Daughn Gibson: "I Don't Want Somebody Looking Over My Shoulder"
On one side, there are the credentials that mark Daughn Gibson as a country musician -- the slightly twanged baritone, the smoky barrooms and long roads that appear in his lyrics, and the years spent working as a trucker before recording his first album.
On the other side are the credentials that mark Gibson as anything but country -- the heavy metal past, the rhythmic speak-singing, and the programmed beats, effects and samples that give his songs a distinctly technological edge.
"I love country, rap, and techno, and I pull a lot from those three genres. If I tell people that usually they run away, but it's the most honest answer I can give," Gibson says. "They're strange bedfellows, but they have a lot of similarities and it's the challenge of making them meld together."
In July Gibson followed up his 2012 debut, All Hell, with Me Moan on Sub Pop, joining a record label that not only kicked out the loud rock albums that drew him to play music as a teen but gives him freedom to make the music he wants.
"They're completely fearless, and I respect anyone who's fearless, even if what they're doing may make other people shudder," he says. "There's no shortage of things that sound homogenized today, so it's nice to have someone going to bat for you and sticking up for something weird."
But, ultimately, is Gibson's music really all that weird?
"I might be projecting what other people have told me because I don't feel like this is weird. To me it's totally natural."
Sub Pop characterizes Me Moan as a "widescreen IMAX 3D extravaganza" in comparison to Gibson's "gritty black-and-white movie" of a debut. But despite the full and somewhat scattered musical load Me Moan carries, Gibson set out to make sure it could be easily duplicated in front of audiences.
"I think the first guidepost for me was making sure everything could be performed live," he says. "I wanted there to be guitars and live drums so I didn't have to rely so much on the beats aspect for live performances."
As far as songwriting, Gibson (Josh Martin by birth) says he begins the process completely open-minded, unwilling to eschew anything until he finds the song's essence.
"A lot of it was this same feeling of going into this abandoned house and not know what you're going to see in there and the thrill of discovery," he says. "I've tried to sit down with a guitar or piano and write a melody and it gets boring really quick.
"For me, really the most thrilling part of it is starting somewhere and not having any idea where it's going to end up, sometimes in mid-song going a completely different path."
Those unexpected moments don't always come easily. But, songs like "Phantom Rider," which comes across as a futuristic Tom Waits scoring a David Lynch film, can't be forced.
"It really started out as something completely different and actually it took quite a while. I new I had something really interesting but it took so long to hit that target," he says. "Sometimes it takes going away from it for two hours and sucking down a beer. It's obvious in every song or any bit of writing you do. Why am I still sitting here when all I have to do is take a break and it'll come to me? But your gumption is so high you just want to keep pounding on it."
Wrestling his songs into existence is a solitary mission for Gibson, but it's the way he works best. "I hate to say I'm a control freak," he says, "but at the end of the day I might have gotten the truck to begin with because I don't want to be bothered. I don't want somebody looking over my shoulder while I work."
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