When he's not chopping wood in the majestic Siuslaw National Forest or tending to his 5 children, Oregon-based Aaron Gibson spends his time making great music with just a bass (and great videos with just an iPhone). You can grab his very touching rendition of "I Will Take You Home" here.
Learn more about Aaron in the exclusive interview below and at www.aarongibson.me.
How did you get started as a musician?
I was born in Walnut Creek California and grew up in the Bay Area. My mother was a singer and my dad was a drummer but not professionally. My mom was in a singing group that actually sang for the first George Bush when they did Mount Rushmore. It's always been a hobby and because I grew up in the Bay Area I spent most of my time going to concerts and playing music. I've been in bands since I was ten - that's around when I started playing bass.
What made you gravitate towards the bass?
Bass is the only instrument I play. Bass is the only instrument I was interested in playing. When I was a kid, those were the frontmen that I saw - Sting and Jack Bruce from Cream - and I was like hey, I want to play bass and sing. So that's what I went for. My folks divorced and my mom was doing really well financially at the time. I think it was 6th grade or so when she took me and my brother to a music store. She wanted us to keep busy since she worked so much and said pick something...so I bought a Fender Bass and an amp and just went at it. I was really, really in to music of all kinds. By the time I was 14, I went and got a job busing tables so that I could afford concert tickets. Saw the Dead...every show they played at Shoreline from '88 through '92 when I went off to college. Hit everything there, Jerry shows at The Greek. But at the same time I was totally into music in general - jazz and The Smiths and The Cure and stuff like that too. It was just all about music. I've never been extremely polarized to one kind of music.
And when you are not playing music...
I work at a summer camp and retreat center in the Siuslaw National Forest on the Oregon coast. We host summer camps, County outdoor schools, family reunions and the like. We are close enough to the beach to run out, go surfing, then return to work. The river and forest make it an idyllic place for both reflection and creativity.
You chose to cover "I Will Take You Home" - a Brent Mydland song for the Dead Covers Project. What made you choose it?
I didn't know the Dead Covers Projects were going on until about a week into it and I was thinking I should do something. It was the first song that came to mind as soon as I thought about doing it. I don't usually do a lot of covers. I play a couple of them, but I don't really rely on cover songs very often. I always thought it was a bit disingenuous to do covers as a songwriter. But anyway, it's just one of those songs that I love. I got home and my wife said did you see this Dead Covers thing? I said yes, I think I'll do "I Will Take You Home" and she said that would be great! That was the only one I considered. I knew right off the bat there'd probably be a whole bunch of stuff from American Beauty and Workingman's Dead and I just gravitated to it right away.
And who is the little starlet in your video?
That's my youngest daughter. Her name is Aravis. She is 3. We actually just completed our family with number five. It's boy-girl-boy-girl-boy. So that's really funny. The oldest one is 14. They're all pretty evenly spaced. (Baby Arlo was born just a few days before our interview.)
Your video has some very cool illustrations and animations. How did you shoot it?
I did it on my iPhone. All the cartoon work I did with a $1.99 animation program on the iPad.
What are you doing with music at the moment?
I have stuff on my website - www.aarongibson.me. And I've played in bands forever. It's definitely one of those things you always try and lightening doesn't always strike and you move on with life. But I've been a songwriter so I've continually written songs. A couple of years ago, I finally gave up on the band thing. I'd get to a certain point with a group and things would always fall apart. I had about 26 gigs booked for the rest of the summer and my guitar player quit and so my drummer said let's figure out how to do this and just do it, just the two of us. So we did. I just started playing more of the rhythm parts in addition to melodic stuff on the bass and it worked. People were really impressed that we could pull it off and it was still entertaining. So then we started working on an album. Then the housing market and the financial market - especially for electronics - all crashed. My brother, who was my drummer at the time, was in the computer industry doing IT work. He had to move because there aren't that many companies in central Oregon that deal with that kind of stuff so he went up to Portland. He works for Nike now. That left me on my own. I didn't want to stop doing shows so I just started doing them on my own. I had to work at the music a little harder. I wanted it to be more of a singer-songwriter thing so I could still do my songs even though I didn't have a band. I've been carrying that out. It's been nice because now I can go to a club or a bar and I've got a full 2-hour set of music that's just bass and vocals. The past 2 years, I've been working on an album with musicians from around the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver areas and that's almost done.
Will you then tour?
I wish I could go do that all the time but it costs me too much money. So I've kind of rethought it - I've got the internet and that's why I started making videos. I didn't know what I was doing and still don't, but I'm working on it. [laughs] I can get to a lot more people that way so that's what I'm trying to do until I can get to the point where I can tour. My family and I are actually looking to buy a school bus - something to travel in once we take off from this job which is sort of isolating. It has given me a chance to write a lot of music, but I want to go and play shows which means I need to go to a city. I'm going to see how much interest I can drum up with my album.