ERIC BIBB: Blues’ Global Ambassador

WORDS: Steve Hunt PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

Eric Bibb, arguably the contemporary global citizen of blues and roots music, has a great way of articulating the importance of faith to his music. And while it’s far from proselytising, it’s hard not to be drawn to the simplicity and truth with which Bibb expresses his deep Christian faith.

I mean, who can listen to the song ‘Where the Green Grass Grows’ and not sense a deep-rooted connection to his creator and desire for Bibb for others to be in the band?

“I don’t want to be left behind when the Saints go marching in,” Bibb exclaims during the song. “I wanna feel it when my friends all join the band.”“Yeah, I’m in the band!” says the spritely blues legend whose energy, sophistication and refreshing articulation of his faith belies his 71 years. But certainly not his wisdom.

As is obvious to me in my chat with Bibb ahead of his appearance as one of the headline acts at this year’s Blues on Broadbeach Festival, his desire for love and human harmony is the primary driver of not just his being but his music.

Asked how faith has influenced his song-writing, Bibb responds: “That’s a big question. It’s at the centre of everything,” he says.“It’s difficult to put it into words, but somehow through the music I have understood that there is something that guides, inspires and keeps us all moving in a certain positive direction.

“Despite all the troubles and conflicts in the world there is an overriding goodness that I’ve discovered that you could call God, you could call the big whatever. You could call it The Spirit. “But I’ve discovered this without always putting words to it. I discovered this through my love of music.

“I was fascinated by people, faith singers, gospel singers if you will. Spiritual singers sing with such a power that it’s almost otherworldly. “And I sensed this as a child in other blues musicians. And I got curious. What is it that’s driving these people? What is it that makes them able to be so powerful, and transmit such an amazing feeling of oneness? “And all I can say is, I think music is a divine gift. And I think, coming to faith through music is a journey that many people have made and I’m happy to be one of them.”

Speaking from Stockholm, where he lives with his wife Ulrika Bibb, Bibb’s influences are universal but unashamedly rooted in the origins of the Deep South. How does a blues musician who grew up in New York inspired by southern blues end up in Sweden and how does it reflect and influence his music? “My dad came from Kentucky, my mother came from southwestern New Mexico, southern culture and through the music of these regions, this has become my world,” he says.

“I revel in it. I exalt in it. To me, there is just something unique and empowering about that sound. “As a young man living in Europe, it was an amazing experience because I discovered I was not the only one who was fascinated by this blues culture.

“I met people in Sweden who had record collections to die for. “For all my travels it just makes me appreciate even more where I’m coming from and to discover that people everywhere are attracted to the culture in this music is a wonderful feeling to be kind of an ambassador of it, you know?”

And to Australia, where Bibb will tour in May, he says Australians, too, are naturally rooted in blues through their collective experiences more than they may even realise. “I’m always excited about coming back because it’s one of my favourite places to make music. It just is. There’s something unique about Australia and Australian audiences and music lovers.

“Australia has a very unique history with a lot of twists and turns, and I think that history influences the way people appreciate life. “Hard times are no stranger to Australia. The music that I play comes from hard times, and there’s something universal about this blues music that I think Australians really get – big time!

“Maybe more so than some other groups of people.” After 27 albums (not including compilations), his last, Ridin’ in 2023; and three Grammy nominations, one would forgive Bibb for just wanting to enjoy where the green grass grows.

But he wants everyone to be in the band, and that, he reckons, will keep him going for as long as he’s blessed to.

Bibb will play at Blues on Broadbeach on the Gold Coast from 16-19 May. Visit: