If there’s ever a Nashville edition of the famed “Survivor” television series, the smart bet would likely be on multi-talented artist Andy Gibson to bring home the big money. Based on a lifelong work ethic and incredible resumé of talents, skills and experience, Andy certainly has what it takes to survive long after others have been voted off the proverbial Music City Island. And we’re not just talking music here.
Sure, Andy co-wrote one of the biggest hits in recent memory with his powerful tune “Don’t You Want To Stay,” the multi-week #1 country hit for Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson that the duo performed on the last year’s CMA Awards to a standing ovation. And he’s also currently in the studio with legendary producer James Stroud finishing up his own debut album of killer songs, including the infectious first single and video, “Wanna Make You Love Me.”
But Andy’s talents don’t end there. He’s a guy who more than knows his way around a tool shed. He can do everything from hanging drywall and trim carpentry to installing and maintaining a heating and air conditioning system. He’s worked professionally as a freelance graphic designer, photographer, videographer, deck hand, pizza maker and studio engineer. And, since moving to Nashville five years ago, he’s been a demo singer and performed in Spanish restaurants, singing everything from classic country and his own original tunes to traditional Spanish songs… in Spanish.
So where does Andy get his incredible drive and work ethic? From the same place he gets his passion and talent for music—his parents, John and Debbie Gibson (the original Debbie Gibson, Andy’s quick to point out). The fourth of five children, Andy was born September 15, 1981 in Spokane, Washington. The family moved to the San Francisco area when Andy was very young, living there until moving outside Las Vegas when Andy was nine.
Throughout much of Andy’s childhood, the Gibson family worked together on projects—buying old houses, gutting them, fixing them up and reselling them. Andy’s first job was at age five—pulling nails out of boards. “That’s just how we grew up,” he remembers. “We didn’t watch television. We didn’t even have cable. We’re all just really hard workers and we’re happiest when we’re working.”
Andy also got an early start on his musical journey and comes by his love of music honestly. His dad, a beach-loving surfer, was just fourteen when he wrote the theme song for cult classic surfing film Endless Summer, and later earned a deal with RCA Records. So there was always music around the Gibson household—everything from his dad’s music to records by The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, The Ventures and pretty much everything from Motown. True to his hands-on style, five-year-old Andy built his first guitar—out of cigar boxes and rubber bands.
When he was nine, his parents bought him his first real guitar, a Fender Stratocaster. By the time he was twelve, Andy and some buddies put together a band called Missing In Action. By then, he’d already started writing his own songs, recording them on an old multi-track recorder his dad had given him. But it was a local Battle Of The Bands that confirmed to Andy that not only did he love making music but that he might just be pretty good at it.
“I was always a shy kid growing up. So when I got onstage during that first performance, people were shocked because I was singing lead and playing lead guitar,” Andy remembers with an affable smile. “When I saw people’s reactions, I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something here.’ That was the first time when I had that spark.”
After busting his tail taking summer sessions and online classes, Andy graduated high school after his sophomore year. But he sensed there was no future for him and his music in Las Vegas. So Andy checked out Nashville—and loved it. “I moved to Nashville and into a little basement apartment,” Andy recalls. “It was just concrete and bare walls—and lots of spiders! To make the rent and be able to eat, I got a job at Texas Roadhouse waiting tables at night and worked maintenance at Babies-R-Us starting at 4:30am.”
After work, Andy would tirelessly knock on doors and take demos around Music Row. Ironically, his big break finally came as a result of his ability to speak Spanish, a skill he’d honed through school programs in Las Vegas. “I knew a lot of Spanish songs and got three different gigs in Mexican restaurants around town,” he remembers. “ John Rich heard me at this place called Las Cazuelas. He liked my songs and signed me to write for his publishing company. I really focused on my writing and turned in about 150 songs the first year.”
None would be bigger than “Don’t You Want to Stay,” which he wrote with Paul Jenkins and Jason Sellers.
“I still don’t have cable, so I couldn’t watch the CMA Awards at home,” Andy says of the night Aldean and Clarkson performed the song to a massive television audience. “Thankfully, I have some friends who invited me over to see the show. Jason and Kelly sounded so amazing. That song was written over two years ago and it was pitched and turned down a lot, so it was really rewarding to have it do as well as it did. It’s just overwhelming to me to hear people singing my song. Whether you’ve reached one person or 100 million people, it’s a satisfaction you can’t get with anything else.”
Armed with a bevy of great new songs like “Wanna Make You Love Me,” “Summer Back,” “Walk Away” and “Believe In Me” for his forthcoming debut album, Andy will likely have to get used to hearing a lot more of his songs sung back to him. When that happens, it will be a tribute not just to his incredible musical gifts, but to the work ethic that has never let him be satisfied with the status quo.
“I do what I do because I love music,” he says. “I’ve got to be working on something, making something better. And if you’re someone who wants to work and will work, you can survive. You’ll find a way.”