ROMA RANSOM: A COLORADO ORIGINAL

by Jarvis Chen

I met Roma Ransom two years ago when they participated in the Mountain Acoustic Music Association’s Acoustic Idol songwriting and performance competition in Woodland Park, Colo. I was taken with their craft, their infectious joy, and their chemistry. Hearing them, I was transported back to my travels through eastern Europe and to my previous home in Edinburgh, Scotland, where sea shanties rang out through the pubs on a nightly basis. They’ve been on my radar ever since, and I’m happy to present their music and their story to you. Gordon Lewis’ remarks are included on the band’s behalf. – Darren

Broken Glass Photography

A chance encounter 

Gordon Lewis and Grace Easley met in Springfield, Mo., busking in the downtown square. I was riding in a pedicab playing my banjo, and Grace signaled for me to come over to her and play some music and that’s where it began! We started traveling, somewhat like vagabonds, making money busking and getting whatever gigs we could.

At a Santa Fe gig in July 2011, someone broke into Gordon’s car and stole all their busking money. On the heels of that disappointment, the duo came to Colorado Springs and got teaching jobs. They found the local music scene to be very welcoming and tight-knit, so they stuck around.

The Music, The Muse

The band’s self titled album is for sale at gigs and online.

We have a tough time describing our sound since Grace’s and my musical backgrounds are drastically different. The music we create is a giant conglomeration of styles we have picked up throughout the years. I call our style ‘Eclectic Bohemian World Folk.’

That sweet band name, though … 

We’re not true Roma, so I felt like we are ‘ransoming’ the music from the Roma culture, obviously with no intent for the Roma people having to get the music back from us. I also feel that the term ‘gypsy’ is very derogatory to Romani people so I did not want to use that in our name. I see the Roma culture being destroyed in the media … so I wanted to use our band name as a statement to raise some awareness about the culture as well as the music. And if you flip the word Roma, it spells Amor, which translates to ‘Love Ransom.’ So there you have it – many meanings!

A rich musical heritage

Grace started playing violin at age 7 and picked up the viola as a teenager. She also plays melodica, cello, harp, ukulele and lap dulcimer and is a tremendous singer. Grace was classically trained in St. Louis and was a part of the St. Louis Youth Symphony.

Gordon began playing saxophone at age 10 and guitar at age 12. He took piano lessons in his teen years as well as band and choir. He had heavy doses of gospel and bluegrass growing up, but he also played in metal and punk bands. Gordon is a multi-instrumentalist, too, playing trombone, trumpet, clarinet, flute, bulbul tarang, harmonica, banjo, accordion, oboe, balalaika, bouzouki, bass, assorted hand percussion, violin, and any other instrument he can get his hands on. For live gigs, he mostly plays accordion and guitar but he has also been incorporating cajon, foot percussion, looping brass and woodwinds.

The Colorado Springs Scene

We love the Colorado Springs scene and are grateful for the musicians here and the help they gave us to make sure that we got gigs. We love to see new places, meet new people and try to make the most of our youth while we still have it! Playing music is still very fun for us so we figure we might as well keep doing it as long as we enjoy it. Lots of coffee and yerba mate keep us going!

And Beyond

It’s hard to say what our favorite place is to play. One cool spot we recently fell in love with was the Cloud Station in Crestone. It had a great vibe and was very fitting for our style of music. In Colorado Springs we always enjoy playing at The Wild Goose Meeting House, Coquette’s, Bristol Brewing and Rico’s, just to name a few.

On Songwriting as a Duo

Our process in writing a song is usually me coming up with a chord progression/rhythmic idea that’s typically influenced by a certain style I am into at the time. Then Grace will come up with a melody on the violin, and we will usually go through numerous variations on one theme to determine what our favorite parts are.

-Darren Thornberry

April 23, 2015