WeTransfer), and her hit ‘La Cumbia Feminazi’ was featured in Tanya Saracho’s ‘Vida’ (Starz Network). In this interview Renee talks about her newest single ‘Our Anthem’, her album ‘Resister’, and about the bicultural experience that many of us share in.
This interview has been translated from its Spanish original using Microsoft Translator.
To skip ahead and listen to the audio of this interview (in Spanish) click here.
RDB: Hi Renee Good morning, Pau from RockDaBeat Magazine. How are you?
RG: Very well Pau, very happy, thank you for the very happy invitation to tell you about my new single ‘Our Anthem.’
RDB: I’m also happy to be able to talk to you because you also have a new album, ‘Resister’ in which you have 8 songs with sounds from different genres, a little jazz, blues, rancheras, and each song reflects your activism towards the LGBT+ community, gender equity and the message of throwing yourself into being yourself. What does this album mean to you?
RG: Well, for me ‘Resister’ is an important manifesto of who I am, that things are important to me. I consider it personally an important work from my side as a singer-songwriter because I decided that I did not want to marry a single genre but explore the song and how different stories can be told through different genres.
RDB: Did you have any challenges when working on this album and what is your creative process?
RG: I’m an independent, self-produced artist, so the process of making a record for me is to write the songs, arrange them with scores, put together the scores for the musicians because all the music was women on this album. Hire the musicians, schedule with the engineer, schedule the study, that is, everything. Then see the edition with the engineer, the mix with the engineer, the mastering with the mastering engineer, the physical production that we are now doing, and apart from singing and playing the guitar, playing piano and various instruments on the album. So yes, of course there are times when you say why? But when the first song came out that was ‘Diosa’ that we released in February, the response was incredible so there you realize the impact that the work you are doing has and what it represents not only for you, but the way in which other people connect with her especially women, in the case of ‘Diosa.’
RDB: ‘Resister’ is an album full of collaborations, in ‘El corrido de Sylvia Rivera’ you collaborated with La Bruja de Texcoco, ‘Diosa’ was a collaboration with Audry Funk and Rebecca Lane, ‘Our Anthem’ with Diana Gameros among others, but there is also the talent of many more women in the music industry … What does it mean for you to have worked with these very talented women and how do you see the future of music made by women in an industry that by many years has been predominantly driven by men? Do you think we will continue to see artists who, like you, grab the microphone and are willing to defend issues of social relevance?
RG: I think so. I think we’re seeing it more and more. We are in a beautiful time just because the big labels are no longer an obligation to be able to have a life, a career within music. So I think that opens a lot of doors for you to really do or want, and I think with perseverance and vision and obviously organization and talent, etc.; many things can be achieved and there are many people doing very nice things. In addition to the companions you already mentioned who are very dear. Rebeca Lane has a long theme, with feminist themes, the same with Audry Funk, the Witch of Texcoco is making music representing trans identities within Mexican music. Diana Gameros with whom I made this new single ‘Our Anthem’, put herself in vulnerable situations with the purpose of advancing a message.
RDB: Your new single or the single you’re promoting right now is ‘Our Anthem’ was a collaboration with Diana Gameros and they talk about having lived on the border, migration, and the impact that border policies and racism have had. And it’s also a bilingual rap. And I think a lot of people identify with this BICULTURAL experience. Could you say that the song reflects your experience coexisting between two cultures?
RG: I’m from Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. And I always say that I am from both places because I lived 17 years of my life between both cities on the border. I was born in Tucson, Arizona so I have U.S. citizenship, but my parents are Mexican and we lived in Mexico. So I would go to school in Arizona and then to the house in Sonora and that’s something I do every day, that crossing. I studied school in English, but at home everything was in Spanish. I grew up with both languages, I grew up with both cultures, although then sometimes in the line they mix a lot, it is like a single border culture that exists. That is very different from the one I know now that I live in New York, and the one I met when I studied college in Guadalajara that is like the center of the country and the northeast of the United States are very different things. But they marketed me because in fact I identify as a bicultural and border binational person. That helped me connect a lot with Diana Gameros, who is from Ciudad Juarez, and I spend time in El Paso, TX. We have that thing in common and I think you find that in Tijuana, San Diego, and you find it along the border strip and surely in other countries something similar will happen as well. I grew up between those two identities and I like to put it in music and I think it’s important to talk about racism, which for example I experienced as a child, but I didn’t realize it. And now that he analyzed little things that happened to me I say, that was racism, what happened too, so for me it is important to talk about it in ‘Our Anthem’ and do it with someone who lived experiences perhaps harder than me as the issue of being undocumented in the USA.
RDB: Musically speaking… How did you start your musical journey? Is there a musical tradition in your home or did you decide to start singing/composing on your own?
