Jazz is boss in New Orleans.
That puts folk singer Gina Forsyth in the musical minority.
“There’s always been a little bit of a songwriters’ scene,” said Forsyth, a longtime New Orleans resident, in a telephone interview. “It’s not really a folk scene, it’s always like R&B or pop or something else.
“Anybody who does folk music in New Orleans really has to do other things as well,” she added.
“Lucky for me, I play fiddle and I’m very much in love with Cajun music. So I play a lot of Cajun music and do a lot of fiddle gigs as well.”
Forsyth will have both fiddle and guitar at the ready on Sunday, when she performs at the GottaGetGon folk music festival at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds off Prospect Street in Ballston Spa.
The festival begins Friday at 6:45 p.m. with a pot luck dinner — participants are asked to bring a dish to share. The music begins at 8, with a “new folk concert” featuring Alex Smith, the Irregulars and South Carolina Broadcasters. Veterans of the festival, which started in 1970, know that low folding chairs, sweaters and snacks are must-brings.
WHERE: Saratoga County Fairgrounds, Ballston Spa
HOW MUCH: Various prices
MORE INFO: www.pickingandsinging.org
Saturday’s musicians include the Murphy Beds and Michael Jerome Browne. A country barn dance will begin at 8 and run until 10:30 p.m. On Sunday, folk fans will hear Forsyth, Molly Andrews and participate in an afternoon and evening open stage. An “a cappella sing” will begin after dusk.
Adult admission (23 and older) is $55 for the weekend or $30 per day. Students between the ages of 19 and 22 pay $30 for the weekend or $18 per day. Young people under age 19 are free with a paying adult.
Tickets are $5 for evening performances only.
Forsyth’s fans know her 2012 “Promised Land” CD. With tunes such as “Christmas in China,” “What I Did on Mardi Gras Day” and “We Shall Be Reborn,” the collection hit high spots on the folk DJ list.
“I’m going to do my songs, the songs off my last two albums and some other stuff, but I probably will take out a Cajun song or two,” Forsyth said.
“What I’m saying is, the Cajun music and the other country music and the vibe all around New Orleans has a lot to do with my song writing. So I’m going to take out some fiddle — I’ve got about three or four fiddle songs on my CD and I think there’s one Cajun song I play on guitar. I’ve got a lot of folk-pop kind of stuff in my playing, but it’s very grounded in the tradition.”
Performers and events at this weekend’s GottaGetGon folk festival include:
— Pot luck dinner, 6:45 p.m.
— New folk concert with Alex Smith, the Irregulars, South Carolina Broadcasters
— Sampler concert (all featured performers), 10:25 a.m.
— The Murphy Beds, 1:15 p.m.
— Michael Jerome Brown, 3:15 p.m.
— Country barn dance, 8 p.m.
— Gina Forsyth, 1 p.m.
— Molly Andrews, 3 p.m.
— Open stage with host Don Burger, 4:15-6 p.m. and 7:15-8 p.m.
— A cappella sing, 8:20 p.m.
Workshops on singing, instrumentation, song writing, round singing and other topics will be held Saturday and Sunday.
More info: www.pickingandsinging.org
Born in Florida and raised in Alabama, Forsyth grew up around singers and musicians who filled the air with hymns, country songs and old-time fiddle tunes. She moved to New Orleans during the mid-1980s to study classical and jazz violin at Loyola University. A passion for Cajun style bow work soon followed.
She believes people at GottaGetGon won’t mind a little Cajun spice during her set.
“I think they like the mix,” she said of people who attend festivals. “I think they just like a performer who sounds good and connects with them and of course they love the fiddle. Everybody loves the fiddle. I think basically they love music that connects with them, whatever it is.”
She has never played GottaGetGon, but likes playing fests because each one seems different. At the Kerrville festival in Texas, she said, musicians will play their instruments around campfires. “Falcon Ridge [Hillsdale, N.Y.] is very geared toward songwriters,” she said. “This one, I suspect, is more traditional flash Americana, so there may be a lot of fiddle jams.”
Forsyth likes fiddle jams, but she’ll be busy at GottaGetGon. In addition to her 1 p.m. set on Sunday, she will participate in two Saturday afternoon workshops — on southern-style instruments and Cajun fiddling. On Sunday, after her performance, Forsyth will speak about writing songs.
“I tend to write when I feel there’s something I have to say,” she said. “I admit I write a lot of personal songs and also a few political songs here and there. I write more personal songs than political songs.”
She ranges far for her subjects.
“There’s love, of course,” she said. “There’s love, sex and death. And people who move me, they tend to find themselves in my songs. They shall always be nameless . . . except for one song on my last album, I talked about my nephew Eddie, I named him because he was a pretty important person.”
She’ll give advice to aspiring songwriters.
“Write what you know, that’s the first basic thing,” she said, “and try to write it in the most honest and authentic way you can. If you know something about tradition and can put that in your song writing, it could be helpful. I would say avoid cliches, but I guess you’ve got to write them first to know what to avoid. And practice — song writing is like playing an instrument, you have to practice.”
If she gets some spare time, Forsyth will seek some fiddle workshops. She’ll be ready to cross strings with her bow — the mood to jam occasionally strikes.
“Sometimes,” she said.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected]
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