Otis Gibbs Interview
Posted by xxrosannaxx on Fri, 03 Jul 2009.
I chat with Indiana's singer come storyteller about life, at this year's Big Session festival...
Rosanna: How are you enjoying this weekend so far?
Otis: Things are good, things are good... I just got into town about two hours ago, I was very late for the gig, I showed up and all of a sudden there’s a bunch of people waiting to hear me sing.
Rosanna: And are you going to stick around for this evening?
Otis: I’ve been touring with my friend Billy Bragg for the last few days and Billy’s playing later tonight and I’m supposed to get up and play a song with him... it’ll be fun. Then I’m gonna collapse... I’m off tomorrow and I’m gonna sleep for about twenty hours, then tour for a couple of weeks.
Rosanna: Is this your first Big Session then this year?
Otis: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve played here. I’ve played in Leicester twice before at The Musician and I really enjoyed that, but [looks towards the Big Top tent] that’s a whole lot of folks. It’s nice, it’s a beautiful day outside and it’s all ages, so that’s always a good thing.
Rosanna: So would you come back and play here again?
Otis: I come back in September. I’ve been over here quite a lot this year- I toured with Billy in November and December and then I’ve been back three different times since then for a month a piece so I’ve spent fourteen of the last twenty-four weeks over here touring. And it’s been great. I’ve met some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met, there’s really good listening rooms and I really enjoy it.
Rosanna: How do you find the British crowds compared to the ones back home?
Otis: They’re extremely polite. That’s a very good thing, when you’re a man standing there with an acoustic guitar, if someone actually pays attention you have a good opportunity to entertain them, and it seems like most folks wanna have a good time.
Rosanna: So would you say you prefer playing this side of the Atlantic or to home town crowds?
Otis: Really, I prefer the average European gig, to be honest with you, but I like sleeping in my own bed in America so sometimes it’s a little easier in the states to tour and there are a lot of great crowds to play to, but there’s just a lot of listening rooms over here- a lot of places where a person can stand there with an acoustic guitar and people are quiet. I like it, it’s been really good to me so far and I’m enjoying it.
Rosanna: That’s great. And what would you say is the main influence on your song-writing?
Otis: I’d say my travels. I like to share the things that I’ve witnessed and experienced with people and I try and work that into my work in whatever way I can and maybe tell a little story about something that happened one time on the road- folks might laugh a little bit...
Rosanna: So what was this about you getting strip-searched by guards in Detroit?
Otis: Well not only have I been strip-searched once, there was a second time, and a third time when I got to keep my underwear on. And I’m actually one of the more boring people that you’ve ever met- I don’t drink or do anything, so I’m never really up to anything. But when I go through a security check-point, the guards and police officers see me and they start thinking of all the years of training that they’ve had and how it’s led to this one individual... I guess I fit a profile of somebody who might be up to something. It’s good that I’m not since I don’t get busted for anything, but it’s also not fun to be hassled by cops. I’m guessing that it’s probably the guy with the tie and whose clean shaven that’s up to something.
Rosanna: Where would you say is the most interesting place that you’ve travelled to?
Otis: I love Romania. I’m a photographer (if you go to otisgibbs.com you can see a lot of my photography) and Romania was just a really photography friendly place. I hiked through the mountains and there were a lot of shepherds in the Carpathian Mountains. I met the local people and it was beautiful to see people who were completely self-sufficient: they make cheese and shoes, and I’m the guy who can’t make macaroni and cheese. I like that kind of thing- seeing people who have this knowledge that in the modern age has been lost in most areas... Romania seems to have that. I love Prague also, it’s a beautiful city. I really enjoy being at home, but when you travel, you want to partake in things indigenous to the area. I wanna see things that aren’t McDonalds or Starbucks... when I’m in Leicester, I wanna see things that are Leicester, that I don’t see everywhere back home. I don’t wanna see American influenced things. I wanna experience the local culture.
Rosanna: So is there anywhere that you’d particularly like to go to that you’ve not been to yet?
Otis: At the moment, I would say that sitting at home on my back porch, with my girlfriend, would be where I’d like to go to more than anywhere. But I have a couple of weeks left and I’m enjoying it and am lucky enough to be able to do it, but you just get a little homesick sometimes.
Rosanna: Well thank you very much for your time and it was a very good set.
To watch the interview...
By Rosanna Pound-Woods