The Grass Gypsys
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The Grass Gypsys

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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"Songs With Style: An Interview with The Grass Gypsys"

The Grass Gypsy's - Songs With Style.
An Interview with The Grass Gypsy's



The first time I saw the Grass Gypsys was at a Listen LocalSD.com event in November at the Boat and Ski club in Mission Bay. I was impressed with Colleen's vocal range and talent and Justin was so animated and happy when he played his guitar. He made it seem so natural and easy to play a guitar it was a simple thing to be pulled into that feeling of bliss and harmony, and peaceful melodies that he and Colleen were creating on stage. I was very impressed with them as you could see on all the faces that were in the club. They were leaving for L.A. But I introduced myself and told them how much I liked them. They told me they were coming back after L.A. and to come see them again. I saw them when they came back but before that happened I remember wanting one of their CD's but I couldn't afford to buy anyone's CD at that time.

Once they were back I saw them at a couple of Listen Local gig's and I talked to Colleen about the possibility of them playing at Music On the Avenue in O.B. I was working for Chuck Schiele off and on helping out there and I made a suggestion to get the Grass Gypsys to play there, so I got Colleen the number and they booked the gig. A funny story on how I got my Grass Gypsy's CD happened on the day they were to play Music on The Avenue. I missed the gig (or at least their set) I was kind of bummed because I wanted to hear them again. As a regular thing I would go to Winston's after Music on the avenue and I was supposed to meet Sherri Stoltzfus there later. Nothing much was happening in Winston's and I ordered a beer and sat down at a table to wait for Sherri. All of a sudden some girl that was really drunk came over and hoped in my lap. I didn't know her but I said what the hell. I talked with her for a little bit and saw that she had a Grass Gypsy's CD in her hand. I tried talking to her about it but she was pretty out of it. When Sherri showed up she said "Hi" and went to the next table and all of a sudden the woman asked asked Sherri if I was her husband and she promptly jumped off my lap and left. But she had forgotten her Grass Gypsy's CD. I got up and looked outside for her but she was long gone. So entirely by accident I acquired a Grass Gypsy's CD.

When I finally got a decent camera in March, it was The Grass Gypsy's I went to see at a ListenLocalSD " The Best of" gig at the 710 club on 3/21/07. It was a pretty good bill that night and I met and heard some of my other favorite performers too that evening. Mary Grasso, Julia Othmer, Citizen Band and Grin's Edge. It was a great night of music all around. And the Grass Gypsy's were great and easily justified my wanting to go see them perform again.

I have seen Colleen and Justin play many times off and on in the last year including times when they played with another of their friends, Nicolas Despo. Nicolas was traveling with them on occasion and they played as a band named the Traveling Tree. I have been very privileged to know and hear the Grass Gypsys with Colleen's fantastic voice, grace and melodies and Justin's style, serenity and animation as he plays his guitar. So much so I thought it was high time I try and bring them some of the attention they so deserve. So I decided to emphasize their talents by doing a cover story on them and interviewing them for the magazine.

Here is the interview:

Hello Colleen and Justin I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions to let readers know some of your history and plans for the future, and too get to know you guys a little better. So let's get started!

Were do you guys hail from?

We both grew up in small towns outside of Boston. Massachusetts. We spent 6 years living and playing music in Boston before we hit the road October of 2006.

How often do you go on tour?

We tour cross-country twice a year, in spring and fall, spending the summers in Boston, Massachusetts and winters in sunny San Diego, California. We plan short trips to play shows from our east-coast and west-coast homes, like Vermont and New York from Boston or L.A. from San Diego.

When is the next time you will be in San Diego?

We'll we're going to New England for the month of December to play gigs and spend time with family, but we will be back this January and February!

There isn't much of a bio on your website or myspace. Could you tell me a little about yourselves.

