Historically, upstate New York has not been known for its relationship with bluegrass, with much of the influential Americana sound coming from the Appalachians, and southern style performers. For award-winning bluegrass musicians Eric and Leigh Gibson, known professionally as The Gibson Brothers, however, the region housed the birth of their passion.
"We listened to a lot of different kinds of music growing up on a dairy farm back during the '70s," Eric said. "But there was a country station that played bluegrass all of the time that my dad would tune in. That hooked us."
The Gibson Brothers, Eric and Leigh joined by bass player Mike Barber, fiddler Clayton Campbell and mandolin player Jesse Brock, will perform Saturday at the Gordon Center in Owings Mills, bringing their high-energy style of traditional music to the region.
Eric said the final transition from country fan to bluegrass aficionado came when he began to learn how to play the banjo at age 12.
"Once you start playing banjo, there's really no helping it. You just get pulled into this world," Eric said. "I started playing banjo and Leigh started playing the guitar. We were drawn in together."
Eric and Leigh have been performing together since the late '80s. Over the years they have won a number of awards from bluegrass organizations from their 1998 Emerging Artist of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association to their 2015 win for Vocal Group of the Year from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.
Eric said it's important to him to see future generations embrace the bluegrass sound, keeping this American tradition alive.
"I hope it can survive and thrive," Eric said. "We're just trying to make a living, but it feels good when a young person comes up and is excited to meet you. You're bringing the music to them that our heroes brought to us."
Eric said it's the honesty of bluegrass that draws him to the genre. With bluegrass, he said, there's no hiding behind special effects or other distractions. Everything the audience hears is on stage and coming from the performers themselves.
The brothers have been lucky to work with some of their biggest influences from Earl Scruggs to Bill Monroe, according to Eric. He said he wishes future generations could have the same chance to perform with these giants that he had.
Though they tackle some of the genre's most-loved songs, the majority of the Gibsons' catalog are original songs. Songs range from celebrations of bluegrass history like "They Called it Music," to romantic pieces like "I Found a Church Today." Eric said the collaboration process is one of the joys of being in a band with his family.
"My brother's very clever," Eric said. "I just hold on and try to keep up."
Eric said he and Leigh have always been close, having roomed together as children.
"We ended up being roommates in college, and when we're on the road he's rooming with me too," Eric said. "There are definitely times when we don't see eye-to-eye, but those seem to be a blip on the screen."