Music News & Reviews

The Gibson Brothers are music veterans, but playing a Christmas show can make them nervous

The Gibson Brothers Christmas Show is Dec. 1 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.
The Gibson Brothers Christmas Show is Dec. 1 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Lisa Carbone

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Christmas always came early to the Gibson home.

“Our father was a very impatient man,” says Eric Gibson. “That benefited us because he didn’t make us wait until Christmas morning to open our gifts. That was exciting. We thought our dad and mom were the coolest. But it’s hard to get to sleep after you open your presents.”

If the Gibson family Christmas was different, so is the music of the award-winning Gibson Brothers bluegrass band. Eric Gibson and his brother Leigh will join the rest of the Gibson Brothers band for a Christmas concert Dec. 1 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

The Gibsons were born and raised on a dairy farm in Upstate New York, closer to the Canadian border than the Mason-Dixon Line. Their music is original and intimate and informed by the experiences of siblings raised in a close family living on and working the land.

They’ve been fan favorites since their debut some 20 years ago, and the International Bluegrass Music Association has awarded the band two coveted Entertainer of the Year awards. They’ve also been recognized for their songwriting. In September, they won an IBMA award for gospel songwriting with “I Found a Church Today.” And they’ve won songwriting awards for “They Called It Music” (written by Eric Gibson and Joe Newberry) and Newberry’s “Singing as We Rise.” (Newberry and April Verch will open the Carrboro show.)

Despite their success, the Gibson Brothers remain humble and true to their fans.

“When we first started, we never dreamed of winning awards,” Gibson says. “Then you start winning them, and I’m not going to say you expect them, but you really like that to continue. You get spoiled.”

For the Gibsons, Christmas was always a family affair with evening worship, hymns and fellowship.

“Mom and Leigh and my sister (Erin) would go to church, and we’d have a candlelight Christmas Eve service,” Eric recalls. “It was a warm community feeling. Dad would say, ‘I’m going to visit so-and-so.’ And somehow, Santa would come while he was away. So we’d come home from church and presents would be under the tree.”

Four years ago, the Gibson Brothers began the tradition of sharing the holiday spirit with their Christmas show. The program features the entire award-winning band performing such Christmas favorites as “Away in the Manger,” “O Holy Night,” “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” along with seasonal songs from Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

No matter how often Gibson has sung these tunes – from childhood until now – he says the Christmas show is a different kind of performance.

“I’ll tell you the truth, it’s more pressure for me than anything we do all year,” he says. “Because the other stuff we’ve done so many times on the road. With these (Christmas) songs, you have to get it together. The audience knows the words. If you mess up the words on your own songs, they don’t know.”

While the band would like the awards and accolades to continue, Eric Gibson is realistic as he is grateful for the band’s success.

“It can’t go on forever,” he says. “Other people come along and it’s their turn. But we’ve been treated well by the IBMA. Those awards do feel good. Even being nominated is a neat thing when you think of all the bands out there trying to do this. To be in the final five of any category is an honor.”

Looking ahead to 2018, the Gibson Brothers will spend more time on the road than at home. That, says Eric Gibson, is the way it should be.

“It looks like it will be the best year yet for booking,” he says. “When I’m working, I’m happy. I love being home, but I love the kind of work we do.”


What: Gibson Brothers Christmas Show

Where: ArtsCenter

When: Dec. 1, 8 p.m.

Cost: $37 Public

Information: or (919) 929-2787