Hickman is at the far western point of Kentucky, on the Mississippi Delta. That’s where S.G. Goodman grew up before settling in Murray after college. She’s proud of her home state, and she has no intentions of leaving it for the bright lights of Nashville. She released her debut album, Old Time Feeling, during the summer of the pandemic. She also just released a cover of “Lungs” by Townes Van Zandt which was recorded in Muscle Shoals at FAME.
She likes being at home. While she wrote a bit during the forced time away from the road, she prefers the peace of Murray. While many of her peers struggled with sitting idle for so long, it was a nice respite for Goodman.
We talked about her home, her approach to songwriting and recording the debut with Jim James of My Morning Jacket.
You’ve talked a lot about place and home. How important was it for you to do what you do from home in Kentucky and not move off to Nashville?
Being able to make my record in Kentucky with as many Kentuckians as I can was really important for me. I want to keep the Kentucky music history within our state. We’re known for our music, and we have a lot of musicians that people don’t think of when they think of Kentucky–we have a lot of post-punk, we have a lot of great songwriters. We’re the home of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. We’re the home of an amazing punk band named Slint that was really influential. A lot of people think of Kentucky and they think of bluegrass, but it goes a lot deeper and a lot wider than that. It’s cool to continue to give to that legacy. I think it’s important.
I don’t have anything against Nashville; I just don’t want them to claim me.
That punk and hardcore scene kind of came out of Louisville, right?
I guess it depends on how you spin it. I was heavily influenced by my town’s punk scene when I went to college in Murray. There’s little pockets of weirdness and alternative vibes all throughout Kentucky. Louisville is one of our biggest cities, so it’s definitely more of a melting pot than other places, but if you know where to find them, they’re everywhere throughout the state.
Jim James produced Old Time Feeling, right?
He did. Jim James came in as a co-producer and a big supporter of me. I couldn’t be happier with his involvement. Obviously, he’s a legend globally, but especially as a Kentucky musician doing his own thing. I was really fortunate to have him interested and to want to be a part of it.
My Morning Jacket is a band that often gets thrown under the Americana umbrella, but they’re not. They’re a rock and roll band and they’re from Kentucky. How important has seeing that representation been for aspiring artists of all genres at home?
It’s really important–you can see a way out of the mold. The more you get into the business side of things, you can see why. On AAA radio, supposedly, you’re not allowed to have a pedal steel on your track. They won’t play it. It’s limiting when you get down to the brass tacks of why people get lumped into Americana. I have nothing against Americana. I feel like that genre has true listeners, if that makes sense. That audience is looking for lyrics and not just a vibe. But at the same time, you sometimes don’t want to say that in public because it’s such an immersive, large umbrella.
Yeah, some people would put My Morning Jacket into Americana because of certain instruments that they use. I would not. I would say they are as rock and roll as you can get.
You’ve said that you don’t really write records with a theme; you write songs. Is that the way you think you’ll always approach songwriting or do you think one day you may want to do an entire record as one concept?
As of now, I don’t think it would do me any justice other than to serve each song. When it comes to that type of approach, you have to trust–and I believe that it is true–that I am the linking thing throughout all of my music. My voice and imagery–I don’t see myself sitting down and writing a concept album any time soon. I feel like it’s nice to have some mystery in my work even to myself; to be able to step outside of a group of songs and say, “Yeah, I like this together.” It also allows me to, in an uninhibited way, focus on what I am trying to say in that particular song instead of making sure that this is going to give a full picture for a press story for an album as a whole. That’s not how I think about music, and honestly, it’s not how most of the world thinks about music. It’s a single-driven society. I’m a music-head. I listen to full albums front-to-back. That’s how I like to consume music. But that’s not the system that’s in play right now. I don’t really think it even matters to write a concept album. I know that some people out there appreciate it, but the writing’s on the wall for why you don’t have to do that. I like to focus on one individual song at a time.
S.G. Goodman performs at Secret Stages on the Avondale Brewing Outdoor Stage on Saturday, August 7 at 7 p.m.