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Local Color: S.G. Goodman Serves Up Sounds of the Rural South on “Teeth Marks.”

By Abel Muñoz

S.G. Goodman

It’s been an exciting few years for singer-songwriter  S.G. Goodman, who Rolling Stone named “An Artist You Need to Know” back in the spring of 2020 when her debut album, Old Time Feel, was fresh. Releasing a debut during the pandemic was risky, but thankfully, it didn’t seem to deter from her ability to find a wider audience. Perhaps it was an album that people needed at that time.

Now, two years on, she’s returned with a compelling second set of songs, Teeth Marks (Verve Forecast). When we spoke about the differences between the two albums over Zoom in late May, she was gearing up for an extensive tour that’ll take her right up to the edge of the holiday season.

You’re known for being a very private person. I’m curious how you’re handling all the attention you’ve been getting?

I still have my own little hangouts and private moments. But it is interesting being an artist in 2022. You’re asked to be your authentic self on social media, which I think I’ve been told I do a decent job with. But that was something that took some time and effort because I am a very sarcastic and goofy person. It felt a little strange presenting that side of myself to my internet friends. Normally things you see on my social media would be videos I would send to my best friend or something like that.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

But I don’t regret being able to say that I’m being my authentic self. I do have a running joke about how my manager makes me do this or that. And really, I find it’s just a more palatable and funny way to say my name and a way to try to get people to remember who I am.

Recently another manager/artist representative got on my social media and said that I have a bad attitude and I must be difficult to work with. What’s funny is it really pissed my manager off because [what I’ve been doing] is clearly sarcastic. I guess it was just really lost on this person and I thought, “Oh no, do people think I’m ungrateful?” Because I think it’s pretty clear that I’m joking. Like, I love my team and I trust them. For the record, it’s a joke with my manager, but you know, I guess it is strange getting attention and knowing that people are watching you. But you know, I go to therapy, so I’m able to get out all my problems once a week. I encourage everybody: give it a try!

How do you feel like this album, Teeth Marks, is similar to your debut? Is there overlap?

Well, I would say that I always stay true to not over-polishing my work. Of course, there’s different production style to Teeth Marks. I worked with a different team, but the linking factor and similarity is that I produced both records along with other people.

Old Time Feeling had love songs and it had social commentary, and so does this one. I’m a big believer in letting the songs tell you what they’re supposed to be. And I feel strongly that that’s what I did with this record. I might have tried a few different things, but mostly as a writer I’m just observing my world and the world around me. I can’t say that I did anything drastically different from the last album. It’s just that my world had changed, like everyone else’s, so if there’s a difference there it’s because I’ve grown and the world around me changed.

I noticed quite a bit of stylistic variation when compared to your previous album. I’m curious about the placement of the songs on the album. How did you think about this?

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily different genres throughout, but it has been kind of difficult for people to put me in a genre. I think that I’m an artist that lives on the fringes of a lot of different things. And so, I think my music always reflects that which is hopefully more of an asset than a downfall. I definitely wrote a lot of faster paced, rocking songs for this album, which is more reflective of my live shows. It’s really hard to go up and play an emotional set for people at the end of the day. No matter how much songwriters want to be songwriters, we’re also performers if we’re doing our job. I also wanted to just rock out some and, luckily, I was able to find some songs in the ether that allowed me to do that.

And I would say that as far as their placement on the album, we start out with “Teeth Marks,” which kind of sets the mood sonically, but it’s also a romantic song in nature. And then you see that the theme of “Teeth Marks” carries on throughout the album and how love or the lack of love leaves its mark on us. And you know, we experience love either romantically or from society, from our neighbors, from our relationships to friends. And my closing track, “Keeper of the Time,” is about self-love and about our ability and/or willingness to process all the other forms of love that we receive or don’t receive. So, I would say with all these songs, it’s the ending track that has the most significance as far as placement.

I’d actually been thinking a lot about that last track. Due to the repetition of the chorus, it’s been stuck in my head. I noticed on this album, there are some songs where you use a lot of repetition, and they have a mantra-like feel to them. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, I think if I was thinking of a specific song that kind of has a mantra in it, it would be “All My Love is Coming Back to Me.” I’m an artist, like many others, that put out a record in the pandemic. You know, it’s funny, a lot of people ask me how putting out this record has made me think about the situation I was in with Old Time Feeling, and truthfully, I didn’t really even understand all the loss that was associated with it, since it was my debut album, until now.

