Like everyone who grew up in the ’90s, I had heard of Smokey Mountain. When I first moved back to the Philippines in 1992, we used to sing “Anak ng Pasig.” As the years wore on, I would see former Smokey Mountain member Geneva Cruz on TV or at different music events.
Years later, after hanging out in the same bar in Makati a few weeks in a row, we finally were introduced. If I am not mistaken, she was with her father, and they had an open jam for his birthday.
As we got to talking, we realized we liked a lot of the same music and stuff, and have more or less been friends ever since. She was never the superstar everyone else thinks she is, at least to me. With her friends, she’s usually the kookiest of the bunch and the first to make everyone else laugh, usually with her weird antics. As gorgeous as she is (she is a Bikram yoga fan), she is the most kenkoy of them all. She is a devoted mother to her son, Heaven, and a devoted promoter of music.
I got to “chat” with Geneva online recently, asking her a few questions about life and music and what advice she would give someone trying to get into the industry she’s in.
How did you start making music?
I come from a family of musicians, and I grew up following my dad and his band around. My great-grandfather is Tirso Cruz Sr.—he was called “Dr. Beat” in the ’30s. So I guess you can say that it’s in my blood?
What inspires you?
The world. Everything about it inspires me—the good, the bad, the ugly. I look out the window, I see those streetchildren, and there goes a song. I look at people fighting on TV and I get another song. It gets tiring to be honest, so sometimes I just stick to the simplicity and beauty of nature.
What do you do now?
I still do the same things I did when I was a child. I make music, I perform, I dance, sing, act, model. It is what I do best. But I’ve committed to changing the world one song at a time, or one deed at a time. I’m back in school taking up education because one day, I want to be able to travel the world and teach kids who are not given at least the proper basic education that they deserve. I still believe that the children are the future of the world.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing these things?
I’d probably be part of a band. I don’t know anything else but to sing and perform and teach.
What are the top five tips you’d give someone who is trying to do what you’re doing?
2. Learn how to accept criticism.
3. Be interested in people and what they do, and what makes them happy, sad, and angry. You have to be sensitive enough to know what people like and dislike, then put that into what you do.
4. Evolve. Don’t be afraid of change. Change is good. Change is the only thing that is constant in this beautiful battered world.
5. Be true. Say you want, but only talk about what you really know. Ang plastic, salot sa mundo. Wag kang Tupperware.
What is your opinion on the music scene?
Apparently, even passions can be bought these days. Don’t let that fool you because sooner or later, the ones with the real talent will come marching back and shine again. Other than that, it’s all good.
Where do you think the music scene can go?
To a better place. OPM, I think, will be back with a bang! I think it’ll turn into a vibrant thing because music is just that—almost something you can see, taste and smell other than hear.
Music is truly one of the main components of all cultures in the whole world. During the ’70s and the ’80s, music was played on the radio a lot, and it has been the voice of a people in its sadness, melancholy, liveliness and expression. I just wish that musicians here can be better supported (paid better?), watched, adored, and even thought of as wise people, not just weirdos.
I wish musicians could make everyone remember what music means to them. People should be proud of their musicians, such that if they had to pick between their own or another country’s, they would all unanimously choose their own. They think of the music of their country as their own voice, in a sense.
Who would be a dream collaboration?
My dream would be to do a collaboration with Bamboo and Rico Blanco. I love those artists a whole lot for their uniqueness and sheer talent. I want to be able to jam with Pepe Smith and Sampaguita. That would be so cool!
What else would you like to be doing?
Travel the world. Make a difference. Share what I know, and learn from others. That has always been my way of life. I talk to all types of people from all walks of life, spend time with them and know exactly what they’re going through, and hopefully I make them feel better for what they already have, not what they don’t have yet.
What do you think has contributed to your success?
I have no idea. All I know is that I’m real, I’m talented, I may not be the prettiest woman in the country but I think I’m pretty bad-ass, I’ve been told that I’m charming, and I’m nice.
Who are the artists we should be listening to? Foreign? Local? And why?
Justin Nozuka—he’s Japanese/American and he is amaaaazing! I’ve seen him perform live in Seattle three years ago. What an awesome singer/ songwriter.
Junji Arias—well, he’s my coproducer for the new album that I will be releasing soon. Listen to the album and you’ll know why. He’s remarkable, the Justin Nozuka of this country.
Five words to describe yourself.
I’m sweet, spicy, hot, cold, and rock and roll.
Watch out for Geneva’s new album with her band. The first single is called “To Manila.” “It’s my very own love song for the city and country I love with my heart and gut,” she says.