QUINTON GIBSON COMES ALIVE AS GUITAR ACE @DARIUSRUCKER
As kids, we often see shiny images that capture our attention. How many times haven’t you been in a store and heard some child on a nearby aisle begging his mom or dad for “just this ONE thing” that will surely change his life? It’s probably 50/50 that child will take home what he wants and even less of a chance that object will truly be life changing. What we don’t recognize in our childhood years is that it’s not the physical object that’s important, it’s what it inspires. If the inspiration is strong enough, it will trigger a spark that can make a dream come alive in the mind of a child. Children can’t envision the path that lay ahead and the preparation it will take to make that “Larger Than Life” dream a reality. Playing air guitar in Star Wars pajamas might feel like the “Rocket Ride” to stardom will be fast and exhilarating. Probably not. What most starry-eyed kids discover, including our future guitar ace, Quinton Gibson, is that to be a rock star you must first become a professional musician. Those that succeed don’t sit around waiting to Get Lucky. The ones who make it to the grand stage get there because they’re always “Working for the Weekend.”
Quinton Gibson plays lead guitar on tour with Darius Rucker, but his first glimpse of that rock star dream happened when he was just eight years old. He grew up in Evansville, Indiana, 465 miles from the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Cleveland, Ohio. He wouldn’t have to travel that far for the genre to have an impact on his young life. On a trip to S.S. Kresge (a department store that would become Kmart) with his grandma, he spotted the KISS ALIVE II double album that germinated this rock star seedling. He said he begged his grandma to buy him that album for his birthday and she did. I’d say either grandma was pretty rad or went on to “Shout It Out Loud” that this would never be played at her house. Quinton went home and made his first guitar out of cardboard so he could play air guitar along with that record, dreaming he was standing in the middle of the stage singing and playing. He didn’t make much progress with his skills this way, but he lived out the dream for at least an hour every day. It wasn’t until the eighth grade that he got his first real guitar and began trying to figure out how to make an “Eruption” of sound come out of it. He said he spent every Saturday afternoon playing music with friends in someone’s basement, but acknowledges the fact that they were not Van Halen. In his words, “ We sucked.” At that young age, Quinton says he didn’t want to spend time practicing, he just wanted to be famous, and saw no correlation between the two.
The catalyst that often turns an average rock star dream into a full blown obsession is attending that first rock concert. Listening to a guitar solo on an album is one thing, seeing it played live on the big stage is a kickstart to a true rockers heart. Quinton’s first rock concert experience was Loverboy and Joan Jett. Still on a concert high, he set about the task of learning one of Loverboy’s hit songs, “Hot Girls In Love,” with an emphasis on the guitar solo. Once he learned the solo, he said he used to stand in the hallway with the front door open and play it loud enough so the neighbors could hear it. Disturbing the peace? Already a rock star in training! Eventually, he took some classical guitar lessons and found himself practicing all the time. With this newfound work ethic, the odds of becoming famous some day were tilting in his favor. At the end of high school, Quinton was still playing guitar with his buddies, but had no real plans to go to college as they did. Over the summer, they talked him into it. He wanted to be with his friends and keep their garage band together, seeing college more as a hangout than a learning experience. As it turned out, he learned a lot. Attending Indiana Wesleyan in Marion, he earned the first classical guitar degree from that school along with a degree in history. He studied guitar under two teachers, one sent from nearby Ball State in Muncie, and one from a Peruvian conservatory who spoke no English. The language of music was their only form of communication. He was accepted for admission to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California, for a program that would enhance his studies, but couldn’t put the pieces together to make that happen. After graduation, he was hired by Indiana Wesleyan as part of the music staff for a year and taught guitar lessons locally, waiting for the right opportunity to pursue a career in music.
In the 90s, the opportunity to move to Nashville presented itself. Quinton was playing in a rock band that had been signed to a Nashville label. As they say, timing is everything, only this time, it was slightly off. Nirvana rose to fame and marginalized the metal scene. With the state of the market, Quinton’s band was quickly dropped by the label. As a result, he started other bands, but was never able to get another record deal. Around the turn of the century, he joined a rock band called Strange Celebrity. They released one album, Remedy, in 2003, under the Warner label. While touring on the weekends, he found production and engineering work to occupy his time during the week. Having a penchant for the creative side of music, Quinton found a likeable niche in producing commercial spots for radio, in addition to producing other artists. After 15 years of touring with bands and dealing with the politics of the music business, it became more of a drain than fun. From the financial side of things, there was more money to be made in being a hired gun playing rotating gigs than in playing solely with his rock band. Making the move would mean switching from the rock and metal he’d known to a genre he knew little about and hadn’t played before…..country, because in 2008, that’s where the work was.
