Andrea Gibson strings together poetry over instrumental music, their spoken word encapsulating personal experiences and close observations. It's an art form that would frighten most — to strip away the melodic shadow of lyrics and instruments. There's a frankness when words are spoken rather than sung.
Whatever the story happens to be, Gibson's rhythmic poetry is rooted in complete awareness, evoking a sincerity that champions hard topics and invites listeners to remain open. It's not something that's done easily, yet Gibson's cool and collected demeanor compliments how words are punctuated. Most of all, there's an ease in hearing the artist's stories unfold, it's a feeling akin to catching up with an old friend.
When we sat down to chat with Gibson before they took the stage at Wonder Ballroom that's exactly how it felt — as though we were reuniting with that one friend who always passes along sage advice. With two newly released projects, a book of poetry titled Take Me with You and sixth album Hey Galaxy, the conversation landscape was large and wide. Gibson began by reflecting on the impact of their work thus far, specifically with their recent publication and album release.
"I wanted both projects to spark compassion in people and self-love. When we have tenderness toward ourselves I think that we approach the world in a much kinder way. I've found it for myself, whenever I'm in a place of not liking or not celebrating who I am, it's really difficult to feel like I have a lot to offer the world. So both projects are sort of weaving back and forth to those places."
Although mid tour, Gibson projects a balanced energy when speaking about the journey thus far; it's clear they're on an intentional path to spread not only awareness but positivity in an otherwise rocky societal climate. "Spoken word is essentially a movement at this point. You don’t go to any sort of poetry slam these days and not hear political, social justice poems," says Gibson. "And so it’s just that people waking up, speaking — even if you’re just listening, it’s so much for your soul to be witnessing other people’s stories."
This mindfulness of both 'the good' and 'the bad' entails responsibility to remain aware while still setting aside time for one's own mental health — it's the balance act of wholeheartedly caring but ensuring emotional energy is expended wisely.
In Gibson's world, self-care entails patience, feeding and nurturing ourselves with art. As an observer, this thought process makes so much sense — imagine internalizing every piece of negativity without a channel to digress it, it would be disastrous and counterproductive even. With this approach, each spoken word piece feels like it's progress being made, it's channeling hardship into something more palatable.
"The only thing we have control over in this life is where we put our attention," Gibson muses. With this, Gibson's attention pours into hard-hitting subject matters like love, identity, political issues — their thoughtfully crafted stories are relatable, intimate, and refreshingly humorous. But like any human being, there comes a time to recharge and that time can sneak up much more quickly when on tour.
Toward the end of our conversation we can hear opener and soul-singer, Chastity Brown, warming up her vocals in the other room. Gibson pauses to take in the reverberating music, commenting on the soothing effect music has on them especially after a hectic day. It's clear how much music plays a key role in all aspects of Gibson's life. "I'm so rhythm focused and so sound focused," says Gibson. "Just having more people on tour, having access and the ability to collaborate with different musicians is really fun for me. "
While Gibson's work continues to shed light on the more challenging topics, they remain rooted in compassion and love. "What is life without love?" Gibson laughs. "If I had my way I would only ever write love poems."
Andrea Gibson is currently on tour — find tour dates/cities here.