The Pea Pickin’ Hearts: The Interview
The Pea Pickin’ Hearts are an Appalachian country music duo based in Gatlinburg, TN. Happily married, Jon Ives and Rachel Gibson live and work in Gatlinburg, TN while raising their only child Oscar. Here’s is a short bio on them both excerpted from a recent interview by Publicist Toni Turbeville.
Are you originally from the Tennessee hills?
“No–far from it. I was born in Wakesha, Wisconsin then moved to Phoenix, Arizona then to Louisville, Kentucky and then to Lexington, South Carolina–only to land in Gatlinburg, Tennesse in the Spring of 2007.
“My grandmother-in-law (who currently lives in Georgia) considers me a Yankee, but she also considers any man, woman or child that was not born in the great states of Virginia or Tennessee a Yankee.”
What are your earliest musical memories?
My parents were big country music fans, and I clearly remember hearing Waylon and Willie from my early years, but it was my older brother’s rock ‘n’ roll that held my fascination for the middle decades–Cheap Trick, ACDC, KISS, and Rush, of course.
You’re a classically trained percussionist, right?
I started out in the school band playing drums because it was as close to a rock ‘n’ roll instrument as I could get in school. Eventually, I ended up with a music scholarship to USC, the principal timpanist position with the SC Philharmonic, then a public school music director before quitting it all to pursue Rock ‘N’ Roll.
I spent years in and out of rock bands, most notably the Tinbenders, touring the country from Massachusetts to Alabama before the band split up to have kids and cars and careers. My wife was our booking agent, and she grew up in Georgia which, according to her, requires some level of devotion to country. So through my early exposure and then the later revisitation, I found something I loved.
And what is that “something” you love about Country Music?
I love the musicianship, the harmonies, the “guts” of country music. Country music studio musicians and performers are amongst the best in the world and that appeals to the Rush-loving kid in me. But that musicianship is coupled with a simplicity of beautiful harmonies and a great turn of phrase that appeals to me now. It is a perfect marriage. It is the sound I want to produce: simple, happy and well-crafted.
And why Rachel–I mean, as a singing partner?
Our lives together are musical. We’ve always sung together in our home and in a previous band–to our child. After a decade, I know where she’s going vocally before she gets there. It is a bond between us. She’s a great writer. And, well, she does do a mean Patsy Cline impression.
Jon already told us you were from Georgia; what brought you to Tennessee?
Actually, I was born in Florida but spent most of my childhood in Georgia and South Carolina. We visited a number of towns when we decided to move, and Gatlinburg won.
I know that it sounds incredibly hokey, but the Great Smoky Mountains are breath-taking. As a family, we are just three of the hundreds of folks that came to visit the Smokies and just never left.
What are your earliest musical memories?
The first albums I remember playing were Elvis, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson. I played those albums over and over at my grandmother’s house until I knew every word to every song. And then, there was the Saturday morning ritual with my great-aunt Maggie B. Most Saturdays we would pile into her convertible yellow Dodge Dart with the leopard-print seat covers and go to the local record shop. We’d buy the top 10 singles on 45s for that week then go back to her house and dance our way through them in the middle of the livingroom.
Do you have any formal music training?
I learned to sing harmonies in choirs at both church and school then studied a little opera. But I learned most of what I know about country music from Patsy Cline–her music, I mean. I love her stylization. Her tone is still impossible to replicate. I’ve never heard anyone that could convey heart and heartache quite like that.
Well, it wasn’t just Patsy, but I confess to loving her best. Dolly Parton makes my heart sing; I still get “Jolene” stuck in my head from time to time. I wanted to sing country because it is what I know.
I love rock ‘n’ roll, and most of the music I own would be considered alternative rock. However, when I’m completely honest, I have to admit…my CD case has an entire Dwight Yoakam section–really. That’s telling enough.
Where do you see the Pea Pickin’ Hearts going? And where did the name come from?
“Pea Pickin’ Hearts” is a reference to none other than Tennessee Ernie Ford’s famous line “Bless your pea pickin’ heart.” I have a lot of odd connections to Ernie. My mother was judged Sophomore Beauty by Tennessee Ernie Ford in High School. Jon, in costume looks like a young Ernie, and he does the best cover of “Sixteen Tons” I’ve ever heard. It is a tribute to my history with Jon and our adopted Tennessee home.
As for where we’re going…we just want to produce music that makes us proud. I’m an English Composition writer that has been embroiled in visual arts for so long that I am enjoying using that part of my brain again. Song writing makes me happy. Singing with Jon makes me happier. The rest of it will be what it will be.
What is the next big project for the Pea Pickin’ Hearts?
We’re working on a CD that should be available by late Summer of 2010. We’re working hard on writing the songs, and we’ll be trying a few of them out in town…like at the Cabin Fever Singer/Songwriter series at the Hardrock Gatlinburg. If people want to keep track of us, they can subscribe to our blog by email.
–Excerpted from an interview
conducted on January 10, 2010
by Publicist Toni Turbeville