Gypsy Soul comes home for Christmas

It's been nine years since Cilette Swann and Roman Morykit — known as the Celtic soul duo Gypsy Soul — moved to Ashland from Los Angeles.

"The community embraced our music in such a supportive way," Swann says. "So much that we wanted to give something back. When we heard about the number of hungry people in the area, we discovered ACCESS and decided to perform a Christmas benefit concert."

The local food bank helped the duo promote the show, and in order to rent a hall and hire musicians, Swann and Morykit went to local retailers for help.

"Morning Glory Restaurant, Chateaulin, B Ella, Standing Stone, Eric Laursen Building and so many others were generous," Swann says. "Everyone asks for cash in L.A., but the idea was so well received here that it made us fall in love with the people and the place."

Through these efforts, people came to the duo's first benefit concert held at the Ashland Community Center and donated food and cash for ACCESS.

The annual fundraiser grew in size and in scope.

"After it became established, we decided to include WinterSpring," Swann says. After Swann's father passed away, the nonprofit center donated a memorial stone. "I was simply captured by what the organization does. They work with anyone struggling with loss or grief, and they also work with suicide prevention and at-risk youth."

The shows kept selling out, so the duo rented bigger halls and hired more musicians to present its distinctive blues, jazz and folk-infused Celtic and Americana roots music.

"First the Unitarian, then the Ashland Armory," Swann says. "But this year we wanted to do something different. We want to get two shows in this year. So we went back to a smaller venue, the Unitarian Center, for one night as a duo and one night as a full band."

Vocalist Swann and multi-instrumentalist Morykit will perform Friday night at the Unitarian. The two will be joined by Mikey Stevens and Michael Forney on Saturday night. Forney and Stevens appear on Gypsy Soul's "One Beautiful Night," a live album recorded in 2004 at the Rogue Theater in Grants Pass.

Gypsy Soul's new concert DVD, "Live at the Triple Door," will be available at the concerts. The DVD contains a full concert recorded at the Triple Door in Seattle, music videos of the duo's singles such as "All That Remains" and "Big Sky Lullaby" and behind-the-scenes looks at making "All That Remains" and "Triple Door."

The concert features Seattle musicians T.J. Morris on drums and percussion, Traci Hoveskeland on cello and Scott Burnett on bass and guitar.

"Ashland's Denizen TV brought a film crew to Washington and followed me around with cameras for four days," Swann says. "They wanted to learn how I grew up on Bainbridge Island and in Kirkland and to see how the environment inspired me artistically. The crew followed us to rehearsals, production meetings at Triple Door and a recording studio housed in an old log cabin in Woodenville.

"You've no impression of what you're like on camera, your little idiosyncrasies don't come to light untill you see yourself on film," Swann says. "I flip my hair when I talk, and there's a cup of coffee in Roman's hands in every scene. Then there's all of the nervous moments before going on stage."

When Swann and Morykit aren't touring — which is about 30 percent of each year — the two now call Jacksonville their home. Their trips to sold-out houses up and down the West Coast pay the mortgage and keep them busy promoting their shows.

Busy enough to keep the two from noticing when they had turned the heads of Just Plain Folks, a community of more than 50,000 songwriters, recording artists and music industry professionals — and host to the world's largest independent music awards.

This fall, Just Plain Folks bestowed its award for best international cover song album upon Gypsy Soul for the duo's 2007 recording, "Beneath the Covers: A Rediscovery."

"We received an e-mail letting us know that we had been nominated. But we never enter contests, so I deleted it," Swann says. "There was another inviting us to the awards show in Nashville, and I hit the delete button again. Then an e-mail arrived informing us that Gypsy Soul had won the No. 1 cover-song CD in the world. We just about fell over. I love these kinds of surprises."

"Beneath the Covers" is Gypsy Soul's eighth CD and features songs such as the Beatles' "Blackbird," John Denver's "Country Roads," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and others. All of Gypsy Soul's recordings are available at

Tickets to Gypsy Soul's benefit concerts at the Unitarian Center cost $15 in advance, $20 at the door and are available at Music Coop, Paddington Station, Willow Creek and online at Eric Alan of Jefferson Public Radio will emcee the event. There will be a raffle with 100 percent of the proceeds going to WinterSpring. About a third of the ticket sales also will benefit WinterSpring.

Share This Story