Justin and I are touring musicians from Boston, MA that have been living and playing around San Diego since September of this year. We are young, talented musicians out on the road in hopes to spread our music and live as professional musicians. We have spent the last two years "traveling making music", performing our original material across the country and spending our winters in Southern California. Our band is called "The Grass Gypsys". We are a vocal/acoustic guitar duo that you might find hard to fit into one genre. We call ourselves "Jazz meets Rock" or "Symphonic Folk". We released our debut album "Legends, Myths, and Fairytales" in 2006. We are currently working on our second album, in which all but one song was written on the road. We are independent, grassroots artists, with no label or backing. "We get by with a little help from our friends" like Robyn Jean, The Grass Gypsys' graphic designer, and the lovely, Cathryn Beeks, who has introduced us to the Listen Local SD crowd, to name a few. We are peaceful, vegetarians, who own a black & white tuxedo cat, named, Bootsy, and happen to love travel, music and each other. We are engaged to be married July 2008.

Are you natives to where you live?

yes, we grew up in Boston. Went to School in Boston. So we are native Bostonians. Since we started traveling we have been living half the year in Boston and half the year in San Diego, traveling in-between. We adapt to the area that we are in.

What kind of musical background do you come from, schooling, other bands, vocal training etc? Does Colleen play any instruments and does Justin play anything other than guitar?

We've been involved with music since we were kids. Colleen started taking singing lessons and performing in plays and concerts and Justin started with lessons on bass and playing in rock bands early. Justin went to Berklee School of Music and then Umass Boston and received a degree in Music. Colleen received a degree in music and creative writing from Umass Boston as well. We met in a college jazz ensemble, Colleen singing and Justin playing the bass guitar. We've played a lot of music together since then. We went on to start an 8-piece afro-beat/funk band, Ujamaa (colleen-lead vcls, percussion/ justin-bass, electric gtr), and the jazz quartet, The Afterhours Band (colleen-lead vocals/justin-bass), in Boston. In addition, Justin played bass in the alternative rock band, Millis Pride, and Colleen fronted an indie band called, James the Viking. All the bands were gigging, we were "shedding" and enjoying the full schedules of rehearsals and shows. We were always on the same page about the music: the lifestyle, what it meant to us and how far we would go. Justin plays bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and mandolin. Colleen plays acoustic guitar, piano, and hand percussion. We mostly perform as a vocal/guitar duo, where Colleen sings and Justin plays acoustic guitar. That seems to really work for us.

Colleen, do you write the words and Justin the music for your songs.

We collaborate. I write most of the words and melodies. Justin writes most of the music, although at times I will also write the music. We have a wonderful flow about us when writing our tunes. They vary from many genres and styles. Don't put it past us to write a funk tune and then a folk tune. We enjoy the evolution of our thoughts and allow our original tunes to change and shift as we work them and play them out in front of audiences.

How did you two meet?

We first met playing Jazz licks a few rows away from each other in a Jazz Ensemble. One of those scenes where you haven't introduced yourself, or had a conversation, but heard each other play Watermelon Man a hundred times.

How did you meet up with Cathryn and Listen Local?

While we were planning our first tour, a friend of ours back home had just moved back from San Diego and suggested we check out Listen Local SD and Cathryn Beeks, so we booked a show, the last show of our first tour. It was a Thursday night in late November of last year, and it was our first time in San Diego, we had been in L.A. for about a week where we were staying with friends, and planned to come to San Diego, play and jet back up to L.A. We went to the gig at the Tiki in P.B., played, and Cathryn like us and asked us to come to the Mission Bay Boat and Ski Club that next Friday night, so we hung out in O.B. on Friday and played at the Boat and Ski that night and were amazed at the community! Cathryn then invited us to play at Tower Two in O.B. the following Sunday, so we spent another day and night in San Diego, hanging with some of our new friends from the scene, and played Tower Two on Sunday. It was an amazing string of events, and an unforgettable weekend and it really was the catalyst for us to want to REALLY come back to San Diego.

The Grass Gypsys are very popular wherever you've been. What kind of success have you seen and what kind of success are you looking for?

