When we recently spoke with Barry Gibb by phone from his home in Miami, he was nursing a bum ankle. But that shouldn’t be an impediment when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter kicks off the US leg of his career-spanning “Mythology” tour Thursday at the TD Garden.
“The chops are still very good and my falsetto’s very strong. I sing every day. I have a microphone set up in my lounge with speakers and I pretend I’m onstage. It’s not fun for the rest of the family but it’s fun for me,” said Gibb with a laugh.
The show, which includes help from son Stephen and niece Samantha, pays tribute to his late brothers and fellow Bee Gees Robin and Maurice, as well as youngest Gibb brother Andy.
“We all inspired each other,” says Gibb of his siblings. “It was competitive but it wasn’t at the same time, there was an awful lot of love going on. We didn’t have the same social lives but the music brought us together always.”
That music which helped make the Bee Gees a worldwide sensation — everything from early hits like “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” through the disco classics from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack as well as tunes written for others like “Islands in the Stream”— will be front and center Thursday when Gibb hops onstage.
Q. It was generous of you to allow Justin Timberlake to continue to appear as your late brother Robin in “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch on “Saturday Night Live” and for you yourself to appear alongside Jimmy Fallon. I’m guessing you’re a fan of the sketch?
A. I love [Fallon] and I think he’s probably the funniest man I’ve ever seen since Jerry Lewis. He’s got all of those elements in his spirit that he can make you laugh no matter what.
Q. But I’m also guessing his portrayal probably isn’t very accurate.
A. No, no. We all have a temper but never like that. (Laughs.) “It’s my show! It’s a no-nonsense show!”
Q. The sheer volume of popular songs in your catalog must make it daunting to create a set list for your actual show.
A. I try to sing all the songs that I love. Every song you come up with isn’t necessarily something you want to sing. The only one that becomes a bit of a grind now — you can probably guess — is “Stayin’ Alive,” but everything else, I choose to sing the songs I love to sing so that when I look at what’s coming next I get excited.
Q. With your son and niece in the band it would appear that the musical spirit continues to flow in the family.
A. Yes, in different ways. My oldest son is really a metalhead and plays lead guitar and has a really primeval voice. And Sammy, my niece, Maurice’s daughter, has a wonderful voice, so you see it happening in the kids and it’s a great thing. My daughter’s on Teleprompter so if I look at the side of the stage, I can see her, and she’s got a very strong opinion so I can tell just by her eyes whether she’s happy or not. She’s not always happy, but she’s a great critic. (Laughs.)
Q. You’ve done solo shows in the past but is this the first tour of this magnitude you’ve undertaken without your brothers?
A. Yes, that’s true. I miss them. I miss seeing their faces onstage. I miss seeing their faces in life generally, and their opinions. It’s always “What would Robin think? What would Maurice think? What would Andy think?”
Q. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band recently performed “Stayin’ Alive” in Australia where you spent your formative years. I heard you enjoyed it.
A. Amazing. I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and, believe me, I’m going to pay the compliment right back.
Q. So Barry Gibb does “Born to Run”?
A. It’s very possible. (Laughs.) I sometimes pop a song in there that relates to my favorite artist and one of them is Bruce and the other is Paul McCartney and you never know what you’re going to get.
Q. Did you get a chance to hang out with Mr. McCartney a few months back when you both appeared on “Saturday Night Live”?
A. We did. We had adjoining dressing rooms. It was the second time I had met Paul in about 35 years. We talked for about an hour about the ’60s, before fame ever came around . . . I said, “How long do we keep doing this?” And he said, “What else is there to do?” (Laughs.) And he’s absolutely right: If you love it, do it.
Q. You’ve also written hits for others, like Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick. Were there any that you wished you’d kept for yourself to start with?
A. Maurice always said “We should’ve recorded that song,” whether it was “Heartbreaker” or “Islands in the Stream,” and really Robin was the one who said “Let’s record those.” I never wanted to. I always felt they went where they went and that’s it.
Q. So when you happen to catch one of your songs do you turn it up or off?
A. I always turn it up. I love hearing our songs on the radio, it’s always much more intense.
Q. Do you sing along?
A. Not necessarily. (Laughs) I’m always worried there’s a camera in the car and someone’s going to nail me. My daughter was out the other night with a friend and they heard “Stayin’ Alive” on the way to dinner and “Night Fever” on the way back and they turned the windows down and turned it up and people in the street started dancing. It’s wonderful, you think, 30-35 years ago and people still seem to vibrate when they hear that kind of song. It’s very strange, I love it.