Johnny Gibson

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Johnny Gibson


Gibson grew up in Penguin on the north-west Tasmania, a small town about 20 kilometres from the comparatively bustling port town of Burnie. Like many of his contemporaries in Melbourne’s Taswegian expatriate community – including Van and Cal Walker with whom Gibson would subsequently join in various musical pursuits – Gibson indulged his nascent musical interests in whatever way he could. “I played in a couple of punk bands in Tassie when I was younger, when I was about 14 or 15, just hanging out in mates’ garages, just bashing out songs on guitar and singing,” Gibson says. 

Just over ten years ago, having moved onto drums “out of sheer boredom”, Gibson joined the exodus out of Tasmania, heading across Bass Strait to more accommodating musical climes. “Penguin is a pretty town, pretty nice to grow up in, but there’s no real gigs to play or see on the north coast,” Gibson says. “Van, Will Hindmarsh and Zane Lynde had just got a house together, and they kept a room free for me.” Van and Cal Walker had transported the Swedish Magazines over to Melbourne; some years later, Gibson would take up drumming duties in the recalibrated Swedes. “To start out with I used to muck around a bit with Will in the garage, playing along with a beatbox sort of thing that Will was programming lots of weird sounds on – it was really hard to stay in time with it,” Gibson laughs.

Gibson moved on to play drums in a band with Tim Burke (Cherrywood), before being drafted into the Swedish Magazines. In his spare time Gibson continued to noodle around on guitar, trying his hand at his own brand of songwriting. “I always played around on guitar, trying to write songs,” Gibson says. “The first songs I’d written would’ve been in the first band I was in Tassie when I was 16 or 17, but I didn’t write the lyrics for those songs.” 

Over the course of about three or four years, Gibson built up a catalogue of original material that would eventually appear on Gibson’s debut solo recording, Endless Search For Gold. “It’s pretty nerve-wracking to move from drumming to playing guitar and singing, but I think I’m ready for it,” Gibson says. Gibson has played ‘three or four’ gigs on his own, often on the same bill as long-time Melbourne music stalwart Duncan Graham, on whose Trippers Advocate Records Gibson has released his new album. This Thursday’s album launch at the Old Bar, however, will be Gibson’s first gig with a full band. “We’ve practised a fair bit – hopefully enough!” Gibson laughs. Gibson has been fortunate enough to find an enthusiastic supporting ensemble, including Lachlan Ryan from the Swedish Magazines and Callum Salter from Go-Go Sapien, with guest spots from Van and Cal Walker, Jan Palethorpe and Will Hindmarsh.

Gibson’s lyrics are inspired by the everyday fare of life, both his own emotional encounters and the experiences of others in his broader social community. “I guess in some songs I’m trying to tell a story, though I don’t know whether it comes across that way – songs like New Year’s Eve and Without Mine are ‘love gone wrong’ type songs. Sometimes it’s good to get it off your chest,” Gibson says. “The title of the record comes from a song that I wrote about a guy I stayed with for a fair while in Tassie for a few years. He’d just separated from his partner and they had a young son, and it was a break-up, and he never got to see him, and it was really sad to watch. So that song was written from the kid’s point of view, hanging out with his old man,” Gibson says. 

With his time balanced between half a dozen bands – Streams Of Whisky, the Pogues tribute band in which Gibson plays with Steve Milligan, was recently invited to play a string of dates in New Caledonia – Gibson doesn’t see his solo activity as presenting a particular focus; rather, it’s an opportunity for him to refine his craft as a songwriter, and attract enough people to come along and watch him play. “I just hope people come along and enjoy it, and maybe sell a few CDs on the night,” Gibson says, “and maybe get some more gigs out of it later on”.