On 'Greenfields,' Barry Gibb Takes The Bee Gees' Legacy To Nashville Though best known for his disco days, the last living Gibb brother is a lifelong country fan. His new album reimagines the Bee Gees' catalog as duets with some of Nashville's biggest stars.
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On 'Greenfields,' Barry Gibb Takes The Bee Gees' Legacy To Nashville

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On 'Greenfields,' Barry Gibb Takes The Bee Gees' Legacy To Nashville

On 'Greenfields,' Barry Gibb Takes The Bee Gees' Legacy To Nashville

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(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK, let's do this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

BEE GEES: (Singing) Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time to talk.

MARTIN: Man, I love the Bee Gees. The singer here, of course, is Barry Gibb, with his brothers Robin and Maurice. In their more than four decades of music, they wrote almost too many hits to count. But for many of us, there is nothing more Bee Gees than this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

BEE GEES: (Singing) Stayin' alive.

MARTIN: Today, Barry Gibb is 74. He's a solo artist and the last living Gibb brother. And if you associate him with disco, his new record might surprise you. Barry Gibb has gone country. His album is a collection of Bee Gees songs reworked as duets with some of the biggest stars in Nashville. Here's him singing with Dolly Parton.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORDS")

BARRY GIBB AND DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) You think that I don't even mean a single word I say.

MARTIN: Gibb and his family emigrated from the U.K. to Australia when he and his brothers were kids. And turns out this Australian pop star is a lifelong country music fan.

GIBB AND PARTON: Oh, yeah, since I was about 9 or 10 years old, it was really in my system, and it never left. So bluegrass music and country music is really what I care about more than anything else.

MARTIN: Really?

BARRY GIBB: Yeah. Once all my brothers were no longer with me, I was able to focus on, well, what's my passion?

MARTIN: We found this video of you as a teenager with your brothers performing what would be an early Bee Gees single, "The Battle Of the Blue And Grey."

GIBB: That's right.

MARTIN: This is on Australian TV. It's amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEE GEES: (Singing) Now, Stonewall Jackson stepped right up, and then he said to me - he said, the battle's getting rough, son. Guess we better flee.

GIBB: Yeah, it's insane.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But this is a song...

GIBB: It's the meanderings of a backward child (laughter).

MARTIN: Right. You wrote this song, right?

GIBB: Yeah.

MARTIN: And it's about the American Civil War. Can you explain?

GIBB: I know. Go figure - 'cause if I try to remember writing it, I don't, you know? Maybe that first year in Australia, country-western music was really all you heard. And it was called rock 'n' roll. So it just grew from that.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: In getting ready for this interview, I found examples of your work that classified as country songs and learned about some major country hits I didn't even know that you had written. How is it that you have never recorded a country album of your own until now?

GIBB: I didn't have that sense of belonging. You know how it is in Nashville. It's a pretty closed circle, if you like. And it's a hard place to penetrate, even if you love the music, and you want to be there.

MARTIN: That's a little crazy for me to think about. I mean, you're Barry Gibb.

GIBB: No (laughter).

MARTIN: You're one of the Bee Gees. How could you feel out of place anywhere?

GIBB: Oh, of course you do. It's the same for everybody. If you walk into some - another realm of music, you have to work pretty hard to be accepted.

MARTIN: But when his son introduced him to the music of country star Chris Stapleton, Barry Gibb decided to take a chance. He reached out to Stapleton's producer, Dave Cobb, about maybe making a record together. Gibb didn't know what to expect, but turns out Cobb was a huge Bee Gees fan.

GIBB: Dave said he wanted to do it. Dave then came here to Miami. And we sat and listened to tracks that might appeal to him that had never been recorded.

MARTIN: Cobb and Gibb picked two of them for the album, including this one featuring Jason Isbell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORDS OF A FOOL")

BARRY GIBB AND JASON ISBELL: (Singing) But all hope is gone if you don't act on the words of a fool.

GIBB: (Singing) Now, times may be tough.

I didn't go into this thinking they were going to be literally duets. I was hoping to get these country stars to just sing one of our songs, you know?

MARTIN: Oh, you didn't think you were going to sing along.

GIBB: I thought maybe a cameo, or maybe I'd pop in here or there. And they will tell you I'm an angler (ph). I don't have to be involved. I won't be, you know? So - but he caught me (laughter).

MARTIN: You did a couple of songs from the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack on this record.

GIBB: "How Deep Is Your Love?" Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE?")

BARRY GIBB AND LITTLE BIG TOWN: (Singing) How deep is your love? How deep is your love? I really need to learn 'cause we're living in a word of fools.

MARTIN: Can I ask you to think about the evolution of your music and the music you made with your brothers and its resonance here in this country in particular? I mean, people who know your story...

GIBB: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Know that there was a massive backlash to the music that you made during the disco era.

GIBB: Yeah, but there was a massive backlash against that genre.

MARTIN: Right.

GIBB: And I think that was a mistake on the part of the industry. There was something very beautiful and summery and rhythmic about all of that music in the late '70s. And for the life of me, I have no idea why anyone thought it should be censored, which it was, you know? - that style, that style. But it was a project, a bit like making a film. You become a character, and you try to fit in with the soundtrack and the film and John Travolta. You just - it becomes a project. After that, you will try something else. But reinventing yourself is to be the greatest fun of all.

(SOUNDBITE OF BARRY GIBB SONG, "BUTTERFLY")

MARTIN: On this album, are there specific songs that you attach to specific memories of your brothers?

GIBB: Oh, yeah - "Butterfly."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUTTERFLY")

BARRY GIBB, DAVID RAWLINGS AND GILLIAN WELCH: (Singing) Green fields where we used to wander.

GIBB: But I remember also recording Butterfly in 1966. It was one of the songs that we loved that nobody really heard. So that was a magic moment.

MARTIN: But I guess I'm wondering about the loss you must have for, literally, the sound of your brother's voices when you're singing a three-part harmony.

GIBB: Yeah.

MARTIN: It's like you can feel the vibrations of those other people in your body, in your head. It's...

GIBB: Yeah.

MARTIN: It becomes part of your own instrument.

GIBB: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I wonder if you miss that.

GIBB: Of course I do. Of course I do. We spent for over 40 years 'round one microphone. So how do you ever get past that? You don't. But if I get the opportunity to be on stage, as far as I can tell, they're right there with me. I can still smell the cologne that Maurice used. You know, when you're on a microphone, there are things you just never forget.

MARTIN: But I imagine it's so cool to have these bright talents in Nashville taking those songs that you made with your brothers and giving them this new life, maybe a new audience.

GIBB: That's the mission for me. And it's not about me. It's not about the Bee Gees. It's just about those songs and how special they are to me. I want people to go on remembering them. And this was a way to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUTTERFLY")

GIBB, RAWLINGS AND WELCH: (Singing) Butterfly, yeah.

MARTIN: Well, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.

GIBB: Thank you, darling. It was great.

MARTIN: Barry Gibb's new album is called "Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers' Songbook (Vol. 1)"

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