JPR Live Session: Laura Gibson
Laura Gibson's new album Goners was released in October. It found its name in the first line she wrote in the bleak beginning of 2017: If we’re already goners, why wait any longer, for something to crack open. That line became a lyric in the title track. It also became a sort of mantra. “I’d known for a long time that I wanted to make a record about grief. In some ways, every song I’ve ever written has something to do with grief. This time around, I felt compelled to stare into the abyss. Goners seemed an apt title because it speaks of both the future and the past. The word is used for two types of people: those who lose themselves in the ones they love, and those whose deaths are imminent.”
Much of Goners explores the loss of her father as a teenager, and her wrestling with the decision of whether or not to a parent herself. “My days are charged. Potential future grief forces me to reckon with past grief. These were two points on a map of grief. I wanted to explore the territory between them.” It is Gibson’s best record, and also her strangest. There are hauntings and transformation, odd birds and harbingers. Women become wolves, men metamorphose into machines, ghost-children wave in the rearview mirror, a scar becomes a vessel for memory. Her lyrics are populated with sharp objects: a needle, a thistle, a sickle, a scythe, claws and animal teeth. “I wanted the songs to feel like fables, to unfold with dream logic.”
Goners marks the first record Gibson made after completing a MFA in writing, and her language has never felt more alive, her storytelling sharper, her imagination looser. Despite its darkness, she has succeeded in making a work of radical hope. Gibson co-produced Goners with engineer and friend John Askew, with whom she’d also collaborated on her 2016 album, Empire Builder, in his Portland, OR, studio. The songs began as simple demos, but Gibson kept returning to the studio to tinker, until she realized these demos had become a record.