Young Edinburgh musician talks about overcoming mental health challenges
A Leith-born jazz trumpeter and composer spoke about his journey in the industry so far and what it took for him to release his debut album under his own name.
Sean Gibbs, 28, left Leith at the age of 18 to study at the Birmingham Conservatory before moving to his current home in north London.
The trumpeter has released his new album “When can I see you again?” via Ubuntu Music in August earlier this year.
And to mark the occasion, Sean spoke to Edinburgh Live about how to overcome the mental health challenges associated with being a songwriter and musician, and his journey to become a trumpeter and songwriter.
He also gives advice to young Edinburgh musicians who want to break into the jazz scene.
Of the hurdles he had to overcome, he said: “Mental health can be difficult as a musician because it’s easy to equate your self-esteem with how you see yourself as ‘successful’ in music. your domain. On top of that, work-life balance can also be non-existent at times. I think as I got a little older I realized the importance of even having very small periods of time away from it all.
“But in saying that, the musician community is generally so welcoming, and it’s important to see the big picture. The euphoric effects that you can feel when things come together and you really connect with your fellow musicians and the audience, is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.
The importance of human relationships in overcoming the mental health issues of being a musician is evident when Sean discusses the inspiration behind his new album and how he composed most of the music in the “depths”. the deepest and darkest locks! “
He said: “My new album, ‘When can I see you again?’, Is largely about celebrating the human bonds that I had sometimes taken for granted, many of which were sorely missed during the pandemic.
“Musically, he is rooted in the tradition of jazz, with an emphasis on lyrical melodies, hearty grooves and a deep connection to the blues. Exciting, this is my first album which is available on vinyl, a format that I have always loved.
“I really like playing with the other four musicians on the album, so I hope I have the opportunity to play more shows with them. We had a really happy and affirming album launch in August at the Vortex Jazz Club in London, and I’m working on planning a UK tour for next May. The album was broadcast widely on the radio and was added to some important playlists, so I hope to reach new audiences.
“Having written the music with the specific four players in mind, we didn’t need a lot of rehearsal time so we were able to get into the studio right away. We recorded it over two days, all in the same room without any editing. I like this way of working because you get a really honest reflection of the sound of the band and it lends itself to more real interaction between the musicians. I find that doing excessive takes / overdubbing can really take the heart of things, at least in the jazz idiom.
“The album features an array of talent, including Riley Stone-Lonergan on tenor saxophone, Rob Brockway on piano, Calum Gourlay on bass and Jay Davis on drums.”
Sean notes that his family weren’t particularly talented musically, but that his father often played a variety of genres that inspired him to pursue music from a young age.
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On how he got involved in the genre, he said: “I have always really loved music and I remember when I was young being obsessed with everything that was going on in music. car or around the house. My dad had a pretty eclectic mix of CDs and cassettes, so I was happy to listen to all kinds of stuff.
“There are no musicians in my immediate family, but hearing all the music being played was enough to motivate me at first.
“I started taking piano lessons when I was eight or nine, then started playing the trumpet in school at 11 thanks to the free brass lessons that started being offered. . I guess I adopted him quite naturally, but I certainly wasn’t a prodigy to begin with. I just loved it so I was happy to put in the hours of training.
“After I started playing the trumpet, I started paying more attention to some of the jazz albums that had jazz albums that my dad listened to at home. Lee Morgan in particular blew me away because his playing was so touching and exciting. I got totally hooked from there. The main characteristic that sets jazz apart from other genres is the emphasis on improvisation, which allows musicians’ creativity to truly shine. I am also naturally drawn to music that comes from the blues.
“When I was 16, I auditioned successfully for the Edinburgh City School of Music. I guess that’s when I made the decision to pursue my career in music. The last two years at school have helped me prepare for life in a conservatory and beyond for the profession.
After Sean discovered Lee Morgan, he began to research other jazz trumpet greats such as Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, and Clark Terry.
And throughout his teenage years, he says he had many inspiring teachers who helped him along the jazz path, including Gabriel Latchin, Martin Kershaw and David Patrick.
But at the same time, Sean says the experience and contacts gained playing with the Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra and the Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble as well as the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra (TSYJO) and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland ( NYJOS) were essential for making friends and meeting future collaborators.
He said, “NYJOS allowed me to hone my skills over a week-long course with esteemed tutors and guest soloists. TSYJO was more of a glimpse into professional life, where we had to read music at a high level and perform with very little rehearsal time. It was an invaluable baptism by fire and allowed me to meet Tommy Smith, who I now work with as a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.
On what it takes to be successful in the industry and what to expect, he said, “It mostly comes down to hard work on your instrument and your musicality in general. It takes a lot of study on the jazz lineage and also requires you to become an active member of your local scene. Going to music college can certainly be helpful, but not absolutely necessary.
“You probably don’t have to think about it too much, it’s just about being good at your craft and being easy to work with.
“I was fortunate in 2019 to perform with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra at Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo and Lincoln Center in New York. Such experiences truly sound like a dream come true and can often make life as a musician difficult. Likewise, I have had incredibly rewarding concerts in much smaller venues. For me, the thrill mostly comes from connecting with my fellow musicians and with audiences, regardless of their size.
“We make our money mainly from ticket sales, but some of the most important jazz concerts in the UK are subsidized by public funds. Although I also teach some private students and sometimes play in more commercial settings for a living.
Sean also plays as a sideman in ensembles such as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Calum Gourlay Big Band and the Young Pilgrims.
To listen to his album, simply search for “Sean Gibbs: When I See You Again?” or follow this link.
If anyone would like to purchase a CD or vinyl, please visit: seangibbs.bandcamp.com.