Artist Profile | Mark Gibson | Tulsa Musicians
While Mark Gibson seems to fully embrace the spotlights when he gets on stage to perform, you could never tell that he still gets nervous and anxious every time like other Tulsa musicians before he performs.
“It’s worrying when I don’t get nervous before a show because it would mean that the show doesn’t mean much to me,” Gibson says in an interview before his recent show out at Soul City of Tulsa. “Once I get settled into my groove and losses up, it’s great.”
Madness Media had the opportunity to do a full artist profile on Gibson about his music, the Tulsa music scene, his songwriting and career, and what music means to him. See the full profile and three songs that were mastered from his live set.
You can definitely sense Gibson’s commitment to his fans by how much he interacts with his fans in between performing sets. Every time there is a show, he is gaining new fans and more people who fall in love with his music.
It’s rare to find Tulsa musicians that are creating blues and soul music like Gibson is. He deep devotion and commitment to the process is showcased by his mastery of technique, melody, and rhythm. Whether it be a performance at a small bar venue, or for a crowd of hundreds at Tulsa Oktoberfest, Gibson is sure to connect with the crowd on a deeper level through his music.
It’s hard to restrain yourself from dancing to catchy tunes like “Blue Eyed Soul” or “Our Religion” from his most recent album that he has released called Blue Eyed Soul. He also showcases his emotional songwriting style through tracks like “I Want You Badly” or Nothing Will Ever Be The Same” that you can tangibly feel when he performs them live.
Interview | Mark Gibson of Tulsa Musicians
What’s you background?
Mark: I was born in California, but I’ve moved to Oklahoma when I was very young and grew up in the Broken Arrow area. Once I graduated, I went to Oklahoma City for college and that’s where I started my music career, just playing open mic nights around the city. It’s learning the craft. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to do music full time, so I moved down to Austin, Texas. I was down there for seven years with a band called Meridianwest. Eventually, through a series of events, I moved back to Oklahoma. I’ve been home based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma for quite some time now, and enjoying that and getting on the road when I can. It’s a great place to home base your music career out of.
Has it always been easy performing or is that something that your career has evolved over time?
Man, for me it’s never been easy. There’s always this weird internal struggle between the need to perform, and the anxiety that I think my body likes to produce on a daily basis. I always get nervous. If I’m not nervous it’s a bad sign. It means I don’t care, or I know people aren’t really listening. But usually the shows that matter, like tonight, I do get nervous. So, it’s never easy. Once things get going, they start going well then I relax and get in the zone.
Why is songwriting so important to you and your career?
Mark:Playing music is not enough, I have to create it to feel like all the effort, all the time spent is worth it. Music as a career isn’t easy, so to look back and think, “Well at least I created this art and I can be happy and proud of that.” That is a crucial piece for me.
The writing process… it’s random. Lately, it’s been a lot of just melodies in the car, and I’ll just record a voice memo and then later start finding out what the chord structure would be underneath it.
For the longest time, I used to write the music first, and then the vocal melody would be a slave to that, but I’ve started thinking, “You know what, the vocal melody is the most important thing, so why not just write that first and let that be what everything else is centered around?”
As far as the lyrics and melody go, I used to do the melody first and then force the lyrics on that melody.
The problem with that would be… you would have these placeholder words, because you liked a certain vowel sound and then you’d try to put in actual coherent lines and it becomes a chore to do so. Lately, I’ve been trying to write the melody and lyrics simultaneously. I think of them almost as dance partners, and it’s wonderful that they’re learning the choreography at the same time.
Talk to me a little bit about some of the songs from your album – which have been fun? Which hold a very special part for you?
Mark: Well, the latest record, Blue Eyed Soul, has a few cuts on it that they’re more like a Motown/soul vibe and I’m really proud being a white boy from Oklahoma, and somehow I pulled that off because I love that type of music. It’s what’s in my heart, and it feels great to have the horn section, the organ, everything swirling around and getting to do that kind of fun, upbeat, inspiring music.
