At Work: The Gibson Brothers
Following the Songs
In their decades-long career, Eric and Leigh Gibson have made their name as a top-tier blue- grass duo, accruing honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association in pretty much every major category, from the Emerging Artist of the Year award in 1998 to Entertainer of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. However, with their latest studio release, The Gibson Brothers decided to change things up a bit, straying away from bluegrass music’s traditional instrumentation and compositional approach, and moving toward a sound that harkens back to the classic country-rock tunes of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The album, Mockingbird, finds the brothers teaming up with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and David Ferguson, who is currently riding high from his recent work with Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, among others. The modern Nashville staples shared production duties on the tracks, providing some songwriting help and overall guidance throughout the entire creative process. Eric and Leigh had actually worked with Ferguson earlier in their career and reconnected at DelFest in 2017. When it came time to start on a new LP, the brothers called on Ferguson, who, in turn, brought Auerbach aboard.
“Ferg asked, ‘Do you want to make a country record?’ And we said, ‘Let’s just see where the songs take us,’” Leigh remembers. “Ferg put his hands up in the air like a touchdown and said, ‘Great, that’s what we were hoping to hear!’”
“When we reached out to Ferg, we knew that we were a little bit restless. We knew we wanted to try something different,” Eric admits. “But we had no idea that all of this would transpire.”
The Gibson Brothers didn’t have much experience working with guest songwriters or producers, but they describe their recent writing sessions with Auerbach, Ferguson and their other collaborators as eye-opening, reinvigorating opportunities. Leigh notes that the results were reminiscent of the records their father would play for them while growing up on a small dairy farm in Upstate New York. It wasn’t necessarily bluegrass yet, as Eric says, “It was still us. It felt natural.”
For the Mockingbird recording sessions, Auerbach and Ferguson assembled a team of legendary studio musicians, like drummer Gene Chrisman, guitarist Billy Sanford and keyboardist Bobby Wood, who even brought his Wurlitzer piano along for some writing sessions.
“You walk in that first day, and see these guys, and you’re like, ‘Good Lord,’” Leigh says. “And you’re hearing sounds come out of these musicians that you’ve known all your life because you’ve heard them on recordings. It was thrilling. And it comes through on the record—we felt so happy to be doing what we were doing.”
This article originally appears in the March 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.