VIDEO FEATURE & WEB-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Music Video: “Charlie and Roger”
Video Director: Nick Ferrario
JOE GOODKIN’S RECORD OF LOSS IS THE SECOND EP IN A TRINITY—LIFE, LOSS, LOVE
Joe Goodkin is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter who wants to be known as “a sincere indie folk rock artist and musical storyteller who makes esoteric and difficult topics accessible.” He has made a name for himself by touring the country performing his one-man folk-opera interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey—with over 200 performances in over 30 states.
For five years Goodkin released five albums and toured under the name Paper Arrows. When asked why the name change, he said, “It just so happened that my solo songs were speaking to me more intensely than the Paper Arrows material. But for now—the world, and my muse, is telling me that the solo incarnation is the way forward.”
In 2015, Goodkin released his first solo record, Record of Life, to wide college radio play. It is a 6-song EP that is uniquely personal—sorrowful, profound, and a reminder of the human condition. His lyrics “provoke imagery causing the listener to examine their own life while taking comfort in the fact that they are not alone.”
Last month, Goodkin released Record of Loss where he delves into these topics and emotions even further. He had a clear vision of the sonic palette for this album. The guitar was recorded in almost every conceivable way and configuration to layer as many as eight guitars per song, with each guitar track sometimes consisting of four different microphone signals. The vocals were recorded using a close mic and an array of room mics to capture ambiance and have just one vocal for each song in comparison to the vocal layering of Record of Life.
We talked with Joe Goodkin about his new album, Loss, and how he takes his personal experiences and makes it accessible to his audience. We also caught a glimpse of what to look forward to in the third album of this trilogy, Record of Love, due this summer.
JOE GOODKIN Web-Exclusive Interview
with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David
How did the new album Record of Loss evolve?
Record of Loss evolved out of the response I got to Record of Life—and out of my own feelings about the themes I had started to explore: personal and professional regret, aging and death, old friendships, even suicide. Sonically, Loss was created as Life was, using just one guitar (a 1963 Gibson ES-125t tuned DADGAD) multitracked in various ways.
How is this different from Record of Life?
In comparison to Loss, Record of Life happened with much less calculation. With Life I was just chasing a new muse. Loss was made with much more consideration of what came before (Life) and what I imagined might come after (Record of Love).
What inspired the song “Charlie and Roger.
Thinking about loss and the losses those close to me had experienced. And wanting very much to commemorate those lives in some sort of lasting and permanent way—as much as song and the recordings of song are permanent, and making sure their stories were heard. In this case, my uncles and their partners.
What is your creative process for writing songs?
A song almost always starts with a chord progression or melody that jumps off the guitar and into my voice. From there, it’s a search for some sort of lyrical theme that resonates with me on that particular day. Sometimes it’s something very specific and agenda driven, sometimes it’s something more subconscious and impressionistic.
Tell us when something unique inspired you to write a song that is still a personal favorite.
The most important large scale one to me and my career was a 30-minute continuous song (consisting of 24 interconnected shorter songs) I wrote that tells the story of Homer’s Odyssey as it would have been performed by a bard 3,000 years ago.
What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
The most important thing to me is to show up and do the work. Don’t be afraid to throw out a lot of material. And don’t be afraid to call a song finished when it says what it needs to say.
Who inspired you to write songs?
Though I’d already been writing songs for a number of years, discovering Jason Molina (of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., who sadly passed away several years ago after struggling with alcohol issues) was life-changing for me. His output gave me a model for how to approach songwriting as a craft.
Tell us about a time you performed on stage with a musical hero.
A previous band I was in opened up for Cracker in the mid-00’s. I admire David Lowery for his songwriting and his informed pursuit and advocacy within the music business. It was fascinating watching how efficiently and simply that band toured.
What instrument/equipment can you not live without—for writing, recording, performing?
For Life and Loss I used an incredible 1963 Gibson ES-125t to make every sound you hear. I used a late 90’s Bogner Shiva amp heavily on Life and an amazing new Victoria Chicagolux amp (1959 “5F11” tweed Vibrolux style amp made exclusively for Chicago Music Exchange) on Loss. I lean heavily on the Victoria for live performance because it weighs less than half the Bogner.
Tell us about your performances of Homer’s Odyssey.
In college at University of Wisconsin—Madison, I majored in Classics with a particular interest in Ancient Greek language and literature. On a whim about 15 years ago, I wrote a one-man 30-minute musical retelling of the story of Homer’s Odyssey for acoustic guitar and vocals, and I’ve performed it more than 200 times in 31 states, including Stanford, Columbia, Brown and UC-Berkeley. In April, I’ll perform at Harvard. It’s been incredibly meaningful to me professionally and artistically. It’s challenging and fulfilling and allows me to express nearly every facet of my character—from the creative to the intellectual to the pedagogic.
What PRO are you with, and how do they help a songwriter/artist like you?
I am an ASCAP member. I’ve been the recipient of three separate ASCAP awards for Odyssey, which were helpful monetarily and for prestige. They’ve been instrumental in getting me paid for song placements and also the source of great and detailed information about navigating music publishing and copyright.
Top 5 Musicians who inspired you to become a musician?
Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Miles Davis, Jimmy Page, Slash.
What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Band of Gypsys (1970) – Jimi Hendrix
Blue (1971) – Joni Mitchell
Pet Sounds (1966) – The Beach Boys
Blood on the Tracks (1975) – Bob Dylan
Houses of the Holy (1973) – Led Zeppelin
Best advice someone has given you.
My sister, Kathy Goodkin said: “Art is a battle of attrition.”
Best advice you’d like to give upcoming musicians.
Be urgently patient in everything you do. Always remember the only things you have control of are your own creativity and work ethic. Think at least six months ahead of whatever you’re working on. Incorporate yourself (literally, as a LLC or S corp). Most importantly: if you hit upon something that seems a little different or left of center, don’t run from it—run towards it.
You used to be Paper Arrows. Why the name change?
Starting in 2008, Paper Arrows did five records in five years—of which I’m incredibly proud, saw sturdy college radio play, and licensed songs to a number of TV shows (including, memorably for me, Keeping Up with the Kardashians). In 2014, I found myself with a group of new Paper Arrows songs written for a sixth recording, but also this group of six solo songs that became Life. It just so happened that my solo songs were speaking to me more intensely than the Paper Arrows material. I wouldn’t rule out another Paper Arrows record at some point down the line, but for now—the world, and my muse, is telling me that the solo incarnation is the way forward.
Releasing the third EP of the series, Record of Love, in the summer of 2017 as part of a double vinyl collection of Record of Life, Record of Loss and Record of Love, spread over two records.
Where can your new fans get more info and stay updated?