In late 2008, Quinton learned of an audition for a guitar player in Darius Rucker’s band through a friend at Capitol Records. When he called to inquire about the audition, he was told it was a no go. A short time later, they called back and told him to show up. Having played just a little country, he went out and bought a Telecaster to practice on. His previous guitar experience was based entirely on playing Les Pauls and Strats. Country guitar in hand, he learned the songs for the audition. There were a couple dozen guys that auditioned that day and not feeling like he’d done all that well, Quinton returned the guitar. A week later, it had been narrowed down to just six guys, and Quinton was one of the six. He hadn’t given himself much of a chance of being called back, but he’d made the cut and he seized the opportunity. Before the second audition, he reacquired the Telecaster and practiced A LOT. A few days later, he said he was standing in the hallway of a bus in the early morning hours when he got a phone call from Darius’ band leader telling him they’d made their choice. Welcome to the band! This was a pretty big coup for a guy who hadn’t spent much time around country music and had just started learning it for this audition. Quinton said the reason he got the gig was because he’d learned exactly what they wanted and he could sing. That combination proved to be the winning ticket. It was the first gig he’d gotten by audition. All his previous jobs were gotten by word of mouth recommendations.
Quinton Gibson had spent much of his life learning to play rock music on his guitar and performing on stage as he’d dreamed it – a rock star. I imagine him waking up the morning after he got this gig, visions of Ace Frehley and Eddie Van Halen playing on the ceiling, and being smacked with the realization that he was now in a country band. His first assignment would be to learn everything he could about playing country music, which was unlike anything he’d ever played before. After so many years of playing nothing but rock, Quinton said he was ready for the huge challenge of learning something new. Darius and the band were preparing to go out on tour with Brad Paisley in 2009, and for the first six months, our soon to be country guitar ace played all day, every day. He was determined to convince that new Telecaster, I “Only Wanna Be With You.” Very early on, Quinton learned that his new boss was no ordinary headliner and this was not your average country band. Darius wasn’t looking for a traditional country player; he wanted someone with a personality who could own the stage with a guitar solo. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that when he played a solo on a Hootie & The Blowfish song, Darius wanted to hear it like he’d never heard it before. This is not a band that is told to dress in black and blend into the background. Darius wants the best out of himself on stage, and to get that, he encourages his band to play to the point of upstaging him. When everyone on the stage is allowed to give 110%, you’ve just seen a show you’re not likely to forget.
2015 begins the sixth year Quinton has been on tour with Darius Rucker. There have been a lot of highlights in those six years, making countless television appearances, playing to sold out stadiums, and being a part of some very high profile events. Thus far, the largest stadium Quinton has performed in with Darius is Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. One of the shows he’s most proud of is the one they played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. On tour with Rascal Flatts at the time, they were the opening act for the first country show every played on that field with the famous ivy wall – “History In The Making.” Through the years, he’s been able to grow as a performer as their slot on tour has taken them from being an opening act to headlining sold out shows. What he brings to the stage each night is a work in progress, as he continues to hone his skills and his stage presence.
The rock star truth in the 21st century isn’t what it was back in the 80s when Quinton first spied that KISS album. Envisioning himself playing guitar, surrounded by bright lights and a smokey haze, he had to step out onto a stage built on reality in order to fulfill his rock star dream. The miles from Evansville, IN to Nashville, TN, aren’t many, but the journey from unknown to famous isn’t a lackadaisical one. Every mile demands a determination and dedication that has discouraged more than a few rock star dreamers. Quinton would learn very quickly that supporting a dream is a 24/7 endeavor. While he was in Nashville in the early years, he said he worked every job there was at one time or another. He had children to support, and you can’t write a check drawn off the value of a dream. As he worked toward that dream, he came home from touring on the weekends to being a full time father and provider during the week. To make ends meet, he had to learn to balance the weight of his rock star dream against the reality of a music career. Through session, production, and engineering work over the years, he’s been able to keep the dream alive and fulfill his obligations in all aspects of his life.
This year, Quinton will add motivational speaking to the list of things he does between stage appearances. He and fellow Evansville native, drummer Sean Fuller (FGL), are putting together a presentation aimed at Indiana high school students that will include an anti-bullying message as well as a motivational one. It’s a speech I think Quinton Gibson is fully qualified to make. Dreams aren’t easily translated and transformed into a successful life path with accolades, trophies, and a large bank account to honor one’s accomplishments. For Quinton, he learned that becoming famous is a sidebar to success on a larger scale and fulfilling a dream on lasting terms. In the 80s, you could live out a rock star dream riding a high around the notion, “The Kid Is Hot Tonite.” That decade allowed for larger than life rock stars to make a living off the music and their own vanity. Today, that same dream demands that you look past that lyric to the one that follows it, “But where will he be tomorrow?” Quinton Gibson is living his dream of becoming a rock star because he was able to redefine and reconfigure that image in order to release it into the real world. On stage with Darius Rucker, guitar ace in a country band, he’s created a rock star who can play the hell out of a Telecaster. The dream didn’t change, only the direction in which he found it. KISS came alive when they went north to “Detroit Rock City.” Quinton went south from Evansville and discovered he could rock…….like a southbound train.
Visit Quinton’s website: http://www.quintongibson.com/
Visit Darius Rucker’s website for tour info: http://www.dariusrucker.com/shows.html
Grand Ole Opry picture courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.
©2015-nashvillethreesixty.com. All rights reserved.