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New York-based artist Michael Goodman has been playing and writing songs for pretty much all his life. He started when he was 5, and his relationship with music hasn't stopped ever since. As a result, we can listen to music written when he was just 13 years old, see his beautiful progression and listen to the tracks he plays under the name of Goodman, always hinted by the 60s, 70s and even 80s pop rock music. Back in October 2015, Goodman released Goodman II EP, 4 tracks that were cut from what will be his upcoming full-length album. It will be released sometime soon in 2016, as well as another EP, so stay tuned!

You started writing music as a child, and your first releases date back to 2012. When did you decide to put your music out there?
Well, I’ve been writing songs since I was 5 years old and playing guitar and other instruments since even before, and it continued throughout my teenage years. I was pretty prolific when I was younger… I’d written about four “concept albums” between ages 14-16, but I had no means to record them. It was pretty much a world of my own, until around 2011, when my old schoolmate and friend Oliver Ignatius started building a recording studio in his basement. During school breaks from college, we started tracking what would become my first EP. Since then, Oliver’s studio has grown and become a Brooklyn musical collective that I’m a part of, called Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen.
Your music has strong 60s, 70s and even 80s pop rock influences. How have these times inspired you? Are there any particular bands you really like?
Certainly. I’ve always been more interested in 60s-80s music than current trends, although I obviously try to keep track of what’s going on in the zeitgeist. But my heart definitely lies within the immediacy of beat music and records from those times, and, although I have a large array of influences and don’t set out to make music specifically evoking that era, it usually ends up that way. I guess it’s in my DNA.
In terms of all-time favorites, I love Brian Eno, John Cale, The Kinks, Judee Sill, Pere Ubu, Electric Light Orchestra, The Everly Brothers, Guided By Voices, Jeff Lynne, The Pretty Things, The Beau Brummels, and Bobby Fuller, to name a few.
Goodman II EP is a first dispatch of what is going to be your full-length album. Why releasing just four songs?
The four songs on the EP were actually “cut” from the album, as we tracked 16 songs during the sessions, so the full-length is going to be the 12 other songs we recorded. I didn’t decide to cut them for quality purposes, but because I feel that 12 songs is a more digestible length for the album, and I also wanted to put something out as a statement of purpose – I feel both this EP and the upcoming album represent, in some ways, a sonic departure from my previous output.
And why did you choose these four songs out of the overall album?
I felt as though these four tracks hint at what the full-length album is going to sound like in various ways. Lessons Learned In Love is sort of a rinky-tink, dancehall track, more theatrical and Vaudevillian. Telegram Girl is a shambolic, bitter brit pop track, one that I wrote when I was 15. Lady In Black is a synth-driven atmospheric track. And Movies is a shuffle-beat, spacey, glam-inspired track. I feel like all four represent different elements of what listeners can expect from the newest album, an amuse bouche of sorts before the main event.
Lady In Black is a full instrumental song, but the guitar melody sings for itself. What’s the song background?
I wrote Lady In Black in one sitting at a former girlfriend’s apartment. I’m a big fan of spontaneity in writing songs when the mood strikes me, regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. Anyway, she was wearing a black dress and I just started singing about every tiny thing she was doing in an attempt to make her laugh. Those comments were sung to what is now the final instrumental melody of the song. I recorded the whole song (and the structure you hear is exactly the same as when I sang it in her apartment) as a demo. When I brought it in, I’d envisioned it as an angular rock song, but then changed it to a subtler, more textural piece. When it came time to write lyrics and record vocals for it, I decided it might be best as an instrumental. The lead melody actually isn’t a guitar, but a synth heavily treated with effects pedals.
And in Telegram Girl you sing: “Why should I want to waste my life on a girl who is confused? Why should I want to waste my life on you?” What do you think about love stories on the social media?
I originally conceived the upcoming album as a 16-track song cycle about the vicissitudes of love. It’s all autobiographical to an extent, insofar as it all represents emotional states and scenarios I’ve experienced first hand. However, I generally finish lyrics last when writing songs… I usually compose a melody and a stream-of-consciousness lyrical hook simultaneously, and I suppose, since music is a way I express myself, the melody reflects in some sense my state of mind when I'm composing. Then I go back and write around that, keeping the original lyric I find most interesting and expressive of what I'm trying to relate. I try to locate the “thesis” of the song from there.
How would you describe the rest of the upcoming album? When is it going to be released?
The upcoming album is a mishmash of a lot of musical interests of mine, from post-punk, to psych, to krautrock, to power pop, to folk, to 60s girl group music, and surf rock. I think it casts a wide net and it has a lot of diversity of sound. This album definitely creates a more immersive sonic world, in a way that my other releases might not have. I plan on releasing it sometime soon in 2016, although the exact date is yet to be determined.
How was the process of recording the music like?
I came in with a ton of new songs, and with Oliver’s input, we whittled that number down to 16 songs to track. I got our friend Zac Coe (a brilliant drummer/songwriter/musician/human), who’d drummed on both of my previous albums, to come in and track with us. The process has been to teach both Oliver and Zac the songs, with Zac on drums and Oliver on bass, until we had a sufficient live take. Then I build atop these live takes with Oliver, overdubbing and shaping the overall sound of each song. It’s a tried-and-true process for us, and it helps that Oliver and Zac are two incredibly intuitive musicians who cannot only learn a new song in no time, but can instantly complement it with their brilliant feel at each of their respective instruments. We started recording in January 2015, and all 16 tracks were finished by June.
As you’ve been playing and recording music for a long time, you’ve obviously undergone a natural progression. How do you see yourself over time?
On my older stuff, I hewed less to the 60s-70s influences, and the records had fewer psychedelic touches and textures. The original plan with the songs on Goodman II and the upcoming album was to record them all in mono instead of stereo to create a unique sonic stamp. While we did eventually pan the tracks in stereo, both records still have more experimentation and “vintage-sounding” accoutrements than my previous output. Also, I think the records are darker and murkier than the older stuff. When I recorded the first EP and first two albums, I was between the ages of 21 and 23. These new records reflect where I’m at now – while I'm still young, a lot can happen in two years. And I think this upcoming album is a far more adult affair.
What are your upcoming and future plans?
I plan on releasing the new album sometime in 2016. In addition to that, I’ve been working on a new 6-song EP, which I’d also like to release this year, and I’ve started another pop project to be announced shortly. I’m also going to shoot some videos for the new tracks and roll those out as I go along. I hope that, in 2016, everyone digs it.

Marta Pons

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