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Interviews

Faith Gibson: Shooting for the Big Moon

By Published: June 10, 2009
AAJ: Tell us about the beginnings of Faith Gibson on stage.



FG: Faith Gibson, the jazz singer, or Faith Gibson, ever? As a kid I sang in school choruses and church choirs and in high school and college in smaller ensembles, too, but being given a solo always made me so frightened that I simply never, ever considered a solo singing career except in my daydreams. My shyness held me back in many things and many ways all my life, and it took me about 40 years to recognize that letting it hold me back meant losing out on a lot of enjoyment in life. So, I consciously not only began singing, but also reaching out and opening up to people in every aspect of my life. The results are always surprising...and always good.



So, the first time I sang on stage was at my own birthday party. Four of my girlfriends and I got together and put together a little program of pop songs that we performed over backing tracks and I sang a couple of karaoke solos, with my knees shaking and my insides wobbling although the audience was my friends. In the meantime I've learned it's easier to sing in front of strangers than friends.



After that, three of us decided to keep on singing together and formed a pop and swing trio called Lipstick and I stayed with them for six years. I took to the stage surprisingly easily, and singing jazz gives me no stage fright at all. I'm too involved in the song and the interaction with the band to feel self-conscious!

Faith GibsonAAJ: Jazz and Germany: your life, your past, your present.



FG: Jazz and Germany is not one of my favorite topics. There is a lively jazz scene here, certainly, but becoming a jazz singer is not the best step to take if you live in Germany, since vocal jazz is hardly recognized or appreciated.



I've lived here a very long time and have a family, so it will not be easy to pack up and leave, and it will take a few years before I do, but I do plan to return to the United States and am already taking steps to make it happen. I can't wait.



There—I just told you about my future and ignored the past and present. Typical.

AAJ: What are your vocal influences?



FG: The voices I listened to as a child and young person, before discovering jazz: Judy Garland

, Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
b.1942
vocalist
—her first four albums, especially, which I was introduced to 15 years after they were made; Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
, Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
1899 - 1987
vocalist
, Janis Joplin, Gladys Knight, George Benson
George Benson
George Benson
b.1943
guitar
, Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
, Heart, Annie Lennox, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, Rickie Lee Jones ...I know I'm going to really regret the ones I forgot to list.



Jazz voices, which I found one after another: Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Diana Krall
b.1964
piano
, Holly Cole
Holly Cole
Holly Cole
b.1963
vocalist
, Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
, Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
1934 - 2005
piano
, Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
b.1955
vocalist
, Patricia Barber
Patricia Barber
Patricia Barber
b.1955
piano
and I meet more every week.

AAJ: What dreams do you have, musically?



FG: Lately, I've been dreaming of helping one of my best friends put out a CD that she recorded in New York six years ago, but could not afford to produce. After bringing out my own, however, I can't afford it at the moment either. But, it's a true shame—this CD is being kept from the world.



AAJ: What about a wish?



FG: I'd like to meet Dave Gill and sing a couple duets with him.



AAJ: A fear or two?



FG: "Or two?" They're countless. How about heights, meeting strangers, and making wrong impressions for starters?



AAJ: What's the best song you have ever heard?



FG: I'm sorry but that is simply impossible or I'd have to spend months going over every song I ever heard in my life. But, one of the best songs I ever heard and one I'd like to sing soon is "Blues in the Night" by Harold Arlen

Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen
1905 - 1986
composer/conductor
. Why? It just bowls me over, like most of his songs do.



AAJ: What would you say is the worst kind of song for you to sing?



FG: Any song that I cannot improvise [on]. Jazz has made me lose my desire to ever sing anything the same way over and over again.



AAJ: What's the most complicated song for you to sing?



FG: I was asked to sing "Windmills of your Mind" for a friend's birthday last December and I found it complicated because of the long, long lyrics. In the end, I had to hold them in front of me, which really detracted from the experience. For the same reason, I also don't think I'll ever sing "Waters of March" although I love it!



AAJ: A little bit about your first album, You don't know me. How did you pick the songs?



FG: "Honeysuckle Rose" was one that J.P. Weber and I first played when we got together and had a lot of fun with. "Moondance" was also one of J.P.'s favorites. "You don't know me" has always been one of my favorite songs and a sort of theme of my life, growing up as one of those shy girls who never dared tell the boys she adored how she felt.



Someone long ago gave me an old and much scratched Kingston Trio LP where I first heard "Scotch and Soda" and I had always wanted to sing it. Both "Don't Like Goodbyes," and "Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home" are Harold Arlen songs that I first heard on Barbra Streisand's The Second Barbra Streisand Album (Columbia, 1963) and People (Columbia, 1964) albums when I was about 15. During a visit home in 2003, I heard "Undun" on the radio. Whenever I'm in the States, I hear these many almost-forgotten songs that were once part of my life on the radio while driving and get very excited because they aren't played much in Europe.



J.P. suggested that I write a song for the CD. I had never written a song before, just lots of poems and poetry is certainly not the same thing as song lyrics. But, I had recently read an anthology edited by Billy Collins called "Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry," where I read Dana Gioia's "Alley Cat Love Song." It was a masterfully simple, poignant, yet humorous rhyme that was just asking to be put to music. The melody I came up with is very simple; most of the magic comes from Ralph Haspel's bass groove.



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