SG Goodman’s rustic hymns double as calls to action

By Mia Hughes

“You can never tell if your music is timely or not, but I think sometimes music has to be a catalyst for people to wake up,” says Kentucky songwriter SG Goodman. She talks to MTV News about “Work Until I Die”, from her latest album, Teeth marks. Trapped in the rhythm, you will work until your death,she sings with her inimitable drawl. The track, which she developed with longtime collaborator Matt Rowan, has country roots with a punk bite, like Fugazi doing Woody Guthrie. Goodman was inspired by the songwriting of Florence Reece’s 1930s union anthem “Which Side Are You On?”, but it comes with the unique sensibility of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” All told, it’s a classic Southern protest song, delivered at a time when it’s sorely needed.

“I got a philosophy degree, and as you can imagine, the job market in western Kentucky for philosophers wasn’t something you could really find on Indeed,” says Goodman. , who grew up and still resides in the state. “So I did a lot of manual labor, a lot of restaurant work, and even though there’s a lot of honor in that kind of work, it’s not really respected in our society. I am the granddaughter of a union activist, and Kentucky has a long history of defending workers’ rights.

The album, Goodman’s second, is a treasure trove of rustic rock songwriting, encompassing political calls to action and heartbreaking intimate ballads. Key to the record is its southern sonic identity, which stems from Goodman’s sincere love for his home.

“I am a farmer’s daughter. I grew up in Hickman, a small town of less than 3,000 people. No fast food, no Walmart or anything like that. I just spent a lot of time outdoors, working on the farm and being a kid, she says. “As I got older, visiting many places and meeting many people, I came to realize that being raised in a rural community is not an experience that many people have. I’m proud of where I come from and appreciate how it’s shaped me, and I think I have an insider’s look at a worldview that people don’t understand.

Goodman grew up in Southern Baptist, attending church three times a week. Her first exposure to music was the hymns she heard there, and as she explains, that’s key to her songwriting and powerful voice to this day. “Because I have no classical musical training, I associate different parts of music with people I grew up with in my congregation. It shaped my way of singing, my sense of melody and the style of melody that evokes emotion. [for me]. Much of modern music, when broken down, has formed from the way ancient hymns wrote their melodies, and I can’t deny that this is present in my own work.

During this time, she was introduced to classic rock by her father and older cousins, and was also inspired by singer-songwriters she heard on the radio like Sheryl Crow and Natalie Imbruglia. Growing up, high school friends introduced him to alternative rock and punk bands like Against Me!, Fugazi, and The Clash. Around this time, she was beginning to realize that she was gay, which contradicted the tenets of her conservative religious upbringing. She pursued a degree in philosophy hoping it might lead her to answers.

“I was really interested in the concept of free will,” she explains. “That was a burning question for me, especially when I came to terms with my sexuality. it was kind of an interesting concept to believe that I was created to go to hell.

In his college town of Murray, Kentucky, Goodman began frequenting Terrapin Station, a record store and hobby spot in a strip mall. There she began to develop her own craft as a performer and to feel more comfortable in her identity. “It was a small subculture in a rural area. Because it was such a small community, it really wasn’t something where you could necessarily be gender-specific on a bill. It was a great meeting place for people from all walks of life and with different backgrounds and identities.

We hear the impact of this musical diversity on teeth marks, in the sweet harmonies of the title track, the frenzied garage rock of “All My Love Is Coming Back to Me” and the central 70s rock of “The Heart of It”. In addition to capitalism and workers’ rights on “Work Until I Die,” she poignantly explores the opioid crisis on “If You Were Someone I Loved,” followed by the sparse and hymnal “You Were Someone I Loved.” Trauma and its lingering effects are examined on “Dead Soldiers” and “Keeper of the Time,” and it’s all raw, affecting breakup songs, such as “Heart Swell” and “Patron Saint of the Dollar Store.”

Meredith Truax

What connects the project is the motive of love – whether it is the lost romance of a failing relationship or the need for compassion in our political and social conflicts. “I think it’s funny how people keep creating songs around [love]laughs Goodman. “I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous to write a song about love knowing how many songs there are. But even though we live the same themes, we live them in different ways. I think what I found was so obvious to me after writing Teeth marks how was it [from] whether it is the presence or the lack of love, we walk around with the marks of that on us. How we act with others depends on how we have been loved or how we have not been.

For her part, during the writing of this album, Goodman navigated the complexities of being a queer artist from a conservative background. In a recent interview with The Bitter Southerner, she says that since the release of her debut album two years ago, she has received messages on social media from members of her community who have a problem with her sexuality. She also tried to approach this with love. “It’s not that I give people a free get out of jail card. But because I’m aware of the context they’re raised in and their limited worldview, because I’ve had my own relationships with my own limited worldview, I have to apply a lot of grace to that,” she says. . “It would be absolutely hypocritical of me not to. And that’s not really a very trendy thing to do right now. The trendy thing to do would be to simply cancel people and remove people. But for me, I don’t think that’s a very loving way of understanding others.

It is this perspective that is at the heart of Goodman’s music. Teeth marks is an album that digs deep in search of better understanding and love. It is a catalyst; or, at the very least, a vital reminder.

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