Things To Do: Mercutio & the Constantines, Bohemeo’s, March 10, 2023
Markell Gibson is approaching 10 years of performing music, but like any visionary he’s looking forward, not back. He has a clear idea of where his career should be a decade from now.
“Ten years from now, I just want to be in Shaolin monk robes on top of a mountain and other songwriters have to climb a mountain to get to me if they want to learn how to write a song,” Gibson said. . “That’s literally how I see myself, I’m not even arrogant. I will literally do this. If you want to learn how to write a song, you have to physically climb a mountain and I’ll be on top of the mountain waiting for you, and I’ll teach you how to write a great song.
“I will go to full Shaolin in 10 years,” he said.
This is the kind of daring invention that Gibson fans have come to expect from him, first as leader of the Markell Gibson Gang and, more recently, as Mercutio & the Constantines. Before he can teach others the mysteries of songwriting, he knows he has his own heights to scale. Read on and you’ll learn how he’s making his way to the zenith by moving in stages, taking the journey of a thousand miles one step at a time.
The next step comes this week with Gardens, the latest music release from Mercutio & the Constantines. Gibson is expected to debut the new EP at a show on Friday, March 10 at Bohemeo’s with a host of locals supporting visiting acts Loolowningen & Tokyo’s Far East Idiots and New York City’s Many Girls.
“It’s like a four-song EP of newer songs, pretty much the newer songs that I’ve been working on for the last two years or so,” Gibson said of Gardens. “After that I’ll be working on another album that I don’t know the concept for yet, but I’ll definitely release another album at the end of the year after that EP. These will be all new things that have never been heard.
“So Gardens would be like second-tier Markell and the new album later this year would be a third-tier thing where I’m going deep. I can start speaking different languages, I can start writing with symbols. Who knows what will come out? People will go, ‘Oh, this is the monster we’ve been trying to contain. Either get this guy on stage so we can keep him or tell him to calm down because he’s really bringing out that thing that’s different, very different.’
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Gibson is approaching 10 years as a performer
Photo by Jody Perry, courtesy of Markell Gibson
The key to Gibson’s music, he says, is digging deeper into his mind, digging further into my musical treasures. He is one of Houston’s most popular artists because he performs in traditional venues and also as a busker, posting with his guitar on street corners after big concerts and sporting events. The point is for the music to reach the listeners.
Gibson hails from the Third Ward. He said he got his first guitar when he was only nine years old.
“My mom bought me this broken red guitar with flames on it, it was like an acoustic guitar,” he recalls. “I just started dealing with it. I don’t know, I just couldn’t put it down. Once I started making sounds and the combination of pressing the strings in different ways, I got it automatically.
“I couldn’t put it down, I was obsessed with the guitar,” he added, and said harmonies and chords came naturally to him. “I’ve always been connected to music in that way spiritually, very deeply, like I’m here to bring it, that’s part of my purpose.”
For Gibson, the guitar is an instrument in its truest sense, a tool that allows him to express his deepest thoughts about the world at large, a machine that kills prejudices. His music has been described as punk and folk punk. He considers this an honor, but, he notes, it is not correct. He shared how his songwriting began as a freshman in the Third Ward.
“It’s a really magical place. It’s a place where there are a lot of people like me who are high-level questioners and who are skeptical of everything, who are really, really smart black people. A lot of smarts and making the best of your situation and just brilliant people, a lot of black geniuses coming out of there that don’t get talked about enough and I’m just one of those people that, I spread my wings and I decided to jump at it rock that is the world of music in Houston or just the world of music around the world.
“Every black kid grows up in the Third Ward around really great black family and business and that feeling (that) you can make anything happen,” he added, “but at the same time I always knew I could I took things a step further. I’ve always had that, I’ve always carried it with me.”
Bombs On The Seafloor by Mercutio & The Constantines
He didn’t pursue music seriously until 2014, after he graduated from high school. He showed how “Level One” Gibson was in those early days.
“It was like going to my girlfriend’s house and writing in a notebook, just writing in this purple notebook. Writing ‘Monsters in My Head,’ writing ‘Stellar,’ writing ‘City in the Clouds,'” he said, rattling off the songs that put him on the Houston music radar. “Knowing I had to dance, and I’m also at that point now where I’m kind of on a level, I’d say it’s like a level two, I have to jump back because I’ve reached a threshold. I’ve reached a plateau where I have to evolve again. So this it’s a wonderful, scary process.
