June 2015

Gypsy Bleu's

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Krizstian Lonyai

At first glance, they appear to be total opposites. One, all legs, movie star lips, and long, dark hair. The other, bright piercing eyes with a hint of mischief, curly hair for miles, frizzed a bit from the summer’s morning heat, earrings tracking her entire lobe.

But soon you realize that they have more in common than meets the eye. Both self-taught musicians and natural songwriters, Sara Burns and Taylor Kent could be soul sisters, if you believed in that kind of thing. Once you listen to their music, you might suspect kindred spirits as well. They write with emotion and tell the stories of their lives. Unedited. Revealing. Rich with meaning.

But despite their raw talent, the music industry is still tough. Especially for young women, who sometimes have trouble being taken seriously. Yes, the gender divide still applies. And it happens right here on Hilton Head Island. Building a following takes time, according to Burns and Kent. “Male performers have ‘fan girls,’” Burns said. “We’re lucky if we get our parents’ friends to come,” Kent quipped.

Music is a competitive business, so for Kent and Burns, it made so much more sense to collaborate than compete. The pair has joined forces, playing tandem this summer. A medley of ’90s alternative rock and the power vocals of Shania Twain, and Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, and the Dixie Chicks (the first ladies of country), will lead the set list, with their own songs added to the mix. “Our music style is similar; we’re absolute dorks,” Burns said. Nodding enthusiastically, Kent agreed with a grin.

Music is a calling, and for Burns and Kent; they’ve known this was their intended path since they were barely reading.

“I wrote my first song when I was five,” Kent said. And no, she wouldn’t share the lyrics because admittedly they are “a little embarrassing.” Kent’s father was the baseball coach at Radford College when he taught her to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which she performed from the press box.

“My Dad would have recruits come to the house, and I would sing and dance for them. I am sure that lost him some players along the way.” At eight, Kent started practicing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and at nine, she got her big break when Radford played USC and she sang the anthem. “My Dad was so nervous for me, his hands were shaking,” she said.

Burns’ inspiration comes from her grandfather, the lead singer in a “jazzy polka band,” as she describes it, in Ohio. She’s been listening to him play his plethora of wind instruments since she was a young girl. Her first guitar was passed down from her mom, and her voice, well, “My Dad has an amazing voice. But he doesn’t sing when asked. You have to catch him off guard,” she said.

On songwriting, Kent and Burns are completely in sync. “You write about your life, exploiting your own emotions so other people can connect with you,” Burns said. “It is a release; you become really, really aware of what you feel.” And so do others. Kent admits that when she is having a particularly rough day and maybe complaining a bit, her friends joke, “Oh, go write a song about it.” And she does—and jokes that Hilton Head is really small town. “Sometimes it is pretty clear who I am writing about,” she said. Ah, to be in high school again.

Yes, that’s correct, Kent is a mere 17-years-old and headed to Belmont College in Nashville this fall to study songwriting. Burns is the “experienced one” in the duo; at 22, she’s graduated from University of South Carolina with an accounting degree, “which balances her creative side,” she said. She lives part time in Nashville, writing, recording and performing. In fact, it was a road trip the two took to Nashville that really sealed their sisterhood. “That car ride really broke the ice,” Kent said. They spent the drive playing their music for each other and then sharing the stories behind each song—getting used to each other, and starting to write their own story as a duo, dubbed Gypsy Bleu’s.

These young ladies are uber-talented. My advice is to catch them locally while you can.

Up Close and Personal
C2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Sara Burns: My dogs Maui and Frankie love mornings. As soon as they see me wake up, they jump on me and kiss me, and then we snuggle for a few minutes before we actually get up out of bed.

C2: Your most marked characteristic?
SB: My hair is probably my most recognizable physical characteristic. It’s very long and curly, and I always wear some sort of feather jewelry. I always use feathers or birds as symbols of my personality, because I would describe myself as a free spirit.

C2: If you could invite any three musicians (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
SB: Robert Plant, Shania Twain (I learned how to perform by watching her and singing along to her album Come On Over when I was little), and Stevie Nicks.

C2: Biggest pet peeve?
SB: It bothers me when people underestimate me, not just in music but in other aspects of my life. I’m only 22, but I’ve been performing around the island since I was 14. I also have my bachelors in accounting and a minor in advertising that has given me a great business sense. Shania Twain has a song called “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face,” and I love the message that the song represents.

C2: Cowboy boots or flip flops?
SB: That’s a hard question. My cowboy boots have become a symbol of my style as an artist. But I’m also a beach girl at heart. I love the sand and salt water. But honestly, you’ll probably find me in my bare feet instead of sandals. During the summer time when I perform, I always play in my bare feet.

C2: What was the last movie that made you cry?
SB: I don’t cry. I’m like a brick wall. Actually, I’m kidding, but I don’t really like sappy love movies. I only watch scary movies or comedies. I’m also a huge fan of Will Ferrell. I’d rather laugh or scream.

C2: Most played songs on your playlist?
SB: “Wagon Wheel”—probably the most played songs on every entertainer’s set list—and pretty much any Taylor Swift song.

C2: When you need to escape the day-to-day, where do you go? What do you do?
SB: I go fishing. It’s my favorite hobby besides music. And I prefer saltwater fishing around here, because there are so many options of fish to catch and keep for dinner.

C2: What song do you always turn off when it comes on the radio?
SB: I don’t want to insult anybody, so I am not going to name any specific artist or band. I’m definitely not a fan of today’s mainstream music that you’ll find on Kiss FM (or whatever it’s called these days), so I will always change the station if that’s what’s playing. When I listen to the radio, its country, classic rock, or indie.

C2: And, what song do you sing at the top of your lungs?
SB: “Rolling in the Deep,” by Adele, “You Learn,” by Alanis Morissette, and I will always belt it out to some Zeppelin or Heart, for sure.

C2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Taylor Kent: If it’s not a school morning, I like to go for a walk.

C2: Your most marked characteristic?
TK: As much as I hate to say it, stubbornness. Or loyalty; I’m loyal to a fault.

C2: If you could invite any three musicians (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
TK: Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews, and Dolly Parton. Ed Sheeran, plus a thousand others. I’m too indecisive for this.

C2: Biggest pet peeve?
TK: When people make smacking noises with their mouths. I’m really weirdly sensitive to a lot of noises.

C2: Cowboy boots or flip flops?
TK: This is a hard one; those are the only two pairs of shoes that I wear. Flip flops are easier.

C2: What was the last movie that made you cry?
TK: I don’t really watch a lot of movies, but I think it was Forrest Gump! Or, probably something with a dog.

C2: Most played songs on your playlist?
TK: “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” by the Eagles, “Just the Way You Are,” by Billy Joel, and “In Your Atmosphere,” by John Mayer

C2: When you need to escape the day-to-day where do you go? What do you do?
TK: Definitely go to the water somewhere, like the beach or a dock.

C2: What song do you always turn off when it comes on the radio?
TK: “Girl in a Country Song.” I can’t deal with that one.

C2: And, what song do you sing at the top of your lungs?
TK: “Take On Me.” 

**Listen for Yourself*
Gypsy Bleu’s
Hudson’s Seafood, 6-9 p.m.

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