Gina Brown has performed for social aid and pleasure club parades, at the Essence and Jazz Fests, and as the face and voice of Louisiana Lottery commercials. The singer also hosts “G’s Corner,” a weekly radio show that spotlights New Orleans musicians, for local community station 102.3 WHIV FM.
In the two decades since you moved to New Orleans, you’ve performed in a really wide range of settings. Which of them would you say was the most unusual?
If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the Louisiana Lottery, because I was just going in to sing the jingle part of it. But I was having so much fun recording it that the producer was like, “We should get her to do this live in the studio and use it in part of the commercial.” And then I ended up being the whole commercial, which was the most exciting part, because they’d never done that before.
Did your mom see it?
Oh, yeah. [Laughs] She pulled into a gas station, and they were playing it on the screens on the pumps. She was like, “That’s my baby!”
What prompted you to host a radio show spotlighting local musicians, and who are some of the guest you’ve had in the studio?
Oh God, Irma Thomas, Erica Falls, Teresa B, Sam Price… so many people. My volunteering with WHIV came from my friendship with [station founder] Dr. MarkAlain Dery; he was my ex-husband’s doctor when he had meningitis. And one of the reasons for being part of an independent station is that I’d worked for 22 years in corporate radio. But even when I was selling commercials and doing voice-overs for Clear Channel, their stations still never played my music on the air. So I figured if I had my own show, then I could play all the people who go through the same thing that I went through. Even though we’re a low-power station, it still gives them the opportunity to be heard and have their music played on the air.
Getting back to the lottery thing, do you still buy tickets, and have you ever won?
Yes, I buy them all the time. But the most I’ve won so far was $40 on a scratch-off.
And finally, having grown up in Mobile, Alabama and relocated to New Orleans, maybe you can weigh in on an age-old debate: Which city really had the first Mardi Gras?
Well, I knew that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile. But whenever I’d say that to people here in New Orleans, they’d be like, “Yeah, but ours is better than yours.”
Gina Brown plays Sunday, June 9, at the Creole Tomato Festival