For those of you into folk, blues, Americana… the name Eric Bibb will be very familiar. For those of you out there that may have just dipped your toes into the river of blues, Eric Bibb is a name that you should familiarise yourself with. He is an artist who has seen the world change over the last several decades and has many fascinating stories to tell. He’s about to head out on tour with his new double album, Global Griot, and heading to Rock Rover in Fremantle and The River in Margaret River before heading over East.
When we caught up with Eric, he was still on a high from the night before. He was in London attending the Jazz FM Awards. He had been nominated for the 2019 Blues Act Of The Year and won.
Eric has toured all over the world but one of his favourite places to tour is Australia because he feels that the Australian audiences are so exuberant and inspiring. “It’s a long haul but it’s worth every mile because of the reception there. Australia is all on its own when it comes to music appreciation.”
He’s also excited to showcase his new album. When asked about it, Eric told us that it was an album that he felt compelled to write. We spoke about one song in particular that mentions a certain person in America (you know the one). “I had to write that song.” he told us but also added, “It won’t be performed live however because it’s my role as a musician is to bring people together and I decided that I really needed to make that statement and share it. It’s not something that I want to flag and wave around because there’s enough divisiveness in the world already. I’m not a politician. I’m a cultural ambassador.”
Eric went on to say that musicians can play an important role in bringing people of all walks together. After all, they are the ones that travel all over the world, meet each other and their fans and break down stereotypes. He’s right. When you are at a gig, you are there with all kinds of people and all there for the one reason. To have a great night out whilst listening to music that you have in common.
Constant touring has taught Eric some important life lessons like patience and flexibility. He pointed out that you can’t always control everything while on the road and you’ve just got to trust that everything will come together. “There are many life lessons to be learned as a touring musician if you are open to it.”
On the opposite side of touring, is recording. Eric told us that he finds recording relaxing and a really nice contrast to the rigours of being on the road. In fact, any time he has a day off when he is on the road and there’s a studio nearby, you are likely to find him in there recording a new song if he has one. “It’s an environment that I do have some control over. There are more factors under my control.” It’s the contrast between rolling with it on tour and being the ‘director’ that he really loves.
We spoke about the changes to the industry and whether they have been beneficial to music or not. He told us that he could wax lyrical about that for a long time. Eric mentioned the downsides first and the main point is that there is at least one generation that has grown up with the idea that music is free which is a disservice to the musicians who dedicate their lives, money and time in perfecting their craft. “You don’t find bakers giving away their bread on street corners for free. Musicians need to be paid.” he said. “The whole business of downloading music for free is an erroneous concept that needs to be corrected.”
On the other hand, the same technology has made it possible for many musicians to share their music to a wider audience without necessarily being dependant on large corporations who used to control everything. “There is a freedom element that is wonderful for creativity but we really need to address the renumeration issue. Musicians need to be paid.”
There are musicians that he comes across all the time who’s music excites him, makes him happy and stops him in his tracks. One in particular, he recalls, was at a Norwegian festival of all places. It was an American singer called Lisa Mills who really touched his heart with her soulful singing. Eric said that she had managed to capture the traditions of the south. While she’s not African-American, she absorbed so much of the culture that she made it her own. “It was wonderful to hear such a soulful singer. Look out for her if you can.”
Eric also spoke about an incident that happened in Australia many years ago. A very excited and intoxicated fan decided that it would be a good idea to snatch his hat from his head and run away with it. It was an act that infuriated Eric and he felt disrespected and unusually angry. Whilst he did get the hat back, it had left a sour taste in his mouth which he held onto for a while.
It wasn’t until years later and the incident receding into the dark corners of his memory, he received an email from the person who said that he was the guy that stole the hat and that he had been feeling horrible about it for all those years. He also stated that he had wanted to apologise to Eric for a long time. “It was a very lovely and almost a religious experience.” Eric said because it was wonderful to know that people could make mistakes and atone for them. Eric was moved by the email and sent a reply back to the guy thanking him for his courage and forgave him. Whilst it may seem like a small thing, it’s definitely something that we could all learn from. It’s definitely to say sorry to someone who you’ve hurt but means the world to the other person.
Eric Bibb is the kind of person who you could talk to forever. He’s open and friendly and he’s got so many fascinating stories and we only scratched a small part of the surface. His songs tell part of the story but you could see and feel that there is so much more to Eric Bibb. He left us with this advice that he was given by Bob Dylan when he was 11. “Forget all the fancy stuff. Keep it simple.” To young musicans, he says “It’s important to identify what you really want to say and often the best way to say it is not to over-complicate it. Think about the essentials and the core of what you want to achieve as a musician.”