By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Go west, young man (and stay there).
The idea of a cold East Coast winter mixed with restless young kids in quarantine was a no-no for one Christian Gibbs, who preceded to bring a moving truck and gathered his family, a couple of air mattresses, guitars, an amp and a keyboard, all to go back to his childhood home of San Diego for six months.
Time came to renew the lease and Gibbs didn’t hesitate to stay even longer, having reconnected with his love for surfing and Southern California culture in general.
Emotionally jam-packed with themes such as addiction, renewal, temptation and homecoming, Gibbs (Lucinda Black Bear, He Arrived By Helicopter) will release his new album ‘Tales From The Terramar’ on Sept. 17, 2021, the eighth to come under his C. Gibbs moniker.
With a career spent as both a session musician and a principle songwriter for other acts for over 15 albums, Gibbs’ musical versatility has long been a strength, even taking him to some lengths in theater worldwide as a songwriter, actor and multi-instrumentalist.
The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with Gibbs about ‘Tales From the Terramar’ and more.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?
C. Gibbs – We always had music around the house – a piano and my dad played classical guitar. I asked him to show me a Bach song and he said, “Well, you better learn to read the music.” Disclosure, I don’t sight read music by any stretch of the imagination now, but it did kick start me a bit. Before this, though, I was a kid really into KISS, Fleetwood Mac and early Elton John. As a kid, I tried to figure out his songs on piano, especially “Daniel,” which had a big impression on me because of the emotion and the storytelling. That was probably the most defining moment where I knew I wanted to be a songwriter, being around 7 or 8 years old and trying to teach myself how to play these classic songs.
Music Bugle – Did the video for “Tales From The Terramar” come out the way you hoped?
C. Gibbs – Yeah, it did. The first cut was a little different and had a more “surf culture“ prominence in it, but I wasn’t going for that as much. The editor and I had a good talk about it. Once he knew I wanted something more abstract, he nailed it. He also did my He Arrived By Helicopter side project video for the track “Decline in U.S. Civics,“ which I love. I shot much of the video for “Tales From The Terramar” myself “selfie style,” with no music to sing along to. I wasn’t even planning on shooting anything that day, but I was literally at Terramar, the place the song is about, doing my morning thing and had a bunch of coffee, so I just started filming. Austin – the editor – was patient and matched up the words, even though I wasn’t singing to a track.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
C. Gibbs – I’ve really been getting into Bobbie Gentry. She is an amazing singer-songwriter from the 70’s. Big Thief is another band that caught me by surprise. Also, Portugal. The Man has a song that I heard out of nowhere that blew me away and still does, called “So American.” I’ve also found a re-energized love for The Kinks and the guitar interplay of Television, which I didn’t really get into enough when I was younger.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your new album?
C. Gibbs – It was a crazy, long process, somewhat exacerbated by Covid, but if I’m honest, it was a really hard album to finish. This is partly due to the fact that I recorded many of the basic tracks with the Brooklyn band – drummer Tim Kuhl, bassist Matt Brandau and Philip Sterk on pedal steel – at the same time I did the recording of some of He Arrived By Helicopter’s basic tracks. I released He Arrived By Helicopter first, as half the record was done all solo, so it was an easier album to finish. So, I had to really get motivated to finish the lyrics and all the overdubs to the songs on ‘Tales from the Terramar’ as life gets busy and I kept writing new songs that I kinda wanted to work on instead, so it took a lot of discipline to finish these. What you hear is some songs that were recorded start to finish recently and some songs that took a long time to complete. We were almost done mixing most of the record at Grand Street Recordings when Ken – Owner of GSR – was showing me all these masks he bought, saying that shit was gonna hit the fan soon. I thought he was being a little precautious, but then a week later, I was hightailing it to upstate NY.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
C. Gibbs – At first, it was somewhat of an adventure because we were allowed to give “real life” a break for a bit. It gave me an excuse to slow down. I feel lame saying that, as a nurse or doctor might read this and we all know there were people on the front lines 24/7. I was lucky enough to be able to quarantine in a comfortable place and homeschool my kids – which was not fun at all. Our family got to be around each other much more and it created this new template to work from home. When lockdown lasted much longer than we anticipated and Fall was on its way, it made me really value being outside and being in more open spaces. I was burnt out a little on living in NYC and the traffic, tight quarters, etc., so it was a catalyst for us to move back West. We had five months upstate and I thought, “What can we do during Covid that I’ve always wanted to do?” So, we moved back to San Diego and I took my kids surfing almost every day, as much as possible, ’til things starting getting busy again.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
C. Gibbs – It used to be upstate, NY in the Western Catskills, where we bought a house. Now, I like going to the desert. Specifically, 29 Palms/The Salton Sea/And Joshua Tree. For shorter, quick breaks, I do a lot of work in my car. I’ll just go on an errand and if I need 20 minutes alone, I’ll drive to a beach parking lot and hang there.
Music Bugle – How has 2021 treated you?
C. Gibbs – It’s been good, for the most part. I’ve been able to get in the ocean almost four days or more a week. Financially, it’s up and down and we had a couple really good shows cancelled because of Covid stuff again. That’s a little disheartening, but I get it. I’ve really spent this last year acclimating to the West Coast and trying to get a band together out here and slowly playing shows again. Releasing the album is a high point.
Music Bugle – What has been your hardest challenge lately?
C. Gibbs – Being patient. We all want things to get back to normal. Finding a band to play with in San Diego. I have a great band in Brooklyn. Love them – and that’s one thing I miss a lot. I also haven’t been able to tour Europe. I have another band I use over there and miss them as well, so yeah, I guess not being able to tour as easily as we did in the past. Finding patience.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
C. Gibbs – “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” by Nelson Mandela.
Music Bugle – What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?
C. Gibbs – I’ve secretly wanted to do a blog called “Gibbs’ Guide to Good Living“ about all the very small ways to improve daily living. From bad coffee to good coffee tips on the road and in hotel rooms, to not wasting food, to good travel tips, as I’ve done a lot of traveling. Also, I’m a little high strung, but don’t always show it. I’m the guy who gets seated at the restaurant and needs to move three times ’til the table feels right. I also always need an aisle seat on airplanes and will go to great lengths to get one. I hate any kind of line and will probably turn away before waiting in it, unless absolutely necessary. My favorite part of touring is the long drives through remote parts of the country and “travel days,” when you don’t have to do a show. I’m sure if every day was a travel day, I wouldn’t like it as much, but there’s something about rolling into a cheap hotel with your band in Montana somewhere and eating bad food and watching mediocre TV.