Music, especially around the holiday season, has the power to stir emotions. For Gabrielle Ruiz, an actress, dancer and vocalist raised in the Rio Grande Valley, her debut single “Twinkle Twinkle” does just that.
Most know her as Valencia in the CW’s musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and she holds a robust Broadway career and credits Lin-Manuel Miranda for her official Broadway debut in “In the Heights.” Ruiz, who is from Edinburg, said that some of her perseverance in the entertainment industry hearkens back to an early lesson in Texas.
“Vocally, my vocal technique, my education, is all public school,” she said. “I was a Texas All-State choir kid: second chair, second soprano. But also, what a fun detail about that – and I say ‘fun’ because it was one of my biggest learning, my first learning experiences – I made All-State my junior year, and then I didn’t my senior year. And so it was this beautiful, heartbreaking lesson of humiliation and deciding to continue it on and make it my profession of auditioning, with sometimes a lot of ‘no’s.'”
Fast-forward to 2022 and “Twinkle Twinkle”: Ruiz said that since she’s always been a part of the holiday season when it comes to her professional entertainment career, she wanted to put her mark on it – and not with a cover song.
“I didn’t want to sing ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ or ‘O Holy Night’ and things like that, which are beautiful songs,” she said. “While I moved to Los Angeles, I began producing Christmas concerts at local communities, organizations, and I enjoyed the original songs from other music artists that either you didn’t hear from, or they were like a Christian band that didn’t get the mainstream effect. And they were just also as beautiful, and they really moved you just as much.”
Ruiz presented two friends, poet Chensiang Tiow and music writer Charlie Malcolm, with an idea.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we take Chen’s poems and make them into music?’ And that was a three-year journey to now,” she said. “I’m from the Broadway community, especially when it comes to my singing technique and my career. And we found my pop voice; we found the style that works with Charlie’s. I sent him over 15 variations of how Macy Gray would sing it, how Mandy Moore would sing it … I didn’t want it to be this big ballad that you only hear on a Broadway stage. I wanted it to be mainstream and it fall enlaced into everyone’s Spotify lists of pop music for Christmas.”
Ruiz said the primary challenge in creating “Twinkle Twinkle” was finding the time to commit – and meet a Thanksgiving deadline.
“Like, that’s the last date, I think, any Christmas song can get a chance to be heard in time for the holiday season. So I think in 2020, in 2021, it all of a sudden was November. And I was like, ‘Charlie, we still haven’t done it,'” she said. “And he finally texted me saying, ‘I’m ready to go. You just let me know when you’re ready.’ And I just wasn’t. And he was very patient, never judgmental, and I just really wanted to make it happen this year. And I also wanted it to be right. And I’m so proud and happy how it turned out. It’s a single this year, and we want a realized album next year in 2023.”