For Ennis resident Joel Gibson, he found his passion for music at an early age, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Everybody’s born with a gift,” said the 55-year-old singer/ songwriter, who has been keeping at it for over 40 years.
He’s worked his way through the painstaking process of writing his own music to develop a talent he fell in love with from the start.
“That has been the one that is mine,” Gibson said. “I knew right away.”
Gibson takes long drag on a cigarette as he looks out the window of his small, single-story home where he lives with his two dogs. He seems to let his mind drift to a distant place, a different time far away. The smoke hangs in the air, not unlike the sweet sound of the music he’s spent his life creating.
“I’m an okay guitar player, and an okay singer,” he says humbly, concealing the pride he feels for his latest album, Secret Life. “But I’m a very, very good songwriter.”
Gibson is originally from Wisconsin, and developed his skill after moving to California where he thrived on the rich and vibrant music and art scene in Monterey.
Success came slowly for him, playing in bars, developing his style and working through times when the songs just simply didn’t come to him.
For a long time, the most challenging aspect of pursuing a career as a musician was himself. Sometimes he’ll play for five or six hours at a time. Other days he’ll pick up his 30-year-old Fender acoustic and play a few chords, just looking for a sound to catch his ear. There were even times when he thought about just giving up.
“They’re there,” he says of the songs he writes. “You know that they’re there, but you struggle and you try to force it and those never turn out.”
For Gibson, producing his album was anything but easy. All said and done it was a five-year process, in which he took two years off in the middle, and he had to learn the hard way about the difference between amateurs and professionals in the music industry.
“It’s a competitive world, and this business is insane,” he said.
Funding the project with his own money, Gibson started out working with sound engineers before realizing that he needed to go in a different direction. Ultimately he turned to producer and longtime acquaintance Michael Lent, who spelled out the dos and don’ts of making an album.
“I’m really lucky to have him,” Gibson said. “The guy’s brilliant … He knows me well enough to know how far he can go with something and stay within my vision of the music.”
Somewhere in the process of writing, recording and producing the record, Gibson realized for himself that he truly did belong as a professional, and he gained the confidence he needed to see the project through.
He struggles to conceal a genuine smile when he describes logging studio time with musicians he watched perform on late-night talk shows the previous evening. It was an eye opening experience to work with professionals who treated their music as a business, and he openly expressed his admiration for their work. But Gibson couldn’t have been more surprised when, at the end of the studio session, the same artists turned right back around and said “We’re big fans of you too, Joel.”
As for the record itself, Gibson describes it a blend of smooth jazz, pop and contemporary music, commonly referred to as “chill.” He admits to being a romantic at heart, and his motivation for the album was to create something people could sit back and relax to. It’s full of considerate lyrics and pretty melodies, and has been especially popular among women ages 30 to 60, he said.
“My heart and soul is in it,” he says of the work. His goal for the audience, he says, is just to “take them away and get their mind off of it.”
“Sit down, have a glass of wine and just forget about everything,” he says. “Even if just for an hour.”
The record is available locally at Town Pump, RadioShack and Deemo’s Meats. It can also be purchased online through iTunes, cdbaby.com and amazon.com.
Looking back on his musical career, Joel Gibson realized that he’s come a long way from where he started. He woke up one day and realized that he wanted to be remembered for something, and he’s proud to stand up and claim the recognition he’s worked so hard to deserve. Pausing from the well-worn strings on his guitar, he looks out the living room window with the smile of a man who has been around the block.
“I better get busy and leave my mark.”