Allie Gonino & The Thirst Project
Interview by Jennifer Beyor
Portrait by Jan-Willem Dikkers
Styling by Jesse Cohan
Hair & Makeup Jeffery Baum
“YOU START TO WONDER, ‘HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE THAT BIG
OF A DIFFERENCE?’ YOU REALLY CAN’T THINK THAT WAY. YOU HAVE
—Allie Gonino TO TRY TO INSPIRE AND DO WHAT YOU CAN.” — Allie Gonino
Allie Gonino is an actress, dancer, musician and songwriter who has recently added activist to her repertoire through her involvement with the non-profit The Thirst Project. Originally from Texas, where she spent her childhood playing violin, singing, and preforming, she moved to Los Angeles to join the all-girl pop group The Stunners before taking a role as Laurel Mercer on the TV series “The Lying Game.” Gonino now divides her time between Austin and L.A. acting, preforming with her band “The Good Mad,” collaborating with other artists, and working to cure the world water crisis.
With a thirst for live performance and philanthropy surrounding the world water crisis, the multi-talented Allie Gonino takes a page from Jack Kerouac and channels her madness into music, acting, and other “good mad” things.
Jennifer Beyor: As a singer, dancer, actress, songwriter and philanthropist, you certainly have a lot going on. How do you stay mentally sound and maintain balance?
Allie Gonino: It’s not always easy, but I have a great support system of friends. Plus I have my dogs, my family, meditation, and I also like self-help books.
JB: Of all the talents I just listed, is there one that stands out most to you as your greatest strength?
AG: My earliest discovered talent and most natural gift is playing violin. Music in general has been the biggest part of my life and my biggest passion. And just performing. I love live performance.
JB: Who are some artists – perhaps triple or quadruple threats like yourself –you admire and are inspired by?
AG: I really look up to Justin Timberlake. I think he’s been able to balance his acting and music careers really well. Jared Leto is another great example. I suppose Madonna has done it as well. There are so many awesome role models to look up to. I think more and more in our industry there are people who are just good at lots of things. I think if you’re artistic then you usually have your hand in a bunch of different pots.
JB: You are currently working on a TV show, co-starring Jason Mamoa from “Game of Thrones.” Are you a GOT fan? What TV shows do you watch currently?
AG: I haven’t watched GOT and don’t want to start right now because I think I’ll be hooked and I don’t have time right now to devote to being hooked. I really like “Girls.” Whenever I watch TV I like to laugh because life can be really serious sometimes. So I really like “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project.” I just really like watching funny women.
The Good Mad
The Good Mad is an L.A. based folk band comprised of Allie Gonino, Adam Brooks, and Andy Fischer, all formerly of the rock band Mr. Adventure. The band has released two EP’s, the first entitled “ALTA” in 2012 and the second “Strangeworthy” in 2013, which you can listen to here. Their music has also been featured on the TV show “The Lying Game,” in which Allie Gonino stars.
The Stunners was an all-girl pop group based in Los Angeles and formed by recording artist Vitamin C. Active between 2007 and 2011, its members included Allie Gonino, Tinashe Kachingwe, Hayley Kiyoko, Marison Esparza, Lauren Hudson and Kelsey Sanders. The group released one EP, two singles and four music videos, were played on Top 40 radio stations, and opened for Justin Bieber during his My World Tour.
JB: Let’s talk about your music. You started out in a group called The Stunners and have moved on to The Good Mad – two quite different styles of music. Seems a bit like going from The Pussycat Dolls to The Lumineers. Can you explain your evolution as a musician and artist?
AG:I grew up singing and performing country music in Dallas so that was my roots. I did Western swing, old Bob Wills music, that kind of stuff. What inspired me to get into music were The Dixie Chicks. I met them when I was four and thought the fiddle player – Martie Maguire – was the coolest woman on the planet and I decided I wanted to be like her. So I started playing in Texas. Then I realized I wanted to incorporate dance into my music so that’s how I got a little more into pop. My manager got a call one day from Vitamin C asking me to come auditions for The Stunners so I did the pop thing for three years. Then I was playing violin for this indie rock band called Mr. Adventures. It was my boyfriend’s band and we eventually formed The Good Mad in 2011. Two months later I went to Austin to start filming “The Lying Game” and the producer asked if I wanted them to write in a music storyline for me and I was like, “Absolutely.” They were going to put together a band of artists based in Austin and I asked them to take a listen to The Good Mad and so they incorporated it into the show.
“You can choose to be mad in a negative
way where it fuels you to do
mean, hateful things, or you can let
your madness fuel your art and
channel it in a positive way.” — Allie Gonino
JB: What is the meaning behind the name The Good Mad?
AG: Adam Brooks (my boyfriend and bandmate) and I were walking across this bridge in Austin and there was a quote on the side of it from Jack Kerouac’s book “On the Road” – “The only ones for me are the mad ones.” We talked about how you can choose to be mad in a negative way where it fuels you to do mean, hateful things, or you can choose to let your madness fuel your art and channel it in a positive way.
JB: Any upcoming touring plans? Do you enjoy touring?