People enjoy watching us perform and listening to our music, so that's a success on its own. Our song "The Travelin' Song" spells it out pretty clearly, "Travelin' making music my whole life." That is a unifying theme between the two of us that we've each dreamed about our whole lives, so the success we want will allow us to do that. Our intention of traveling is to spread our music far and wide and to steadily build a fan base that includes people of all ages, colors, genders, cultures and creeds. We have been working as an independent operation, releasing albums, booking tours, and doing our own promotion, and it has been exciting, encouraging, and successful, but we're open to what the future brings and hope for growth and expansion.

Do you have any musical heroes or influences?

Yes, and they include Ani Difranco, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the old Jazz cats; Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Wes Montgomery, Etta James, etc.

How much fun is it to tour in your own van, is it worth being crammed in such a small living space for months at a time? Do you recommend this form of touring to others?

"The Big Blue Van" is our pleasure cruise. We love traveling in the van and the freedom it brings. It's a smaller version of your typical camper: stove, sink, fridge, bed, toilet, so we have a working living space. We like to take our time on the road and usually leave time between gigs so that we can stay and soak into a city that we like. For instance, we like Austin, TX so we stayed an extra couple of day's last tour. For a grassroots effort like ours it's perfect, but you got to really like your band mates. Luckily, we like each other so much that we are getting married next summer!

You have a great merchandizing selection that you make and do yourself that helps with your travel expenses. Could you tell me a little about it and tell the readers where and how they can get it even if your not in town.

We have our first album for sale online through CD baby, at www.cdbaby.com and search for The Grass Gypsys, they are also available for download through I-Tunes, and you can also score one at any live show. Our T-Shirts are custom made and are available at live shows and can be ordered by e-mailing us @ thegrassgypsys@hotmail.com or through myspace.com/thegrassgypsys.

What are some of your favorite songs of yours that you sing. Do you have a CD? Or plans for a new one? Do you have any favorite new songs.

Our favorite originals to perform right now are Just One Kiss, Intention to Bliss, 2 Colors, Beacon of Light - all from our first album. We're currently recording our follow up album, and some of our favorites from that are Take Me Away, The Travelin' Song, Dreamcatcher, and The Seed. You can hear versions of these at www.thegrassgypsys.com and www.myspace.com/thegrassgypsys.

And do you have any favorites of some of the bands and people you have met on your travels.

Of course, as far as local San Diego folks go there's Christopher Dale-"Places to Be", Cathryn Beeks-"Keep Walking", Sven Erik-Seaholm-"Modern Times", Compass Rose-"Kingdom Come", Astra Kelly -"Shotgun Mama". And on the national scene there's Brian O'Connell-"360", The Bed Bugs-"Georgia" and Nicolas Despo-"In the Sun".

Do you have family where your from? How does your family handle your being away for so long?

We both have family back in Massachusetts that we love a lot. They are very supportive and understand that travel is an important aspect of our career.

You seem to like San Diego, is this one of your favorite cities to visit. Any plans to move here in the future or anything?

We love the vibe here in San Diego and have made such wonderful relationships here that San Diego is a place you can always expect The Grass Gypsys to spend some time each year. Currently, our intentions are not to settle down or move anywhere, but to travel, and continue to experience new places and spread our music!

Is there any significance to your band name or in the way you spell it?

Definitely, we were each inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac, especially "On the Road", and imagined a time where we would be living on the road, a gypsy lifestyle. This band is about grassroots efforts, roots music, and gypsy energy: the freedom to flow, the ability to create, and to get by as traveling troubadours. As with the spelling, we use the artist's discretion: we spell it how we like to see it.

You guys are very, very talented. When did you guys know this was the dream you wanted to pursue?

From a young age we each always wanted to be performers, rock-stars, but when we got together as a duo in 2005, we realized the unity of our vision and the power in our music and in each other to pursue our dream.

Justin what is the secret to all the energy you and Colleen exhibit and share?

Each of us, in our own right, has cultivated powerful stage personas over the years that excite and draw in audience members. Together, Colleen and I share a love for each other, and for what we do, that moves us and translates to our audience.

You guys seem so happy is there any secret to this happiness you would like to pass on?