“But when I first started, I had this insatiable need. “I had just finished high school and I felt I had to get this music job,” he said. “I saw it in my mind even though it wasn’t reality yet. I saw myself on a stage, I saw that people liked my music, they saw me being respected as a composer.”
Gibson has been performing as Mercutio & the Constantines since 2016. It’s a fitting moniker. Mercutio is the only character in Romeo and Juliet who can traverse both the Montague and Capulet houses. Gibson traverses the subconscious and conscious worlds in music. The songs reflect on “pain, happiness, gratitude, all those things that come from deep within me,” he said. They are internal and personal, but are sent by Mercutio into the world for others.
He describes his process as “writing from my subconscious, just freehand, writing a song like I would write a story in a novel, and kind of creating the song afterwards, building the song from that history.
“It’s hard to do that. It is not easy to go so deep into a trauma or deep into a fear or deep into a thought or love, the frequency of love, and push these frequencies forward. People may not realize how deep I went to understand it until much later.”
He considers music important and empowering because it empowered him.
Bombs On The Seafloor by Mercutio & The Constantines
“Music is what saved me,” he said. “Words and me getting so into language, loving words and linguistics, language arts and literacy, literary arts, all of these things inspired me to become the person I am today and completely shifted my reality from just being another Third Ward person you can have. I never noticed unless I was Markell the guitarist. You wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, what’s the regular Third Ward Black kid? What’s going on today?’ No, I have this guitar, so it creates this beautiful bridge basically where people look at me like I’m more human.”
He is interested in humanity, even with its many flaws, flaws that are obvious to him as a black artist. Gibson associates himself with other deep thinkers and innovators, especially his friend and confidant Kerry Melonson, who will also perform on Friday night’s show. They are both very open about issues of race, society and music.
“I’m a lot more out there, I say some things that even Kerry thinks are out there, that’s how we are,” Gibson said. “A beautiful thing is that we almost never agree with each other, we have two completely external versions, so you will get something completely different from him, from me, this is a completely different story.”
Like any master—Shaolin or otherwise—Gibson is interested in pushing people to their maximum potential. If he’s outspoken, it’s because he feels a sense of duty to fellow artists, especially black artists.
“I love it, I really love it, I think it’s a really positive thing and I think the best thing about it is that I’m not trying to be a lawyer at all, I’m just saying what I believe, I say what almost every person with color from the Third Ward will probably explain it to you,” he said. the third district.
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Gibson’s new EP, Gardens, is out on Friday, March 10
Photo by Joshua Daniel Martinez, courtesy of Markell Gibson
“I’m still that guy. Just because I have a guitar doesn’t mean I’m like a dweeb now, like I’m just like, ‘Hey guys, what’s up? You know, whatever you want to do, I’m ready to do it.’ No. I wasn’t raised that way, I’m sorry. I grew up to have values, I grew up in a family of strong women and men, I grew up in a family of LGBT people. I have to say what I believe, not tell people what to believe, just for me personally to put myself in the right spaces.
“If you’re a black artist, you’re going to see how important that is, to put yourself in the right spaces so you’re not taught or taken advantage of, especially if you’re really, really good and young Black. You have to be really careful inside these spaces because they are not what they seem.
“Sometimes America tends to have a kind of fetish with using incredible young black artists,” he added, “squeezing all that juice until there’s nothing left. I’m just not available to do that.”
“When I first started music I didn’t know how to sing, how to sing and play at the same time, how to write music or how to memorize music. These are all things in 2014 that I taught myself how to do. i wanted “I saw this vision so badly, that I was going to be this incredible music god spreading love everywhere,” he said. “That’s what I think an artist should do and a visionary really does, they cross all these different barriers and that’s healing, it can help people come together, it does a lot just in my life alone . But I know he will do even more.”
This type of thinking puts Gibson ahead of the rest. When you reach him, he will be waiting at the top of the mountain.
“I know it’s my mission to get rid of these things even if I don’t get anything. That’s the thing, it’s all about love, it’s about giving that love away, and I don’t expect anything back from that.”
Mercutio & the Constantines perform songs from the Gardens on Friday, March 10 at Bohemeo’s, 708 Telephone. Featuring CONCRÈTE MÈLANGE, Vivaldi’s Green Jacket, Lots of Girls, Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots and KA. Doors at 6pm for this all-ages event, $15.