Song Premiere: Otis Gibbs — “The Darker Side of Me”
Though he’s been making records for more than a decade, Otis Gibbs might be the best unknown songwriter in music today. That’ll all change on August 19, when he releases Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth, an excellent and deeply personal collection of songs that might just be his breakout album. Today we’re proud to premiere a song from that record, “The Darker Side of Me,” a grim tale that is loosely based on stories Gibbs’ hobo friends have told him.
Gibbs is currently touring in the UK (he’ll be back in the States in August to play an album release show at The Station Inn — more tour dates will be announced shortly), but he was kind enough to painstakingly type out his answers to our emailed questions about Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth and his highly entertaining “Thanks for Giving a Damn” podcast on his phone while taking the train from Birmingham to Brighton.
What was the recording process like for Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth?
It was a quick and fun process. Nashville is home to some of the most gifted musicians on the planet. It’s an embarrassment of riches. I consider myself extremely fortunate that these folks are willing to play on my records. The players on this track are Thomm Jutz, Mark Fain, Paul Griffith, Justin Moses and myself. Our days in the studio were about as low drama as it gets. We’d spend about 20 to 30 minutes recording a song and then stand around listening to Mark tell a Bill Monroe story. Then we’d move on to recording a different song for 25 minutes and then stand around while Paul told us about playing with Hank Jr. It felt like hanging out at the barber shop with friends. If memory serves me, we did one run through on a couple of verses of “Darker Side of Me” and then recorded it in one or two takes. The players deserve a ton of praise for the life they breathed into this song. Their playing elevated it in every way.
“Wrong Side of Gallatin” is the album’s lone cover – what drew you to that song?
My partner (Amy Lashley) is a great songwriter and I’ve always loved this song. I had about 25 of my own songs I was considering for this record, but I kept coming back to this song. I think it fits perfectly on this record, so I decided to record it.
What led you to start the “Thanks for Giving a Damn” podcast?
I’ve long been frustrated with the questions asked by most interviewers. Instead of sitting around and complaining about it, I decided I’d try to put something positive out into the world. I wanted to create a show that I’d be happy to be a guest on. A lighthearted show where no one plugs their record or gets asked the same old mundane questions. A show where the host will actually shut up and listen for a change. I’m not a journalist, but I’ve always been a curious person who people seem to open up to. I figured I might as well dive in head first and try not to embarrass myself or bring too much shame onto my family.
Some memorable moments have been hearing Ian Hunter talk about seeing Buddy Holly live in Leicester, Ray Wylie Hubbard hanging out with pro wrestling royalty in the 70s, Todd Snider sharing stories about John Prine’s kindness and Brian Henneman sharing Uncle Tupelo road stories. The audience grew way quicker than I ever could have hoped and my 100th episode will air this fall. A nice side effect of doing my show is I’ve developed a better appreciation of what it’s like to be on the other side of the microphone.
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