In the space of a decade, multi-national busking band The Gypsy Queens have gone from playing on the streets of Nice to performing for the likes of Bono, Elton John and Robert De Niro. Now, they're going "back to their roots" with a tour that will see them stop in Belfast along the way. Si's Sights And Sounds caught up with bassist Jason King in advance of the show...
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jason King, and I'm the "British Gypsy Queen", the band's bass player.
I joined the band back in 2009 while I was enjoying a "working holiday" in the ever so beautiful city of Nice. While playing bass with another band, I heard the Gypsy Queens needed a new bassist; I stepped into the role, and from that moment on I've never looked back.
Did you always want to be in a band?
Yeah! I've always been in bands; I enjoy playing all kinds of music and instruments. Actually, I still remember playing my first ever gig; when I was ten, me and my four piece rock 'n' roll group played Johnny B Goode for the rest of the school. We rocked.
How were The Gypsy Queens conceived? Where did the name come from, and who/what would you say influenced the band most?
The Gypsy Queens have evolved from a unique busking tradition that goes back years and years. There are very lively music scenes in cities such as Nice, Paris & Zurich, and it's from the streets of those cities that we've learnt our trade. Didier (Casnati, the Italian lead singer and guitarist of The Gypsy Queens) has been in the band since it started over a decade ago, and has done an awesome job of constantly striving to make sure we go up and up.
The name itself was actually given to the band about ten years ago in Rome, as a cheeky joke, but there's something fun and interesting about it so it's just stuck with us ever since. And no, we are not real gypsies or real queens!
What would you say is the secret to the band's success, their meteoric rise?
Hard work & persistence, and keeping things fun, both for us and for whoever we're performing for. Having five nationalities in the band has helped too; it means that whoever we're playing for, and no matter what country we're in, we can connect with the audience.
You've performed at Proms In The Park, and for numerous famous singers. Which occasion stood out for you most, and why?
For me, personally, Proms in the park stood out and marked a real change for us. Only the night before, we were busking in Rome, so the contrast of playing for two hundred outside a busy terrace to then play for 40,000 people is something none of us will ever forget.
Why the sudden decision to go "back to your roots", so to speak, for this latest tour?
In all honesty, it's a lot of fun. To jump on a crowd full of strangers and win them over is a unique feeling. You never know who you'll meet or where you'll end up playing. A little busking trip from time to time is good for the soul!
What brings you to Belfast, and are you looking forward to it?
I'm thrilled to come to Belfast. In my four years of traveling the globe as a Gypsy Queen, we've not once visited Northern Ireland. Plus, my Dad's half Irish and I have lots of family in Strabane as well as in Belfast. I'm hoping we get a chance to play for them while we're having a busk!
In closing, tell us what lies in store for the Gypsy Queens in the near future.
Total adventure. None of us really know what to expect. We're all very proud of the album we made in LA, it was nice to get into a studio for a whole month with legends like Larry Klein, Booker T, Graham Nash and the lovely Madeleine Peyroux. We'll see how the album does and take it from there. In the meantime we're having a lot of fun travelling and playing so we'll stick to doing what we do best.
The Gypsy Queens will be playing in Belfast's Titanic Quarter on Tuesday October 16. All the proceeds they earn on their tour will be going to local children's hospitals. For more information on the event, check out Titanic Belfast on Facebook. To find out more about the band, check out their official site at www.gypsyqueens.com.