News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Gabrial Sweyn to play Sisters Farmers Market on Sunday

Local musician Gabrial Sweyn will bring his evocative folk, country, and blues inflected music to Sisters Farmers Market this Sunday, July 10. The show begins at 11 a.m. at Fir Street Park and continues through 2 p.m.

Melodic and tuneful, Sweyn’s voice carries an undertow of grit and melancholia. He formerly played with Holy Smokes & The Godforsaken Rollers in Portland and across the country. The band then flew to South Africa, where they performed “just a ton of shows, a few shows a week.”

On the South African music scene where Holy Smokes was playing, Sewyn said, “They didn’t have a lot of bands playing banjos and fiddles and guitars. We got kind of popular over there, played one of their oldest festivals.”

Band players would switch off instruments, Sweyn bouncing from percussion to fiddle to guitar. Becoming a multi-instrumentalist had evolved over the years for him.

Sweyn grew up playing percussion during his school years in Missoula, Montana, then started piano. He was in marching band, but “dropped out and played punk rock for a while as a drummer.”

Next he discovered folk music and picked up mandolin.

“Then I started figuring out fiddle, then moved on to guitar,” he said.

Woody Guthrie in particular magnetized Sweyn.

“I got really into his political, pro-union, workers’ rights aspect,” he said. “I just really love how he was stickin’ up for people who didn’t have much of a voice.”

Also a fan of Leadbelly and other blues artists, he felt deeply drawn to music from the 1920s era.

His bandmate was from the South, and together they played shows in the Carolinas.

“I got really into more country music than I had before,” he explained. “Like Willie and Waylon, and some newer artists like Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, that realm of country.”

After South Africa, Sweyn and his bandmates returned to the South, gigged some more, then went back to Portland.

“I’ll always love music, but touring that intensely, it just was too much for me,” he said. “It was kind of a lot. Drank too much. That lifestyle got too intense. It wore me down.”

He moved to Sisters about five years ago. After taking a break from playing out, he began taking solo gigs around Central Oregon.

“My partner and I were living at the Coast and we just needed a change of scenery. It got a little too rainy and windy,” he explained. “She said, ‘Why don’t we go somewhere sunny? I used to live in Sisters. I think we should go out there.’”

“I was like, I’ve never even heard of it,” Sweyn said with a laugh. “When I got here I thought, this reminds me of Montana. I’ll probably stay here a long time.”

An album is in the works, which he hopes to record during the upcoming year in a local studio.

“The landscape inspires my songwriting,” he said.

He characterizes some of his music as having an “almost Spaghetti Western vibe” that plays off the landscape.

He described the feeling of “just driving and looking over the meadows and the mountains and trees, you get that nostalgic feeling of open spaces. The topography plays off how I write and how my music plays.”

Sisters Folk Festival and other music in town inspires Sweyn as well.

“Sisters brings in talents from all over, for such a small community,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Sisters Farmers Market is located in Fir Street Park, at the corner of Fir Street and Main Avenue, just north of Cascade Avenue/Highway 20. Sweyn will play throughout the market day on Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the Songbird Stage.

He plans to do about half covers, half originals.

“I try to mix it up and play off the crowd,” he said.

The market is expected to feature locally grown berries, vegetables, peaches, and flowers this week, although farm crops can vary. Beef, lamb, and eggs pastured on the outskirts of Sisters will be available as well. Fresh-roasted coffee, artisanal baked goods, and homemade soap made from locally raised goats’ milk are among the other items expected.

In honor of Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show weekend, several quilts will be on display, and one will be up for raffle.

Listeners can find Sweyn online at and @gabrialsweynart on Instagram. Sisters Farmers Market, which takes place every Sunday from June through the first week of October, can be found online at and @sistersfarmersmarket.


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