Gypsy Soul: A 20-year musical journey lands in Grass Valley Saturday
Breaking out in the music business is no easy feat. It’s especially difficult to accomplish on your own.
However, the dynamic duo of Gypsy Soul has done it independently, from licensing to producing, and is celebrating their 20 years of music.
Gypsy Soul is also teaming up with local artist Lisa Swerdlow, debuting her first album, and coming to the St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley for a live concert on Saturday to reign in this milestone.
Cilette Swann and Roman Morykit started their journey together in Edinborough, Scotland in 1990. Swann is originally from Canada and Morykit from the United Kingdom both born of first-generation immigrants to the United States.
Morykit’s family is Ukrainian and Italian, while Swann’s is Irish and South African.
“There’s this thread that we assimilated into all these different cultures.” said Swann. “Everywhere we go we have this ‘first day of school’ mentality.”
Before Gypsy Soul got started, Swann lived in France and toured the Paris cafe jazz scene, before moving to the U.K. to meet Morykit’s brother Dmytro Morykit, who was a concert pianist and songwriter, to further her career.
The two hit it off and Dmytro Morykit suggested to Swann that she meet his younger brother Roman Morykit, who at that time had a record deal fall through in the middle of touring. Devastated, Morykit was looking for a new project and to his brother’s suggestion he listened to Swann.
Listening to Swann, Morykit was enchanted and knew he needed to work with her. Swann was immersed in the British music scene while Morykit was into American music like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, as well as southern blues and the R&B scene.
The two both loved each other’s tastes in music and began to collaborate.
The name Gypsy Soul was inspired by the Van Morrison song, “Into the Mystic.” Gypsy Soul independently produced their first album in 1997.
“You have to have the vision but you also have to take the steps,” said Morykit.
“It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the things you need to get a record deal,” said Swann. “But we knew if we could just get this album made that people would respond to it.”
Doing whatever they could to make money was crucial to the start of their success. Gypsy Soul managed to build an audience doing everything from giving out free CDs to playing on the street and hosting their own shows.
Trading favors and services became the group’s bread and butter — a true grassroots movement.
Pulling from all of their musical influences Gypsy Soul has created music that takes audiences on a journey through many different cultures and environments they’ve come across.
“We’re the roots of many different places,” said Swann.
Twenty years is a long time to be an independent artist. and Morykit recalls one moment like it was yesterday.
“We were out on a bike ride in Marin. Our record deal just fell through and we thought, ‘Screw it, let’s put out an album ourselves,’ and with a small amount of money from family we put it together.” said Morykit.
It’s hard to culminate 20 years to just one moment but they say the overarching theme is “put yourself out there, don’t give up, and you will find that opportunities are everywhere.”
“Over the years we have created this relationship with our fans who have supported our music,” Morykit said. “We are part of their lives and it’s awesome.”
“We made a commitment to always sign CDs and meet our fans until the last person leaves,” said Swann. “The fans support us and we want to support them; it’s this synergistic thing that happens and it’s beautiful.”
Speaking of fans, local artist Swerdlow had met Gypsy Soul at a concert and invited the duo out to Grass Valley.
“We met Lisa at a concert in Berkeley, and Lisa asked if we would do a house concert,” said Swann.
For three years Gypsy Soul did a few house concerts in Swerdlow’s home.
After seeing Swann and Morykit perform and hearing their story, it inspired Swerdlow to finally get out there and put together her own debut album, from which she will play Saturday.
Contact Prospector Editor Sean Jordan at 530-477-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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