Lately, Grace London and I are making plans to start a nonprofit to get instruments to kids in poor and war torn countries. Thus it was a breath of fresh air to talk to singer Payton Keller and bassist Devin North of locals Gypsy.
Keller, who says Gypsy met at the Austin School of Music a year ago, goes to Pflugerville High School, class of 2014.
“I’m planning on going to Texas State,” she enthuses. “My dream is to open music schools in Third World countries.”
North, meanwhile, attends Westlake High School as a junior and hopes to stay local for college at UT. Great young bassists aren’t easy to find, by the way. I was lucky when I found bass player Sam Jackson for my own band, because he’s a top regional bassist. Now, whenever I meet other good bassists, I’m curious how they chose their instrument.
“I ended up playing bass by mistake,” offers North. “I’ve played upright bass since I signed up for orchestra in the sixth grade. I thought my best friends said they signed up for it when they had actually signed up for band.
“When it came time to choose my instrument, I originally wanted to play cello, but there was a long line to try out a cello and no line to try out a bass, so I tried the bass, and that random series of events determined what I will do probably for the rest of my life.”
North comes mentored by veteran Austin guitar great Van Wilks.
“He’s my friend now too,” smiles the teen bassist. “I met him two years ago after he played at Jax with my friend Dave Ray.”
North plays vintage basses, including a 1966 Fender P bass, and my 1965 Gibson EB-0, both impressive choices. He knew he wanted to play music after seeing ZZ Top play for the first time. He also counts Frank Sinatra, Pat Benatar, and Etta James as influences.
“I’ve taken different things from each style of music and developed my voice through that,” he explains.
Gypsy’s singer, Keller, considers songwriting her main passion and focus.
“I think lyrics are the most important aspect to a song,” she states. “Lyrics can make you feel sad, happy, angry, love, anything. I love the fact that you can change someone’s emotions with words from your thoughts and experiences.
“[A few months ago] I got the opportunity to be a lead singer in the Gary Keller Band at the Omni Hotel in Dallas and sing in front of 10,000 people. That was the moment I realized that music’s ‘The One Thing’ in my life.”
For North, “A good musician is never settling for good enough, working diligently to know as much about their craft as possible, and then executing it with the utmost proficiency. What makes me passionate about music is the ability to express oneself through a form of art in addition to bringing something I love to others.”
Catch Gypsy this Friday at the Musician’s Woodshed, where they share the Sneet Nang bill with Emily Orr, the Bare Feet, Finley Sexton, Circus, my band the Seaside Swifts, and Woodshed students. Show’s 7:30-10pm, $10.