The Woman Behind The Chicks

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Susan Gibson’s name may not be familiar to you, but if you are a country fan, you will almost certainly know one of her songs.

“Wide Open Spaces,” recorded by top country band The Dixie Chicks, has received numerous awards and accolades, including the 1999 Country Music Association’s Single of the Year and Warner ‘Bros Radio ,Music Award for Country Song, of the Year. In addition, it is reckoned to be one of the best-selling country songs ever.

Now Gibson has released a solo CD of her own, entitled “Chin Up,” and is embarking on a West Coast tour. to promote it, while at the same time raising awareness for a national organization dedicated to locating missing children and adults.

Gibson was born in Fridleg Minn., but grew up in Amarillo, Texas. While in high school, she entered a talent contest and performed Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy”for her classmates. The experience got her hooked on performing, and she began learning songs by her favorite artists, including Vega and Shawn Colvin. Eventually she started writing her own material.

In the early 1990s, at Forest Ranger School in Missoula, Mont., Gibson discovered open-mic nights and graduated from that circuit to playing her own solo shows. In 1995, she joined The Groobees, which became a favorite on Americana radio stations. The band toured widely and released two CDs before calling it quits in May 2001 due to members’ family commitments.

The break-up of the Groobees and the success of “Wide Open Spaces” combined to inspire Gibson to pursue her solo career. The result is “Chin Up,” a collection of 14 new self-penned songs. Gibson’s songs are unpretentious and well-written and could appeal equally to pop audiences as well as country music lovers.

Her lyrics, often autobiographical in their nature, are intelligent and display her wry sense of humor. She is not afraid to poke fun at herself and her experiences.

“I like humor, and I like hearing people laugh,” she says, “even if they are laughing at me.”

The album’s production is clean and uncluttered and brings out the strength of Gibson’s writing. Gibson is backed on the album by some top-notch musicians, including guitarist Michael OConnor and fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore, who are both joining her on the current tour.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, August 15, 2002

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