Then there’s a few cuts that are the more “bluesy” side, and I get to play guitar like some of my heroes. Not as well, but still, I try. Then there’s a few emotional tunes. “I Want You Badly” is a really good song that I get to just belt out and just emote in a real natural singer-songwriter kind of way. I really like the record, I think it’s well rounded and there’s a little bit of something for everyone I think. [laughs]
What are you passionate about? You seem to be driven by something and making it in the music industry is not easy…
Mark: It’s insanely difficult. It’s almost like a suicide mission financially and emotionally, but I think whenever you… We talked about it earlier, whenever you identify yourself as a full-time musician, songwriter, that’s what you want to do, you just have to take it on the chin. I think that’s the quality you have to have. You have to be persistent, so as far as what am I passionate about with music and what keeps me going, is that there’s always this chance for some sort of greatness.
Whether it’s a moment on stage or writing a great song or recording a great song or just having some connection with music, whether it’s listening to it, going to a show, you get to taste some sort of greatness that I think sometimes, in other occupations or other walks of life, you don’t get to feel that high, and I am passionate about that high. I’ve been passionate about doing something that gives me some purpose, whether it’s real or not.
We all make out what our lives should be about and probably put some sort of weight on it that maybe isn’t seen or noticed by other people, but for me, it is important. I am passionate about how I go about it as well. It’s not just enough to play music. It’s how you play it. It’s how you present yourself. It’s how you write and the types of songs you produce. All that stuff comes in together to create who you are not only as a person, but as an artist.
I just think that is exciting. I think that it’s exciting to have some control of your life in that way. Ultimately, having a discography of all your work and looking back and being proud of that. I think, sometimes, when you’re doing a day job, it all just washes together. It’s the same repetitive thing, but with music, there’s always the next song, there’s always the next record that would be different and rejuvenating.
What do people not know about Mark Gibson that maybe you don’t always get to communicate through performance music?
Mark: I think a lot of you would be surprised that I am fairly anxious and sometimes incredibly insecure. I don’t know how they perceive me walking around town or on stage for shows but I am. I struggle with that stuff. Being confident and not letting mental processes go negative and undercut myself before I get onstage like, “I don’t know if this is going to go well.” Just some of that negative speak.
I’m not this super confident guy and I have to work on that. When I get on stage, l just breathe and just let it come out naturally because I feel like there are two different performers [chuckles]. When I let that happen, it’s a great show. When I don’t, it’s tight. Everything gets tight. Vocals and everything. I hate that. I’m just trying to work on that and be just relaxed and just have fun. Because if you’re not having fun up on stage, what’s the point? And that’s the goal for tonight. It’s to have fun even though we’re recording the show: have fun.
Where do you like to play live shows?
Mark: In Tulsa, I’ve played at Cain’s Ballroom, Fassler Hall, Hunt Club and Doc’s, Mixed Company, random parties and weddings, and the Cox Communications, all that stuff. Last but not least, Soul City, which is the venue I play the most. It’s definitely my home base in Tulsa. I know the owners and they’re fantastic people and this is basically my living room that I get to play shows at. I ask for a date and they usually give it to me and that’s a great relationship to have that for a musician. It’s a cool venue. It’s very eclectic and inspiring and kind of quirky in a way, but it brings out the best, I think, of artists when they’re here because they feel comfortable. It does feel like a home and I really enjoy playing here.
What is the future of Tulsa music?
Mark: Well, it has a very good history of music dating back to the jazz scene and working it’s way up to the original Tulsa sound, all those casts like J. J. Cale, and then progressing into modern day music here in Tulsa. You have some cats around town carrying that torch for J. J. and all those folks. Yet you also have a lot of people like myself, who do dramatically different music than the norms in Tulsa and I think the scene is actually starting to get very diverse. I think that’s great. I think when the music scene gets too much of a niche, it’s a bad thing.
I think when it’s diversified, it brings out the best in everyone. It allows everyone to thrive and be inspired with different types of music. I’m really proud to be a part of that and say that I’ve marked out my little territory in the scene.