Steve Gibbs writes cinematic music that will uplift even the most weary mind. His music conjures up images of better times and greener grasses. Imagery suits his compositions so well that it is no surprise he has provided the soundtrack for multiple film projects. Driven heavily by piano, Adrift seats the classical structure on a bed of ambient texture augmented by the occasional arrangement of string. Very polished and well engineered, Steve’s music is quite easy to listen to and demands nothing of the listener but to imagine.
Merigold Independent: How long have you been composing music and are you classically trained or self-taught?
Steve Gibbs: I’ve been composing music for the past fifteen years but it wasn’t until 2011 that I began to focus on writing modern classical and ambient music.
I started out with keyboard lessons when I was about five. I carried on with lessons until I was ten, at which point I decided to take up the guitar instead. I’d been having guitar lessons for about a year when I discovered I could play by ear and have continued this way ever since. I learnt the fundamentals of music theory from having lessons but I would say I’m more self-taught.
It’s only within the past few years that I’ve returned to playing the piano and began working on songs that would eventually go onto ‘Adrift’ and ‘In Passing’, a collaborative EP with American composer Cyrus Reynolds.
MI: I noticed your work has been featured on multiple videos, how did you come to work with these filmmakers and what was the experience like?
SG: The majority of the film projects I’ve been involved in came about as a result of my music being heard on SoundCloud, where the filmmaker has then enquired into obtaining a sync license for existing compositions or requested an original score for their project.
I really enjoy the process of composing for film. It changes how you would typically approach songwriting, by following visual cues to determine the structure and flow of the piece. It challenges you to work within certain constraints and most importantly to compliment the emotion shown on screen, being careful not to overpower or sell it short.
It has been an absolute pleasure working with each one of these filmmakers and I feel extremely fortunate to have my music connected to the work of such professional and talented individuals. Having built a good working relationship with these filmmakers it has led to further opportunities to collaborate again on projects.
MI: Is there a concept behind Adrift?
SG: I wouldn’t say I had a particular concept in mind for the release. When writing I will try to hint at a particular mood or feeling I’m trying to convey, without assigning any definitive subject matter to the piece.
What I really like about instrumental music is how it can be left open to interpretation. The meaning one person can get from the music could be completely different to someone else’s, so it then becomes more personal to each listener by forming their own connection to the music.
I occasionally receive emails from listeners who have spoken very openly about the positive impact the music has had on their life and the meaning they have found within it. For me there is no better reason to be a musician than this.
MI: Where do you go to find inspiration? Nature? Books? Or do you find your muse elsewhere?
SG: Other musicians, books, film and photography are all common sources of inspiration for me. Having studied Art & Design and previously worked as an Artworker, I have a strong connection to the visual side of creativity also. I find visuals to be a huge source of inspiration to me. I think this is why I particularly enjoy writing for film, as I appreciate the impact that can be achieved when these two mediums are combined.
MI: Most of the songs have a more joyful sound compared to most ambient and neo-classical works today (Råklipp, for instance.) Were there certain events that cause this album to come across as more uplifting?
SG: With Råklipp in particular, this would be the case as I was trying to depict the unfolding love story between the two main characters when writing for Håvard Fandrem’s short film.
With slower-paced music it can sometimes be difficult for it to not come across as melancholic. I explored the use of ambience as a way to help add warmth to the music. I looked at the use of synth pads, reversed phrases and reel-to-reel tape recording to add subtle textures as a bed for the melodies to be played over.
MI: Do you have a favorite track on the album? Or one that means the most to you?
SG: I’d find it difficult to choose a favourite, as I’m really proud of all of the tracks on ‘Adrift’. I’m particularly pleased with the album’s title track as it incorporates all elements I wanted to explore with this release, and also Råklipp because of what I was able to achieve with a single instrument.
MI: Who are some of your musical influences that inspire your work?
SG: Some of the artists who have a direct influence on my work include Keith Kenniff (Helios/Goldmund), Jon Hopkins, The Album Leaf, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and Hammock.
However, I’m inspired by a variety of artists and genres. Over the past few years I’ve been putting together a series of harmonic mixes on my SoundCloud page, which gives more of an insight into the artists who inspire me.
MI: What pushed you to decide to write the style of music you do? Did you just find a general interest in modern classical or is there something that speaks to regarding this genre?
SG: I’ve always been open to different genres to develop my playing and understanding of music. As I began writing in this style, I felt that this was the most honest reflection of my own personality and something to pursue as an artist. I personally find the piano to be one of the most intimate and expressive instruments and wanted it to be the focal point of my music.
MI: When writing, do you have specific rules you follow? Do you ever place limits on yourself, ie, what instruments you are or aren’t allowed to use?
SG: I never limit myself when writing, I’ll try out as many ideas as I can. When I feel I’ve explored these ideas to their full potential I will then begin to strip it back as much as possible, taking out anything I don’t deem to be essential to the piece.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt and follow as a rule is that simplicity is often much more effective. Once I heard The Album Leaf’s ‘In A Safe Place’ it made me realise how the space left in between the notes are almost as important as the notes themselves.
MI: What are some directions you are considering taking your next album in?
SG: I intend to further develop what I have touched upon so far with ‘Adrift’. I would like to explore the use of electronics further, such as manipulating field recordings to create unique ambient textures. Also, the use of percussion is something I’ve not incorporated into my own music much, so that is a huge area I’m yet to explore.
You may listen to and purchase Adrift here