I think the secret to our happiness is in following our true path and working together to achieve our goals- no compromises. Also, we have created a home where we support each other with love, compassion, hopefulness, and gratitude. Positivity gives us the wings to fly. We're peaceful, fun-loving people and it seems to attract like-minded people.

Where (what city) do you go from here?

We know we are coming back to sunny San Diego for January and February. We are planning a spring tour but haven't finalized our plans so stay tuned!

Thanks so much for your answers you guys and congratulations on your engagement. I am definitely looking forward to your next show or visit. Well I hope you got a little more insight into the Grass Gypsy's. I highly recommend people get out and see their shows locally when they are in town. They are most often connected to ListenLocalSD.com so you can check there to see when they are in town for a gig or check here at MyWeek in the new Gigs Sheet section coming sometime in January. And don't forget to check out their website for show info and other information and pictures at The Grass Gypsys Web Site. - Scott Zensen: My Week in Music Magazine San Diego


"Interview with Jaques Fleury"

The Grass Gypsys: Livin' the Dream by Jacques Fleury

Ah...the sweet sound of grass dancing in the summer wind. Like a call from nature inviting the pre-occupied to come sit and listen, the band The Grass Gypsys provide such a means of escape in their current CD, "Legends, Myths, and Fairytales".

The Grass Gypsys are Colleen and Justin, a traveling duo who keep life simple by living in their van and performing. Their music, which at times sounds jazzy, funky, folksy, funny and soulful-can be described as imperial, that which put lions to sleep and replace the clutter of wars. They have been on my TV show and are now here for the summer before they get back on the road.

They are the epitome of artists following their hearts and dreams. One of their songs dictates that peace begins when you truly discover what you need, and I couldn't agree more. I was able to catch up with them in between gigs for a chat.

Q:How did you get started: A: We met attending the University of Massachusettes in Boston, both as music majors. We were taking a jazz band ensemble together with director Peter Janson and from there started the music band, "Ujamaa", a jazz quartet called, "The Afterhours Band", and then in 2005 our duo, "The Grass Gypsys". We had been very busy playing music together in these different projects, as well as our individual involvement in the rock bands, "James the Viking" (Colleen vox) and "Millis Pride" (Justin bass), and in the beginning of 2006 The Grass Gypsys became our focus and we left our other projects and Boston in the Fall to start our career as touring artists. Justin started playing the bass/electric guitar in high school and never stopped his pursuit for excellence. He is known by fellow musicians as a versatile player, well versed in many styles, ranging from hard rock n roll/funk to jazz/folk. He attributes picking up Bass Guitar initially to his idol, Cliff Burton, from the heavy metal band, Metallica. Colleen says she has always been a singer. Her parents joke that she was singing before she was speaking, taking to memorizing songs at a very young age and even making up her own! She went on to sing in school choirs, advanced to district choir competitions, after-school amateur plays, and in college she worked to become a professional vocalist.

Q: What is your educational/formal training background in relation to your creativity? A: We both have a bachelors degree in Music from UMASS Boston. We both spent 6 years playing in the Boston music scene before hitting the road, playing several different styles of music to grow and develope our musicianship. We feel that studying jazz with instructor Peter Janson gave us a take on that language and style of music that cross-over into our performances. We connect with each other by improvising and playing our songs in different ways. This keeps it fresh and exciting for us.

Q: What inspires you? A: Love and the feelings of peace and harmony provide the fuel to create our music. Through our partnership, friends, and family, we cultivate our creative energies. Through our dedication and progress, life changes and shifts, we grow into our new material.

Q: Tell me what it's like to live on the road. A: Life on the road, for us, is the practical solution to getting a chance to travel and spread our music. We decided in the Spring of 2006 to begin a life as traveling musicians and that it would take a grassroots approach. No record label or loans, just a stream lined life style: a van, two musicians, and their guitars. It has worked out well and to us it's comfortable and exciting. You choose your own backyard and ultimately your own tour course and venues. In the Fall of 2006 we toured across the country through the southwest and called it the "Chasing Summer Tour". We planned it so that we would follow the warm weather all the way out to Southern California, and have spent the winter months there, between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Q: What do you hope to achieve professionally? A: The number one goal is to make a living as professional musicians. This is not an easy task. Many wonderfully talented musicians need to maintain a steady "day job" throughout their career. We hope that as traveling musicians we open up the opportunity to play often and increase our fan base, traveling from city to city.

