From the time musician Eric Bibb was just a youngster, it became apparent a musical career would become his destiny.
“I would agree,” said Bibb in a phone interview from Sweden, where he lives. “I think I was on a mission from early on and I chose according to that mission. I do feel very fortunate, blessed to have been in the middle of such an amazingly creative location and time when I was growing up, because it had a far-reaching influence on me.”
On Aug. 29 and 30, Bibb returns to The Dream Cafe, where he’s bringing his folk and gospel-infused acoustic blues and country sounds.
When one learns of Bibb’s childhood, it’s easy to understand why, even though he was a youngster, music became a lens through which he would express himself as well as n art form which would shape his world views.
Bibb’s father, Leon, was a musical theatre singer, who made a name for himself as part of the 1960s New York folk scene; his uncle was jazz pianist and composer John Lewis, of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Family friends included Pete Seeger, and actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson, Bibb’s godfather.
At age seven, Bibb was given his first steel-string acoustic guitar, and growing up, he was surrounded by talent. He recalled a childhood conversation with Bob Dylan, who, on the subject of guitar playing, advised the 11-year-old to, “Keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff.”
Bibb’s first professional gig came at the end of the 1960s when he was 16. He became one of the studio musicians for his dad’s TV show, a talent program called Someone New based in New York City.
“I remember a nine-year-old Yo-Yo Ma coming on that show,” he said.
Although he recalls feeling well removed from his comfort zone on the show, he learned by doing and from listening and talking to the other musicians.
“What it did was give me a real sense of what is possible when you apply yourself,” said Bibb. “They just encouraged me and gave me a taste for what it’s like to be in the limelight. I seemed to enjoy it enough to pursue it.”
At age 18, he left the United States and assumed a troubadour-like existence, busking and living in parts of Europe. He’s remained in Sweden for most of his adult life and has also taken up residence in England, Finland and France.
He’s gone on to play shows throughout Europe, Australia, Africa, Japan, Thailand and Canada. Through his travels he’s played to small and large audiences at intimate shows and at grand festivals, and has been exposed to a variety of musical cultures.
He’s also experienced racism and prejudice attitudes.
“When I first came to Scandinavia in the 1970s, what I experienced most was a population that was curious about me, because there were not many people who looked like me, where I settled, which was in Stockholm,” he said.
As immigration to Scandinavia from all parts of the world intensified while Bibb was there, he noticed a backlash from the racial changes that were occurring.
“People aren’t prepared for so much change,” he said. “Ideas that are below the surface come to the forefront — racial ideas — but I can tell you this, mostly what I’ve been focusing on in my travels and my living abroad, when it comes to the question of culture and racism, is essentially how imperative it is for the United States of America to really examine its history and its own mindset as a collective. “I’m finding it intensively disturbing what has not happened in terms of progress in the last 40 years.”
Bibb pointed out how racial prejudice has expressed itself, either with brutal acts against African-American people or a general lack of awareness of American history.
He wants to see more frank discussion around some of the historical facts and how that impacts people’s contemporary viewpoints. He’s written songs focusing on reminding people there’s work to be done.
“The dream that Martin Luther King spoke of in, “I have a dream,” isn’t being realized and won’t be realized until collectively there’s a willingness to look at where we’ve come from,” said Bibb.
Bibb is wrapping up his newest album Blues People, which features selections about some of his views on unfulfilled goals relating to some of the social concerns he’s witnessed.
As he looks ahead in his musical career, which to this point, has endured four decades, he’s equally as energized when he contemplates the next 40 years.
“There was so much to get excited about and to develop and to investigate and that journey began back then and it continues with as much verve and gusto as ever,” said Bibb.
Tickets are $34 and are available by calling 250-490-9012. Showtime is 8 p.m.