Otis Gibbs talks to Rick Cornell about his CD, Harder Than Hammered Hell; how many trees he’s planted in his life time; his early record collection; his favorite car; life in East Nashville; and living in the age of YouTube.
- New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell / Ray Wylie Hubbard / The Grifter’s Hymnal / 3:31
- Ballad of Sis (Didn’t I Love You) /HobartBrothers w Li’l Sis / At Least We Have Each Other / 4:17
- Makin’ Our House A Honkytonk / Rachel Harrington & The Knock Outs / Makin’ Our House a Honkytonk / 3:30
- Into Your Arms / The Deadfields / Dance In The Sun / 4:17
- If I Was Jesus /North MississippiAllstars / Mercyland – Hymns For The Rest Of Us / 4:36
- All Is Not Lost / Possum Jenkins / Carolinacana / 2:14
- Lucky Tonight / D.L. Marble / Not The One… / 2:38
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[Rick Cornell opens the interview with “Never Enough” from the CD Harder Than Hammered Hell]
Otis Gibbs talks to Rick Cornell about the where the title of his latest record, Harder Than Hammered Hell came from. He tells the story of working as a tree planter for 10 years. “I’ve planted 7,163 trees in my life time.” He talks about working with older guys who were wiser and more experienced than he was and talks about how he enjoyed watching them apply their knowledge to moving huge trees using leverage and various tricks. Otis Gibbs says those guys used the phrase “harder than hammered hell” to refer to ground that was tough to dig or a job was especially difficult or when they wanted to describe a tough guy. So Otis wanted to preserve that phrase. He says, “There’s a lot of wonderful phrases that are dying in our language and I’d like to bring most of them back, if I can.”
Otis Gibbs talks about the fine line between sharing and preaching and the line between preaching and scolding. Otis says he has no interest in being evangelical about anything. He says “I know when I go to a show I hate it when someone preaches to me.”
Rick Cornell and Otis Gibbs talk about writing songs that speak for people that don’t have a voice. Otis Gibbs says “I think that whatever I’m doing was the norm for a very long time. And I think every thin g else changed. I don’t think the artists necessarily changed, but I think the world’s expectations of entertainment changed. Because a lot of the things that get thrown about people like me these days are things that Neil Young never had to deal with or The Carter Family ever had to deal with”
Otis Gibbs goes on to talk about the problem of marginalizing people and artist into narrow categories. Otis Gibbs says, “I do remember being a kid and I had a Willie Nelson record, a Black Sabbath record. I had a Bee Gees record. And I really liked all of them and they all seemed the same to me. It was just stuff I liked or didn’t like. And later in life we kind of realize we have to subdivide everything…. But we’ve really carved up things into these strange little ghettos.”
Otis Gibbs sets up “Detroit Steel.” Otis says, “I just realized I hadn’t written a song about a car and there’s a point in each songwriters life that they have to write a song about a car.” Otis Gibbs says he was a Chevy man growing up, they had a Chevy pick up truck. He says the best car he ever had was a 1976Monte Carlothat he bought for $300. and then put 200,000 miles on it until it was wrecked and totaled.
[Rick plays “Detroit Steel”]
Otis Gibbs talks about living inEast Nashvilleand living in a neighborhood full of musicians and bands. Otis tells the story of living next door to a band that he never met until he ran into them at a festival inIndiana. And he learned the names of his other neighbors because it was written on the side of his road cases and he saw them as they were being rolled out of the U-Haul truck and into the house.
Otis Gibbs talks about life inIndianapolisin the mid 90’s. He says that he’d tend to be in a bar until 3:00 in the morning. And a friend would come up to him and say something like, “Man I have a John Lee Hooker bootleg of him playing live if you want come over to the house and see it.” Otis Gibbs talks about have “this moment when you realize, ‘if I don’t do this I might not ever see this.’” So he’d go over to the friend’s house and stay up to 6 or 7 in the morning watching stuff and soaking it up. Otis compares that to living in the age of YouTube. “And you can just kind of go through there if you have any curiosity at all, it’s all right there. It’s beautiful in some ways because I’ve met some people that are like 21 years old that know such more about certain things that it took me forever to even getting around to kowing it existsed. But its all right there, and they’d be curious and they soak it up. I think that says a lot about how there’s some much we can absorb if we just have the curiosity to absorb it. Of course not many people have the curiosity.”
Otis Gibbs sets up “Big Whiskers.” Otis talks about growing on near White River inIndianaand reading in the Guinness Book of World’s Records that the world record flathead catfish was caught in the white river. Otis says he was obsessed with that and couldn’t get that out of his mind for years. And they’d hang out in bait shops listening to old men lie about the one that got away. He’d wanted to write a story song loosely based on that. He got Adam Carroll to help him finish it on a trip toAustin.
[Rick Cornell plays “Big Whiskers” from Harder Than Hammered Hell.]
Otis Gibbs photo credit: Todd Fox