Eric Bibb Returns To The Home Of Live Music The Gov Tonight…

One of the world’s leading bluesmen of our time, two-time Grammy Award nominee, Eric Bibb will come riding onto Australian shores in 2023.Returning for the Aussie summer, Bibb will perform the classics he is known and loved for, whilst introducing brand new material from his much-anticipated forthcoming album, titled Ridin’, which will be available ahead of its release date exclusively at these shows.

On this February leg of the tour, Bibb fans are in for an intimate treat, as the acoustic blues legend performs solo. Bibb is the ultimate ‘blues brother’. A fiery singer with true soul, his career spans five decades and almost forty albums. He is known and revered globally for having carved his own musical destiny with honesty and power. Grounded in the folk/blues tradition with contemporary sensibilities, Bibb’s music continues to reflect his thoughts on current world events, whilst remaining entertaining, uplifting and inspirational. And always relevant.Whether in solo or full band mode, an Eric Bibb show promises to be a remarkable experience, not to be missed. Eric talks to Hi Fi Way about the show.

Fantastic news that you are back for an extended Australian tour?
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be the longest one yet and some of the shows will be solo and some of will be with the band.

Are you enjoying touring more after the Covid years?
It’s a funny thing. I really didn’t suffer by being off the road for those two years. It seems I needed that time to just regroup and rest up. I’ve been productive recording and all that kind of stuff, but there is act absolutely nothing like performing live for an enthusiastic audience. My fans in Australia, some of the most enthusiastic. So it’s a really great way for me to get back up in the saddle.

What is it about Australia that keeps you coming back?
I don’t know how much you’ve travelled, but Australia is by my reckoning, a really unique place in every way. The energy of the people, the climate, you know, the geography is just, I don’t know, maybe because I’m from this side of the globe, it just feels so exotic to be there and at the same time, so familiar. There’s a kind of gung-ho energy that really is attractive.

Do you have a lot of great tour memories and highlights that standout when you think of Australia? Is there one particular that stands out?
The first one that came to mind is actually a story that upset me but it had a really wonderful ending. What happened was after a gig, and I don’t remember exactly where it was, I think it was somewhere in New South Wales. I was outside at a merch table signing CDs after a really great show. Some guy came up to me and basically just snatched my hat off my head and ran off. I was livid, because that’s like a real no no in terms of proper behaviour. That’s a real disrespectful move to do that. People saw me really angry, and they were shocked because that’s not my normal demeanour at all. Fortunately my sound engineer managed to chase this guy and get my hat back.

I was really upset. I just felt like, Hey, man, I gave you everything I had and we really connected folks. He was probably, you know, just pissed. It must have been two years later, I got an email and it said, you know, Hi, my name is such and such, and I don’t know if you remember this incident, but it’s been haunting me for years and I finally found the courage to reach out to you and apologise. It was like a Christ moment. It was like, oh, wow. I just felt so happy about that, that this person would take the time and find the courage to just own up and it was really a messed-up thing to do and I really love your music. I don’t know why I did that, blah, blah, blah. But anyhow, that stuck with me. I have had many, many wonderful memories of Australia, but they all kind of melt together after a while. I’ve been there about seven or eight times and travelled a lot of everywhere.

A six-week tour is absolutely huge playing both solo and with a band. Do you have a preference and do you have to prepare any differently for being in solo mode as opposed to having your band?
There’s a difference, but there are common tunes to both set lists. It’s not like I changed the set list completely. Certain songs that I do solo, also really work well with the band. Other songs that work well with the band do not really translate to a solo performance. So it really depends on, usually I use my recordings as a kind of guide, a template, I look at the arrangement on record, what people are familiar with, and I make a decision about whether it can be adapted to solo or vice versa. It’s fun and I must say I enjoy both of them almost equally.

With such an extensive and distinguished back catalogue, how do you narrow all that down into a couple of hours? It must be a nice challenge to have?
It is. It’s funny, as you say, there’s an extensive back catalogue, so there’s a lot of songs. The truth is that some of the songs in my catalogue, not only do I not remember how to play or remember all the lyrics, but I actually don’t even remember that they exist. That’s how many songs there are. So it’s been fun for me doing the pandemic years, to troll to the back catalogue and actually bring back into the set list songs that I’ve forgotten that I remember really enjoying playing. You know when you write new songs, you get excited about new songs. For me, because I have a little time to do this, I’m going to go through my song catalogue and figure out what songs I’ll try to remember and what songs really resonated with my audiences out there. In the end, you want to get to a place where you’re not performing as much as you’re just being with people. To be that way, you have to choose the songs that resonate with you at that moment. In other words, if I don’t really feel a song, even though it’s a good song, I’ll probably skip it because I want to really be able to be there. I don’t want to be acting.

Absolutely. Is there much from your relatively new album Dear America and maybe even some other new ones that you haven’t tried out yet?
Oh, yeah, there will, there will be some songs from Dear America for sure because we’ll be bringing that out there to share as well as the new album Ridin’. We’ll be doing some tunes from that, but there will be stuff from way back as well, because there are some old chestnuts I know people really want to hear.

Over the last couple of years when you had time did you find you were more prolific or was it harder to write?
It wasn’t harder. It was a good opportunity because I was at home rested so songs kept coming. That’s really why I was able to put together both the Dear America and Ridin’ albums so quickly. I realised was that writing songs has a lot to do with, for me anyway, clocking my own personal journey and because that pandemic period gave me so much time to really look back on what I’ve been doing, I found that I was really quite inspired in a kind of reflective mode.

With the songs you are working on now how would you say that your sound has changed over the years?
Everything evolves and it’s accumulative, you start taking on new influences. I found that I’m gravitating towards simpler song forms, really kind of going back to my earliest roots, Lead Belly type of songs. On the other hand, there’s a lot of topical material that’s on both of those albums. I love writing ditties, you know, whimsical ditties about a new pair of shoes or an affectionate love song for sure. I just felt that there was so much going on in the world, particularly in America, that drew my attention in a very intense way. People call it political stuff. Me, I don’t even call this stuff political. For me, it’s social, it’s the human family trying to get its act together, and then politics come into it because politicians have a talent for manipulating people and dividing people and asking people to take sides when there really is only one side, which is the common good for all.

So I found myself needing to weigh in on topics that maybe I would’ve skipped that years ago, but I just felt the conversation is becoming too essential to our survival. So I had to chime in and write some songs that remind people, for example, of historical events that are being swept under the carpet or being actually deleted from the historical record. I just felt like it’s time for me to use my platform to say things that I hope will counter all of this divisive rhetoric that’s flying around the globe.

Do you think things are any better over in America? Do you think they’ve made any progress for the better?
You know, it’s funny, what you hear in the news is not necessarily the representative of what’s really going on out there. I think there are people who are, in a kind of a robotic way following the rhetoric of some pretty divisive politicians out there. On the other hand, I think there’s lots of good things happening. I think music has a lot to do with keeping the community and the human community sort of united. I think musicians are kind of ambassadors. They’re telling people, Hey, we are really more alike than we are dissimilar, and there’s a lot of common ground, so let’s get to it. I think there’s lots of good things happening, but I also think that there is a kind of copycat thing going on. Things happen in the States, and it seems that the rest of the world sometimes picks up those things in a knee jerk way. I wonder why the United States culturally has such an influence on the rest of the world, when there’s so much world out there.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Eric Bibb at The Gov Sunday 19 February, tickets from The Gov

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