A journey into Southern music following the calm traditions and sonic fashion from days gone by, makes a current stop at the "Buffalo Hotel", in the guise of Vancouver singer/ songwriter, Geoff Gibbon's new release.
After a trip to Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals, Geoff states. "When I got back home I wasn't just inspired, I was altered". Along with the harmonies of "The Sojourner", a trio of male backing singers who impart an ecclesiastical ambience of southern gospel, and influences of bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds, Geoff created the "Buffalo Hotel".
Geoff has performed on the same stage with artists such as Emmylou Harris and David Crosby. He is a full time musician who has also orchestrated songs for television shows including, "Higher Ground" and "Just Cause". His songs each tell a story with an audacious authenticity and a heartfelt empathy.
I spoke to Geoff upon his return from Mexico. I was impressed with his influences, his knowledge of music, and his positive persona....and he sure knows how to tell a story.
You spoke of your 86 year old dad who received his PHD from Harvard, and who just picked you up from the airport. What was his feelings about you going into music?
At the time he just wanted me to do something that would make me happy. His thing in education was about "Self directed learning". The stuff that he was trying to teach was that if you teach people to learn, then they are going to be happy for the rest of their lives, rather than if you try to teach them stuff. It's all about the joy and passion of learning, as opposed to, you better add these two things together and give me the right answer. He just wanted me to chase it with gusto.
So how did you become a sort of country singer all the way up in Vancouver?
Well you know it's funny, I'm not really a country singer. I don't listen to the new country stuff at all. I think about the older school country, like Tammy Wynette and George Jones, and Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. I never really put myself in that group. I got really interested in the Eagles, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Jackson Brown and The Allman Brothers, so it's more Southern Rock, and rock with country tinges to it. That's really where my interests lie. It's sort of more folk based, singer/songwriter based. The singer/ songwriter thing lives pretty deep up here.
What inspired the "Buffalo Hotel"?
It started with me wanting to go back to recording the music in the style that I loved. After The Beatles, the music that really turned my crank were The Eagles, the early Eagles. With the desert vibe, maybe because Vancouver is like a rain forest, there was something about the starkness of the desert. That music, the dusty cowboy hats bouncing through the sage brush, always really attracted me. When I went back to start doing this album, there was a group of songs that I had, and I was trying them in different ways. I started to fall back into what I really, really loved. It's my 5th album and I started to fall back into that real rootsy folk/Americana type sound. As the songs started to come together, I ended up down in Muscle Shoals in Alabama. We were going around for a couple of days in the studio just leaning against the walls to make sure we could pick up the vibe of what happened in those studios. We spent a week in Nashville then went down to Memphis for a couple of days. When I got back I really felt that I had been overcome in the best possible way by the ghosts of that area, that music, and that time. I knew what the album had to be when I got back. I brought one of my friends on board, a great producer named John Ellis. He's a fabulous musician that plays pedal steel, guitars and mandolins. I got him to finish the project with me. He's a great lover of that music as well. We rolled out the carpet from there and let it flow with that vibe.
I definitely felt that vibe when I listened to your songs.
You get that feeling of being yanked down to south of the Mason Dixon, driving through the south. I was so intrigued by that Eileen when I was a kid. I used to listen to the Allman Brothers and think about Florida and Georgia. I was haunted by those places and I didn't even know anything about it, but there was something about the depth of that music that really attracted me.
You've played with some really cool people like Emmylou Harris, that had to be very cool?
Those have come over time. I did a show here with T-Bone Barnett here in Vancouver. It was great to play the stage before T-Bone and then hang out with him. He's an idol, I hold him up high. He's a fabulous producer, songwriter and musician. Emmylou we played with a number of years ago. Just to open for her and be on the same stage with her and some of the other people that I played with, just being able to rub shoulders with them and be a fan, and talk to them, was great. I played with David Crosby but that was during the cocaine era so that was kind of rough then.
It's a rough business.
Yeah. I think he refused to go on stage unless someone got him some stuff. Then he went on stage and sang like a bird. As soon as he opened his mouth it was like butter. I remember saying, "That's a rock star". He was amazing. Beautiful voice.
If you could say anything to your fans, what would you want them to know about you?
Interesting.... I would want them to know that in the music that I portray i'm trying to really give the story. I'm trying to give what I got from music, which was a place to go. When I'm drawn into music, it's a sanctuary. It's like a ride. To me a song is like getting on a train and going through the night, through beauty, through pain, through joy and arriving at another station. And you know what, you can actually get right back on the train again, and ride that song again. I want people to experience what I've experienced in music, and that is a beautiful place to go and to reflect upon your own life and to find a place of beauty, to get inside the song.
That's probably one of the most colorful answers I've ever gotten. If you could have your ultimate stage fantasy, what would you want to happen?
I think that having a large group of people know your music, and knowing that you connected with them, through a song that you created, that would be it.
Written by Eileen Shapiro
I work with Jimmy Star and am a NY Times best selling author and rock star journalist....currently write for Get Out Mag, PureM, Classic Pop, Huffington Post, and several others....I write pop culture interviews with well established talent and up and coming great talent...look forward to working with you....