RG: We were put in different classes when we were kids, my brothers and I. And I was put in piano lessons from a very young age and there is a very tender anecdote that I like to tell because it melts my heart. My parents were newly married, I was 3 years old they began to build their life, and they put me in piano lessons I think at 3 years old. But before they tried to put me in a choir and my mother was told, “your daughter has no talent for singing ma’am,’ if she likes music better find something else for her because she is not going to be a singer.” Then my very devastated mom goes and gets me into piano lessons and they ask her to buy me a keyboard and my mom didn’t have the money to buy me a keyboard at the time. Then the teacher tells him, what we can do if he does not have the keyboard right now, go saving because without him he will not be able to advance much, and we draw one of cardboard. My mom tells me what I did like this in the cardboard keys, and it splits my soul with tenderness. And at the same time, they bought me a keyboard and then a piano when I had already learned something.
RDB: In 2017, you composed ‘La Cumbia Feminazi’ and received wide international attention for having a powerful and relevant lyrics in response to the machismo and antifeminism that is still lived today. Did you expect a response of this magnitude after you uploaded the song to YouTube?
RG: No, honestly I had uploaded a lot of music before that, let’s say with medium/small response and when I uploaded ‘La Cumbia Feminazi’ it was like a, what happened here! It didn’t even have a promotional campaign, it was something I just uploaded to YouTube and moved alone. I was quite shocked that it was like that, not because I don’t think it’s a good song but because the difference in reception was drastic. It went viral in Argentina, Chile, Spain, Mexico, I got a lot of love, I got a lot of hate, it was a very intense thing. The press came to me, let’s say it all started with ‘El País,’ and when they published the note, it started, as well as a domino effect. I didn’t expect it, but I wasn’t surprised either in the sense that I’ve been writing music like this all my life. Everyone says that perseverance achieves things, tenacity, staying there and that’s what I’ve done. To this day I’m still producing music, and I plan to keep doing it until I can.
RDB: In all this time you’ve been working on your music, have you thought about whether you’d like to change something?
RG: I’m satisfied, I always listen to things and you learn more along the way. I listen to my first recordings and I say, before I didn’t know this and now I know that and I’m sure that in three years I’m going to listen to ‘Resist’ and I’m going to see something. But I think that’s very healthy, you know? I do not regret anything, on the contrary, I am very proud and I plan to continue writing music as from the dissidence. I would also like to do more acoustic things, that is, I have many ideas of things I want to do in the future. But, I wouldn’t change anything, I think everything I’ve done has taught me.
RDB: Finally, we are very excited to know that you will soon be visiting us here in the city of Chicago since you will be heading the Andersonville Homecoming festival. How do you feel about coming in these directions?
RG: I’m very happy, once before I played in Chicago in 2018 because I went to the Chicago Latino Film Festival, where I had a film for which I made music and played in a concert there. But now I return to a festival that is different, it is of a different nature. Now I come with new material, I come with my trio, a drummer and a bassist/trumpeter come with me. I love it because I’ve been told out there that Andersonville is a neighborhood where there is a lot of LGBT community as well and that excites me a lot because the songs on my album are very focused on that theme. Apart from being able to sing in Spanish, the first time I went to Chicago I was very impressed by how much of the Mexican community there is and how entrenched it is. That is, second, third generation vs here, for example, which is newer. The Mexican migrant community in New York had a strong flow in the 70’s or so. And well you have places like Pilsen over there which is a beauty. I fell in love with Chicago a lot when I went and to play there again with the band and present the ‘Resister’ is going to be very nice and I invite the people who are listening to us. The appointment is Sept. 25 at Andersonville Homecoming. I’m going to be there at 8:30 at night playing a 90 min set there will be a lot of music, even some of the music I will present is not recorded so it is like a special opportunity to go see new songs that they do not know about me. And very happy to go with my trio.
RDB: Finally, do you have plans for the future, have you already started working on another album, do you want to dedicate yourself to the tour, which comes from Renee Goust?
RG: Musical surprises are coming. But right now I’m focused on putting together live shows. I have the show in Chicago, then I’m playing in NY in October, then I play at a feminist festival in Playa del Carmen in November, and focusing on those different shows and always composing because that’s something I do and then I select what I’m going to show and what I like the most, etc. We will continue with shows and we will continue to release more music in the future.
RDB: Renee has been a pleasure to talk to you thank you for your time and we hope to continue listening to more of your music, we wish you nice things always and see you soon here in Chicago.
RG: Thank you very much, Pau, I send you a hug and a greeting to all the people of Rock Da Beat I invite you to follow me at @reneegoust on my social networks. There I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify there is the music. Listen to ‘Resister’ and watch the video for ‘Our Anthem’ which is the newest thing we’ve ever released. You can also follow me on YouTube there you find me as Rene Goust.
To listen to the Renee Goust interview (Spanish) click here.
Visit Renee Goust at www.reneegoust.com
Links to Renee Goust’s Socials