Q: Does your band have a creed? A: We both have a deep connection to our lifework as musicians. We have a "make it happen" understanding of our role in our fate. We keep working to forward our success and progress and look at every opportunity as a step forward.

Q: Colleen, tell me more about your philosophy of "intentions" and how that is connected to your life and your music. A: I try to keep in mind that on and off the stage, your intentions behind a decision, a song or our interactions with people, can shape the experience in either a positive or negative direction. I try to have an open, compassionate, heartfelt intention of peacefulness in every performace, and hold a welcoming space.

Q: So what do you want people to learn from your music? A: If our music can speak to people of all ages and backgrounds about all of life's possibilities and provide hope, than we have done our job.

http://web.mac.com/thegrassgypsys

Thanks so much all you fine wonderful folk, lookin forward to catchin up!

"...and up ahead is another town, and another crowd!"

-The Good News Is - Jaques Fleury


"Memphis, TN Fan Review"

http://mofocratesjournal.blogspot.com/2007/04/grass-gypsys-traveling-tree-in-town.html

"We just want to travel and spread a positive message."
I went to see the Grass Gypsys last night at the P&H Cafe, a duo made up of Colleen Rusconi and Justin Kleya--I first met them last fall when they came through town on their tour. This time around they were traveling with Nicolas Despo--the trio make up Traveling Tree. This is not just a hippy jam session--these are consumate musicians, incorporating folk, jazz, rock and world musics. Justin is a picker, and Nicolas is a grinner (and a fine picker too), and Colleen seems to have a little of that Janis Joplin thing--that raspiness and emotion in her voice and stylings.
Staying at the hostel in First Congo, the coolest church in the city, they are leaving Saturday morning after three performances in Memphis. They are at Square Foods in Cooper-Young as I type this, and tomorrow, Friday April 20 at 8pm, they are at Java Cabana. Please go and support these phenomenal artists and you may also visit their sites for performance clips and more. - Cakes


Discography

Legends, Myths, and Fairytales - 2006 LP
Lessons From Eden- 2008 LP

"Just One Kiss" from Legends, Myths & Fairytales has airplay on Boston University Radio & KPRI 102.1 in San Diego

Tracks from 2008 release, "Lessons From Eden", are receiving airplay on KPRI 102.1 in San Diego, and WMBR 88.1 in Cambridge and greater Boston, and WICN in Worcester and central Massachusetts.

Photos

Bio

New England husband and wife musical duo, The Grass Gypsys, have traveled the country performing their original music. Since the band’s inception in 2006, vocalist Colleen Rusconi Kleya, and guitarist Justin Kleya, have continued to write unique material drawing from jazz, blues, and rock, with positive lyrics of love, life, travel, and adventure. Their debut album, 2006’s “Legends, Myths and Fairytales”, captures the excitement of new love and the promise of new experiences, set to an eclectic musical background. After two cross country tours, and time spent performing throughout Southern California, The Grass Gypsys followed up with 2008’s “Lessons from Eden”. This 10 song collection chronicles a year on the road, traveling making music. Lush with vivid imagery, listeners are whisked away on a journey through the rolling hills and forests of the Northeast, brought to the city streets of New York, through the red rock and dust of the Southwest, and back again. Since then, the duo has toured cross country twice more, while playing throughout the Northeast and Midwest and can be found gracing the stages of music festivals, coffeehouses, clubs, and art galleries, as well as yoga studios and retreat centers nation wide. Currently in the studio, The Grass Gypsys’ third album is due to be released by the end of 2010 and promises more Folk Soul Rock for the New Age!
Releases:

The Grass Gypsys - Legends, Myths, and Fairytales. Copyright 2006
The Grass Gypsys - Lessons From Eden.
Copyright 2008