Band finds rhythm after quiet start
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Jun 22, 2012 | 4168 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Summer is generally the season for taking things easy — hanging out by the pool and talking about the future comes to mind.

But for Katy Cairo and Ryan Williams, the lazy setting was just the catalyst they needed to start their band, The Gypsy Begonias.

Cairo became acquainted with Williams, her husband’s high school friend, over the summer of 2009. During an afternoon of pool time, Williams began fiddling with his guitar while Cairo added her voice. From there, the two put together a few more members, and started small.

“We decided [that] we would go to some open mic nights for fun. It caught a little buzz, and it kind of progressed from there,” said Cairo, an Auburn native, of the group’s steady rise to stardom.

Fast-forward to a few lineup changes, starting a family and learning how to play other instruments, and the 2012 Begonias came into bloom. Williams, who Cairo lovingly describes as a “loose cannon,” is his own one-man band, playing banjo, guitar and percussion — in addition to being a vocalist in the group. Additional guitar is played by the band’s third member, Kevin Hagie, a Virginia native who has been playing music since he was 12. Hagie feels he has developed a rhythm all on his own.

“I think of it more as a rhythmic guitar-playing style,” he said of his guitar sound. “It’s a lot of rhythm with a lot of licks and little runs up and down the neck to give it a feel that can go well on its own or can fit with other instruments that I might be playing with.”

A vocalist by trade, Cairo soon realized that she could do more than just sing, and began teaching herself guitar. She has since eclipsed her goal, and can even play a mandolin now.

“While I was pregnant, I noticed how incredibly hard it was to fit a guitar around my belly, and [I thought] ‘I just need to play a mandolin — and I can just sit it right on top!’” she remembered. Hagie, on the other hand, plays a guitar that goes beyond having sentimental value.

“It’s a neat feeling to play an instrument that you built with your own two hands,” said Hagie of his self-made guitar.

The unique name is one that truly celebrates the trio’s sound, which they like to call “blues-grass.”

“I have a more bluesy-type voice, but I love old folk songs and bluegrass,” Cairo said. Added Hagie, “I think we’ve both got a lot of similar backgrounds with music as far as what we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives.” He said his influences range from The Beatles to Nirvana. “I think that reflects on the type of music that we try to put out there ourselves.”

Their name is a throwback to the folk/bluegrass days of the band Grateful Dead, borrowing from the song name “Scarlet Begonias.”

“My mom … told me ‘If I can remember it, you should never change it!’” Cairo said.

Now, the group is on the rise, playing at festivals and events in and around the state, including the Noble Street Festival and Relay for Life.

“We both have young children, Kevin and I. We like to play places where it’s family-oriented,” Cairo said. “Now we’re trying to see where do we fit — where are we gonna go over well. Step one was getting some music so that people could help us decide.”

With an EP under their belt, the trio is planning to produce more music — whenever they can squeeze it in.

“We play when we can, we practice when we can, we perform when we can — that’s as good as we can do, really,” Williams said.

The Gypsy Begonias will play June 29 at Mellow Mushroom.

More info: www.facebook.com/thegypsybegonias
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Band finds rhythm after quiet start by Erin Williams
Special to The Star

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