Grayson Gibson: Swimmer-turned-singer talks music

After coming to FAU to swim, sophomore Grayson Gibson decided to test the waters out in the music industry


Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor

Emily Creighton, Features Editor

Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor
Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor

With wet hair from a surprise rainstorm and donning an All Time Low T-shirt, a Florida Atlantic student took over on vocals alongside pop punk band All Time Low during the school’s 2014 bonfire in September.

After being called onto stage by lead singer Alex Gaskarth during the band’s song, “Time Bomb,” not only did he know every single word by heart, but got the stage presence down to a tee — including the energetic “Jump! Jump! Jump!” Gaskarth does every time he performs, which made the audience go crazy.

That student was Grayson Gibson. “I had tweeted Alex like two weeks before and I was like, ‘Hey. You’re coming to FAU. Can I sing ‘Time Bomb’ with you?’” recalled Gibson. “He was like, ‘Yeah, dude!’ So, I practiced like all day in my room … I just remember looking at him [on stage] and he looked at me like, ‘You got this dude!’”

Starting at Florida Atlantic in 2013, looking to swim in Division 1 and work on getting a degree in business, the now sophomore art student, chose to venture away from the pool and pursue his dream of working in the music industry.The Jacksonville, Florida native began swimming competitively back in middle school and continued all throughout high school, where he set records in 100-meter freestyle, 200 freestyle, 400 free relay and 200 medley relay.

But, during his freshman year at First Coast High School, curiosity pushed him to pick up the guitar, sparking a new passion — music.

[As] “a freshman in high school, of course you’re gonna play to try and impress girls,” he laughed — Howie Day’s “Collide” was always his song of choice. But even if his playing didn’t get him all the girls, it did drive him to start writing his own songs. “I figured out I could make something sound good if I put two things together. So, that’s pretty much what happened.”

For a while, Gibson managed to balance the two — swimming and building his repertoire while posting covers of his favorite songs on YouTube. But as time went on, it got harder to commit enough time to both activities.

“I swam the 200 fly and some [individual medley.] I loved it — [the team was] awesome. Everyday, I’m like, ‘Aw, man. I wish I still swam.’ That usually happens when I look at my stomach,” joked Gibson.

And although he doesn’t claim to be “the fastest fish in the pond,” Gibson was always passionate about the sport.

While on the team, his fastest time in the 200 fly was at the Georgia Tech Invitational at  2:04.40, along with 2:05.12 for his 200 IM. At the 2014 Conference USA Championships, his 200 fly time was 2:04:58 and his 200 IM was 2:07.09.

Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor
Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor

“Grayson was a very motivated and positive swimmer who I enjoyed coaching very much,” said FAU head swim coach Lara Preacco. “He always had a smile on his face and he loved being part of the swimming and diving team and we loved having him.”

But, swimming just wasn’t in Gibson’s heart the way music was.

“I really wanted to do music. So, I just — I don’t know. You can’t really do both.” He explained, “With swimming you have two practices [a day] and then you have weights and you have meets. It’s like a full time job, being a student-athlete.”

So, after a season on the team, he chose to leave and dive deep into the music scene with the support of his teammates and family.

“My mom didn’t like it at all, but once she knew how passionate I was about it, she backed me. And everyone on the swim team was really supportive of me. They were like, ‘Well, if you wanna do it, then you should do it,’” he said.

Former teammate and close friend Austin Olivares said, “I was very proud that Grayson was so passionate about his music that he decided to pursue it as opposed to continuing to swim. It wasn’t an easy choice for him but that sacrifice tells me that he’ll go very far because he wants it bad enough.”

With his newfound free time, Gibson began writing and playing more, improving his skills and beginning to make a name for himself among the local music scene.

His first live performance was last year at Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach — one of the bigger venues in the area according to Gibson. “I was super nervous because it’s Freebird Live.” he recalled. “So, we get there and I’m literally the first person up, but the whole place is empty except for the other two bands, the bartender, my girlfriend at the time and my parents. I played my heart out to try and get the bartender to look up and watch me — even threw my guitar to the other band’s singer to try and make an impression. Thank God he caught it.”

The Tampa-based band, Set it Off — one of Gibson’s biggest musical inspirations — also took interest in him.

“They came over to my house one time to just hang out — this is before they got signed — and that really meant something to me,” he shared. “I was like, ‘Wow. This music scene is really cohesive.’”

Gibson ended up taking vocal lessons from the band’s lead singer, Cody Carson. “That’s when I realized this is something I could do. He was so supportive.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.24.06 AMNow, Gibson is working on his first EP (Extended Play) — a recording featuring a select few songs.

“Teenagers,” released on iTunes in February 2015, was Gibson’s first single off of the EP.

“Grayson has been great to work with. He has a tremendous work ethic in the studio and he makes sure everything sounds exactly like he envisions it. His ability to utilize different genres in his music really makes him unique as an artist,” said his producer and good friend Austin Hull.

“Grayson has the mindset and ability to go very far in the music industry. He has the talent, the attitude and the determination to make it on the Billboard Top 20 one day. Working with him has been a great learning experience for both of us,” Hull continued.

And while Gibson grew up listening to bands ranging from metalcore group Memphis May Fire to pop punk All Time Low, he has begun to draw inspiration from more pop singers including Taylor Swift — he unashamedly jams out to her recent album “1989” — and Ed Sheeran.

“[I prefer to play] pop music just because it’s so versatile. I feel that if you put yourself in a box … you can do a lot within that genre, but, other than that, you can’t really do anything else without getting your fans mad. And, with pop, it’s like I can do anything from a slow, acoustic ballad to ‘Teenagers’ which is fully produced with synths and strings and stuff,” he explained.

While working on his EP, Gibson has even tried his hand at R&B. He described his struggle to transition from pop — where he claims people are more worried about the instrumental than the vocals — but with R&B, “people have to feel like you’re crying in the booth.”

For now, Gibson can be found at Boca’s Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery on most Wednesdays around 9 p.m., taking advantage of the open mic night. But he hopes to put his music on a larger map one day.

“To get signed and have a lot of people hear my music — that’s the main goal. I just want people to hear my music,” Gibson said. “If I was on the radio and I heard my song on like [Ryan Seacrest’s Top 40 station] KIIS FM, that would mean so many people heard my music. That would mean so much to me. That’s like my ultimate goal. Just to reach the biggest audience possible.”

He also hopes to tour one day, with dream stage partners including All Time Low, Ed Sheeran or “Taylor Swift because, you know, Taylor.”

Gibson’s single “Teenagers” can be bought on iTunes; his EP is expected to release this summer.