Now I’m getting to play this new record live and I am about to do a release show, all the things that I couldn’t do with the last record due to the pandemic. I think, like so many people, we were just looking for hope of some kind. And I would say that believing that the love I’ve put into the world is gonna come back to me in some fashion was something that I really needed to believe. And probably all of us need to believe that all the time. I would say that was definitely a mantra that I needed and maybe someone else needs that too.

You’ve been described as a troubadour and a storyteller. And I know that you’ve mentioned that a lot of these stories are very personal. How do you think storytelling and the personal are intertwined?

In college, I ended up switching my minor to creative writing, and I was under the tutelage of an important writer for me, Dale Ray Phillips. He’s a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and just so happened to teach creative writing at my university. He has a wonderful collection of short stories called My People’s Waltz. I still write short stories and he’s a dear friend of mine and a mentor, but there is something he said  in class that remember: “You, as the story teller, have the flashlight and you’re shining it on what you want people to see.”

So, the wonderful thing about stories is that the whole room is true, but you’re in charge of shining it on what you want the viewer or the reader or the listener to see or hear. You can decide to turn the whole ceiling light on and let people see every little thing, which they might not be able to understand… the full context. Or you can lead ’em around, item to item, in that room, putting you in charge of the story and how it builds in their mind.

And songwriting is the same. I think I was fortunate to be raised around wonderful back porch storytellers that made even traumatic moments funny. A lot of time it’s about the pauses and what you don’t tell that make a story everything. And it’s a true art form. I have been so fortunate, in my opinion, to have been raised around some of the best storytellers. And I think that’s an important thing to do when I’m on stage, in my banter. It’s also important to live that out in the way I write my songs because it’s a tradition I was raised in. So, in other words, I guess I believe that I’m holding the flashlight.

I think some of the images you paint and the sounds you imitate add a wonderful layer of texture to your songs. For example, in “Teeth Marks” there are allusions to wind chimes and in “Heart Swell” there are sounds reminiscent of crashing waves. Besides the countryside, what kinds of images are influencing your work lately?

It’s always been very important for me to include images from where I’ve lived and where I was raised. I like to add little snippets of things that are very regional to me. It’s my way of getting to portray the south and rural communities with the complexity and beauty that they contain.

Some of these songs were written in the pandemic where there was just a lot of time to do internal interrogation. In “The Heart Swell” and “Keeper of the Time,” there’s a lot of body parts mentioned. Like everyone during that time period, you had a lot of time to sit and interrogate yourself, listening to yourself, really kind of taking in this human experience and embodiment.

“Teeth Marks,” is another example of this introspection, of how the lack of people being around us or their presence leaves marks on us. These things were all very apparent to me in making this record because it was my worldview at that time. So instead of focusing on the outer experience, [under the circumstances] the only place to escape was through introspection. A lot of that is coming out in this album.

The two songs on the new record which hit me the hardest emotionally are “If You Were Someone I Loved” and “You Were Someone I Loved.” They’re merged into one song on the vinyl version. Can you talk a little about them?

This is one of my most near and dear songs. I started writing the earliest version of it on my phone in 2015 and it never really felt like it was complete. I just wasn’t quite sure if I’d said everything I needed to say.

The interesting thing is everyone has been impacted by the opioid pandemic, but this song is a call for empathy and a call for us to look at how we’re applying that to others in our lives. In society, so many things around us, like policies, are constructed this way, because someone in power has had a firsthand experience with tragedy and, within that, they find a need for them to make change around that. It’s interesting to me that, as humans, we must have a firsthand experience with tragedy for us to see the value in caring about something.

So, what I am trying to say is: If you were someone I loved, I would treat you differently. On the vinyl it will be one song. I give the subject’s loved one the final say. I’ve lost people to the opioid crisis; And I’m sure everyone else has too. One thing I’d like to drive home is that it’s important to consider how we apply empathy or don’t. This can be about so many things other than opioids.

Abel Muñoz (He/Him/His) is originally from Texas and now lives in Nashville. He is passionate about art, but most days he can be found working at a sexual health clinic. He loves 90s country music, especially Linda Ronstadt and George Strait. His ramblings and adventures can be found on various social media platforms (Twitter: @artofspectator, IG: @artofthespectator).