Carrying on in her family's musical tradition, the pure-voiced singer-songwriter brings her growing catalog to the stage at Galena Summerfest this Saturday
Singer-songwriter Samantha Gibb will join the main stage music line-up at the eighth annual Galena Summerfest on Saturday afternoon.
If her surname didn’t immediately clue you in, Gibb comes by her musicianship rather honestly given that her family’s contributions to the industry has a six-decade-long reach. She is the daughter of the late singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Maurice Gibb, who – along with her uncles Barry and Robin – carved out one of the most prolific and enduring legacies in music history as the Bee Gees. Grandfather Hugh Gibb was the leader of his own big band orchestra in the 1940s – a popular fixture in ballrooms and dance halls across Northern England and Scotland – and would later serve as the original manager of his young sons’ careers when the Bee Gees formed in the late 1950s. Uncle Andy Gibb established himself as one of the most successful solo artists of the 1970s, often trading positions with his brothers at the top of pop music charts around the world.
Listening to Gibb’s catalog, she has the same unmistakable instinct for melody and warmth, and her voice is accessible and versatile. She began performing publicly by the age of eleven as a member of the vocal group China Dolls, and soon after began working alongside her father and older brother Adam on her first compositions and recordings. Two of the earliest songs from that era – the ethereal “Angel of Mercy” (penned by Barry, Robin, and Maurice) and “The Bridge” were finally released on the 2010 Bee Gees box set Mythology.
As she continued to develop her repertoire, she met her current songwriting partner and band mate Lazaro “Laz” Rodriguez, forming a personal and professional connection that has now endured over two decades. A series of recording projects with Samantha and Lazaro as the creative leads joining forces with Maurice as producer and instrumental support continued into the early 2000s – upended by his unexpected passing in early 2003. Two years later, Gibb would return to form with Rodriguez as M.E.G. (a tribute to Maurice using his initials), releasing a mix of the tracks recorded with her father and a few new selections as an independent full-length album (subtitled The Samantha Gibb Project). Wrong Side, a 2010 EP, and Temptation (2011) , released under the moniker Samantha Gibb and the Cartel, showed Gibb’s growth as a vocalist and writer. Gibb and her band members had relocated to Nashville a few years earlier, inspiring them to produce a documentary about local musicians. It was a critical success, screening at thirteen festivals worldwide, and eventually winning Best International Music Documentary at the LA/NY International Independent Film and Music Festival.
Gibb soon relocated back to Miami Beach, continuing to write and record. She and the band toured extensively across the United Kingdom and the United States, a short time later she would join her uncle Barry on his international Mythology tour, which drew in impressive numbers as it made its way through Australia, the UK, and the United States.
Since 2013 produced and released a series of well crafted singles – “Where Are You”, “So We Danced”, “Hollywood” – and the 2013 EP Saturday Night, all of which shimmer with acoustic guitars, bright keyboards, and Gibb’s pure alto vocal. She now calls the Columbus area home, but frequently returns to Florida to record. An as-yet unnamed album is in the works for early 2017. On Saturday, she will share the stage with Miami-based experimental pop outfit Chase the Jaguar.
You’ve been performing since you were very young – and the first time I remember hearing about you pursuing music was when you started singing with the China Dolls in the early ’90s. But do you remember when you first put pen to paper as a writer and what you wrote about?
“Oh wow! Can’t believe you remembered the China Dolls! (laughs) Ironically, I rewrote a song I heard in a movie. I rewrote the songs lyrics and made the song about Earth Day. I think I was about eight or nine and I played it on the piano.”
I think you have this great balance of reflection and playfulness in your compositions. Are you pretty much always in a state of writing and working out material? How do songs generally tend to come to you?
“I think there is a natural thought of music always running though me. It’s good for me to go through words. I always feel there can be a better way to say something with deeper meaning, or with more description.”
You and your guitarist/writing partner Laz have been working together almost since the beginning of your career. How have you both sustained such a long-term relationship as the industry – and life – has changed so much?
“I think it’s because from the moment we started writing and working together we had so much love and respect for how we each made music. And true friendship, I think.”
You are a fully independent artist – and you’ve rightfully prided yourself on making a lot happen in your career of your own volition. I imagine that gives you a lot of creative freedom. Is there a desire for you to eventually move to a label or possibly work with an outside producer in the future – or are you most comfortable and happy where you’re at now?
“I don’t think we would ever go to label. I appreciate and am grateful for the artistic freedom we have. Laz and I have never been opposed to working with other producers – we just haven’t gotten a lot of opportunities. Laz actually works with a few other singer-songwriters that he writes and produces for. I’m very happy with how everything is flowing now and I’m always open to working with others.”
So, what are Samantha Gibb’s essential albums? What record, or two, do you put on when you need your soul fed?
“Cat Stevens or some Coldplay. I’ve got more but those are the first two that came to mind!”
One of your most recent releases is a short, pretty tribute called “Earth Day”. How do you think we’re doing as a society in preserving our world for future generations?
“I don’t think we are doing enough but, it all starts with us and being proactive. I just want to make sure I am doing my part in taking care of our earth and making sure my husband and I raise our son with a green heart – with love and compassion for others.”
As a musician, what does a good day at work look like? What about a bad day?
“A good day in the studio is simply everything flowing. A bad day would be writer’s block.”
Your son, Julian, is a member of a talented family of musicians. What other artists or material have you been intentional in surrounding him with – and are there ones to which he’s been particularly responsive?
“We play a lot of classic rock. He likes Mumford & Sons – and some Bee Gees. We try to play a little of everything. He’s not into hard metal, though. (laughs)”
You’ve talked about wanting to surround yourself with other songwriters. Are there any particular ones with whom you aspire to work?
“There are some really amazing writers out there. It would be hard to pick one. I tend to be more drawn to more indie artists. For instance, we have our friends Chase the Jaguar with whom we’re playing this Saturday, and I would love to write with them. We are just wanting to make music that matters, so, any writer on that path we would love to work with.”
You went on tour with your uncle Barry a couple of years ago in support of the Bee Gees’ Mythology box set. I can’t imagine how emotionally overwhelming it must have been to be on stage in front of thousands of your dad’s fans performing those songs that came from the hearts and minds of your family. Were there specific moments or experiences that stood out for you during that outing?
“The moments I will never forget is how much I felt my paps with me every time before I would walk on stage. It was like he carried me through. Another was singing “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” with my uncle. It was like we were helping each other heal a little each time we did it. Very grateful for those moments – and being able to do it with my family was just amazing.”
You have often mentioned how much your dad was responsible for your musical education – and how much he continues to influence your career. What are some of the finer points you learned from him about musicianship or artistry that you infuse in the music you’re now creating?
“Stay true to yourself and always surround yourself with good people. I think that’s been a big inspiration for the new project we are coming out with early next year.”