The Talented Giovannie Espiritu Talks Breaking Hearts and Boundaries with Film and Music

Giovannie Espiritu is not your average artist. This Filipina-American powerhouse has made waves in both film and music, using her platform to challenge societal norms and inspire change. From her award-winning short films to her upcoming feature, ‘Love & Karma’, Giovannie isn't afraid to tackle tough topics like patriarchy, generational trauma, and systemic bias.

In 2021, Giovannie was recognized as one of 23 ‘Most Influential Filipina Women in the World’ in the Innovator & Thought Leader category by the Filipina Women's Network, a testament to her abilities. Beyond all her success, Giovannie is also a blossoming musician who has been dabbling in music for the past two decades.

We caught up with Giovannie to chat about her creative process, her influences, and how her music ties into her broader mission to "break hearts wide open and create more moments of joy."

So great to speak with you,Giovannie, thank you for taking the time to meet with us.When did you first start making music? What inspired you?

“I've been dabbling in music for about 20 years, starting with simple four-chord songs on my guitar. Although I wasn't always consistent, a parody song I did back in 2016 - a fun twist on the Little Mermaid about being an introvert - went viral when a popular YouTuber ‘covered’ it, hinting at a commercial potential in my music.”

“The latest single, however, has deeper roots; it emerged from a poem I wrote in 2019 that snagged an honourable mention at Outfest. Initially, my friend Augusto Carillo, also known as DJ Cutty Co, laid down a beat for it. But as life got busier for him, Rasec Marc, whom I met on the set of ‘Love & Karma’, a feature film I directed and wrote, took over the production, drawing inspiration from Cutty Co’s original beat.”

You mentioned your latest single, can you tell us a bit more about it?

“The song ‘Ultra Feminist’ was born from the myriad of insults and challenges I’ve faced as a woman of colour in the film industry. I've been constantly undermined, dismissed, and subjected to unwanted sexual innuendo and harassment, often having to just smile and bear it. This track marks the beginning of me growing claws and fighting back.”

“Despite the sharp, cutting lyrics, people have told me the song still sounds happy and upbeat. I think that reflects how women are often socialized to appear likable and non-threatening—even when we’re asserting ourselves. I'm still on the journey of learning how to stand up for myself effectively.”

How would you describe your style on your latest release? Has there been a change or evolution in style since you first began?

Honestly, the sound of this track owes a lot to both Augusto and Rasec. Augusto's original track had a funky hip-hop vibe that really set the tone. Then Rasec came in and shifted it towards electro-pop, adding a fresh layer of energy. I'm really hoping Augusto will jump back in to do a remix because his talent is incredible - and Rasec's too, of course. Before collaborating with them, my work was much simpler and leaned towards a folky style, mainly because I consider myself more of a lyricist than a skilled musician. Their expertise has really transformed the musical landscape of my work.”

Is there a central message or theme you were trying to convey in your latest release? Is there a moment in the release that really captures that idea?

“I'm really channelling all my frustration and defiance in "Ultra Feminist." The song is my way of pushing back against the constant undermining and sexism that so many women and I experience. I’m calling out the disrespectful comments and attitudes head-on, and turning them on their head. I feel like when I confront those derogatory comments like "Show us your tits," and shoot back with, "I'm at the end of my wits" and "You’ll still call me a disgrace / But you'll still want a taste" is where I call out the hypocrisy and entitlement that are so deeply ingrained in how society treats women. It's me trying to own my strength and refusing to be silenced or dismissed. It’s about me taking up space, asserting my identity, and demanding to be heard on my own terms.

What is your songwriting process? How does it all come together?

“I'm not sure I can claim to have a fixed creative process yet. My songwriting usually begins with poetry - I find myself crafting verses that capture feelings or moments. Then, if I pick up my guitar and start strumming, a melody might just start to form. I hum along to the chords, letting the tune evolve naturally from the rhythm of the words.”

What’s the most important thing when you’re writing a song?

“For me, the essence of any song I write is the message it carries. While I enjoy bopping my head to beats and melodies from other artists, my own songwriting process invariably begins with the words. My creative expression, be it through poetry, screenplays, or lyrics, often stems from a raw emotion - usually anger or a deep-seated feeling that I need to expel from my system”

“Art becomes my means of transformation, allowing me to channel these intense emotions into something tangible and, hopefully, resonant. It's a cathartic process that not only helps me process these feelings but also aims to connect with others who might share similar experiences.”

Are there any artists, moments, or experiences that influenced you when writing the project?

“The inspiration for ‘Ultra Feminist’ comes from a collection of frustrating experiences. Among them: being in a classroom setting where women were jokingly told to ‘take off your shirt’, being labelled a tramp on a film set because a PA noticed my lower back tattoo, fending off advances from husbands of authority figures, and being advised to conceal my bisexuality and queer identity to avoid alienating corporate sponsors. These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. It's exhausting to see my male colleagues breeze through situations where I have to constantly defend or explain myself. This song is a response to all of that - a reclaiming of my voice and a challenge to the status quo.”

What advice would you give to bands and artists who are just starting out and trying to find their sound?

“I'm still in the early stages of my own journey, so I don't have a wealth of advice to offer just yet. But one thing I’ve learned that feels vital is to put yourself out there. There's a saying that resonates deeply with me: "Don't die with your song still inside you." It's a reminder that sharing your voice, your creativity, and your unique expression is crucial. You might feel unprepared or uncertain, but there's immense value in releasing your work into the world. It’s about not waiting for the ‘perfect’ moment because what the hell is perfect anyway?”

Is there anything you would like to say to our audience?

Thank you so much for listening and for sharing this space with me. Every bit of support and connection I receive motivates me to keep pushing forward and to keep creating and sharing. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of this journey and for helping amplify my voice and the voices of indie artists like me.”

From the silver screen to the recording studio, Giovannie Espiritu is a force to be reckoned with. Her passion for social justice and her dedication to uplifting marginalized voices shine through in every note she sings and every scene she directs. We can't wait to see what she does next.

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