Barry Gibb and Jason Isbell may seem like an unlikely pair, but the Bee Gees legend has been always been a “freak” on old country music. “After the Bee Gees no longer existed, I drifted into my own bliss, which is this kind of music,” he says in the our new Musicians on Musicians issue.
Gibb and Isbell recorded “Words of a Fool,” an unreleased solo Gibb track from 1986. It appears on Gibb’s upcoming album Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1, out next month. The album features collaborations with several country musicians that include Dolly Parton, Brandi Carlile, Alison Krauss, and more.
“I was nervous, Barry,” Isbell tells Gibb of their duet. “I think you got your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame just a couple months after I was born. So I’ve known about your music my whole life.”
Gibb and Isbell each shared stories about writing music for film: the Bee Gees famously wrote the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, while Isbell contributed “Maybe It’s Time” to 2018’s A Star Is Born. “Dave [Cobb] came to me and said, ‘I need you to write a song for this character, he needs a hit,’” Isbell recalls. “I said, ‘I’ve never written a hit before in my life, you’ve come to the wrong guy.’ But then he explained the character and it wasn’t exactly the same as the Streisand/Kristofferson version, it was a little different. This guy was more of a folk singer.”
Gibb also touched on the disco backlash following the massive success of Fever. “I never understood it,” he says. “I’ve always had a problem criticizing anything that was a Number One record. Then people started putting us down, and I couldn’t say that about any artist that had six Number One records in a row.”
Elsewhere in the video, they also spoke about the importance of family. “I think that’s the thing that impresses me about you the most: the fact that you are so committed to being a good human being,” Isbell tells Gibb. “You have a family you’re close to, and you’ve not allowed your abilities to give you an excuse to act like a bad person. I appreciate that.”
Gibb lends a word of advice to Isbell: “You learn as you go. My feet never really left the ground. Once you’ve had a couple of failures, you realize that failure is always just around the corner. Success is a bit like walking on a sponge. You start to sink. Nothing lasts, no matter what you do. It doesn’t matter who you are. So you prepare yourself for the time when it’s fine to just watch TV or read. But I’m at that point in life where I’d love to be able to walk on another stage.”