AG: Not right now, we are working on an album later this year and we’ve played random shows here and there like SXSW, Sundance. I’m currently working on a solo album. It’s going to be more alternative rock.
JB: Tell me about the Thirst Project. Can you first explain what it is?
AG:The Thirst Project is an L.A. based non-profit organization that builds wells in developing countries. It is very youth driven so our team goes to schools around the country to talk about the world water crisis and empower young individuals to take action. Over the past six years, students have helped us to raise over 8 million dollars for the cause, providing over 300,000 people with clean, safe drinking water for the rest of their lives. So I love that aspect about it. I’m going on another tour soon in Texas to speak at more schools.
It’s interesting because water born illnesses kill more people every year than malaria, AIDS, and world violence combined, which is the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every hour and a half, but we don’t ever hear about it on the news. It is interesting to hear how people react when they hear that for the first time. It is also fun to see how all the parts come together. There’s a gala every year with celebrities, donors, and students and everyone plays a role. The celebs bring awareness to the cause to all of their fans, and donors are always giving so generously, and then the youth are actually teaching people about it, and then raising money.
JB: How did you become involved and why?
AG: Actress Charisma Carpenter introduced me to this particular organization two and a half years ago. I already knew I wanted to do something with the water crisis. I had this moment at Coachella about three years ago. I was standing in line to refill my water bottle and noticed the guy in front of me had two full bottles of water in his backpack and he was in line to fill up a third bottle. My initial gut reaction was, “That is kind of greedy.” It just spurred this trend of thought because, in America, so many things are so accessible to us that we don’t think twice about taking more when we already have enough. Later that year I was filming in Austin and we had 90 days in a row of it being over 90 degrees. It just felt like the whole universe was conspiring to bring my attention to water. I realize this is going to affect us very soon. This is a disaster. It is not just affecting people in developing countries. Here we have droughts throughout the country, the climate is changing. People seem to be in denial, but you can’t ignore science, you can’t ignore what is actually happening.
JB: How can others get involved?
AG: Like the organization on Facebook. Go to thirstproject.org and read more about it. If you’re a student you can contact our program director and they will arrange for a tour at your school.
JB: Greatest highlight of working with the organization thus far?
AG:Going on the school tour for a week in Indiana.
JB: What are some of the success stories you have heard?
AG: There’s a little boy Damon who lives in Ethiopia – his community didn’t have access to clean drinking water. Our team went to visit that village and they watched as he went to collect water from his source, walked about a mile and a half back to his homestead where his mom poured him a glass of the water. He drank it and immediately vomited. She poured him another and he vomited again. He has a parasite from the water that causes chronic vomiting and bloating. This parasite can lead to dehydration and ultimately death. The organization implemented a well in his village so now he is healthy. Implementing more wells is really our main goal because access to clean, safe drinking water affects all areas of development. As soon as we put a well in, disease rates drop, mortality rates drop, and it affects every aspect of life.
“You start to wonder, ‘How am I going to
make that big of a difference?’ You
really can’t think that way. You have to try
to inspire and do what you can.” — Allie Gonino
JB: How has charity work influenced your career and life in general?
AG: It has put things in perspective and allowed me to look at the bigger picture. If you’re going to be blessed, you should help those less fortunate, help educate people. My parents operate a wellness practice in Texas where they’ve done amazing things. It can be daunting and depressing because sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough people care. You start to wonder, “How am I going to make that big of a difference?” You really can’t think that way. You have to try to inspire and do what you can.
JB: We are sitting here in your home. Describe your design aesthetic? How does this relate to your own personal style?
AG:I’m really drawn to vintage, mismatched, interesting art pieces, lots of character, charm. I’m not into modern or contemporary. My personal style has been evolving. It really depends on my mood. Style is about expressing yourself.
JB:You are originally from Texas. What do you miss about it? What’s your favorite thing about L.A.?
AG: I miss family and friends. I have a greater love for Austin than near Dallas where I grew up. Weather and scenery in L.A. is amazing. Everywhere you turn you are looking at something interesting and beautiful. It elevates your mood to see beauty everywhere. I love The Piano Bar on Selma and Wilcox. I love the old classic Musso and Frank and also Figaro Café in Los Felix.
The Thirst Project: Almost 1 billion people on our planet don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water and proper sanitization. That’s one in every eight of us. Every day, 4,400 children die from diseases caused by contaminated water. That’s huge – approximately one child every 15 seconds. Eighty percent of all global diseases are water-borne and result from drinking contaminated water. These diseases kill more than 2.2 million people every year.
The average distance a woman walks to collect water is 3.75 miles. The task of collecting water falls on young girls, leaving them no time or energy for school. Without an education, it is nearly impossible to break the cycle of poverty. Lack of access to water prevents every other element of community development from taking place effectively. Water empowers agriculture, education and micro-finance. Without water, there is no life.
Most people are not aware of this situation, or simply do not know how grave it is. What’s worse – the water is there. It is right below the ground in aquifers, but most communities in developing nations are unable to reach it because they cannot afford to drill down. Water is a human right! Together, we can raise awareness and build wells. It starts with us. It starts with you. www.thirstproject.org