Thursday, June 18, 2009

Radio Eclectic interview with Ted Goodwin

Here it is folks: the first ever Radio Eclectic interview with the stars! Our currently featured artist, Ted Goodwin, was kind enough to give us the scoop on his new album, The Third of Two Options, as well as the ins and outs of indie obscurity, songwriting, and ordering dishes not advertised on the menu. Thanks to Underdawg of the Daniel Amos message board ( for his assistance with the interview.

Radio Eclectic: What first gave you the idea that you could record your own music and share it with folks, and was there any particular event or inspiration that pushed you over the edge and into making your music a public thing?

Ted Goodwin: Well, first, you have to understand something about me: I’m really not naturally musically talented at all. I started writing songs as a teenager because, basically, I saw other people making music and thought I could do the same. I picked up some things from music I listened to, which was often fairly complex and sophisticated, but I never had any guidance or training. So even when I started writing fairly well -- and it took years to get there -- it was like I’d gotten a hold of Music 301 concepts without ever learning Music 101 or 201. That made my stuff pretty individualistic, and I found that all I could really do with it was to record it all by myself. If not for that, there would never have been any reason for me to try singing (even in the shower) or playing.

As for making it a "public thing," I was inflicting -- I mean, sharing my stuff, in the form of home cassette "albums," long before it had any business being shared. By the time I did anything worth sharing, I had realized that I wasn’t going to be the next big thing in the music world and had stopped trying to make music more than a hobby. So it’s not a "public thing" for me beyond friends and people I connect with on the ‘net. I suppose I could really try to promote it, but there are enough indie artists out there that that hasn’t worked for.

RE: Now that you've put out this CD, and it's pretty darned good, what is your goal for it? Do you have the belief that it could turn into a successful enterprise, or is it something that you do for your own gratification, no matter whether you sell 5 copies or 500? In short... why do all this work for so little monetary reward? I'm assuming that this isn't an inexpensive hobby. (submitted by Underdawg)

TG: OK, I’ll have to go ‘round the long way to get to my answer to this…

I’ve recorded songs simply because I wrote them, and I wrote them because they were a good form of expression for me. I made my first CD pretty much just because I could. But it was a whole different ballgame from doing my old home cassettes. It took way too long, and not everything I tried worked. I wasn’t planning to do another one, but for various reasons I eventually ended up with a handful of songs, both new & old, that I really wanted to record. So this time I consciously did exactly what I hadn’t done the first time. I kept it short & simple, and focused on my strengths as a performer. Wait, I don’t have strengths as a performer. OK, I kept it focused away from my worst weaknesses as a performer. Anyway, it took much less time and expense, and it turned out noticeably better.

So… my main reason for making this CD is just that I wanted the songs to be recorded, and recorded well. I’m long past the point of thinking it could "turn into a successful enterprise." And you’re right that this isn’t an inexpensive hobby. Given the expense vs. the number of people who are likely to hear it, this isn’t something I’m likely to do again. But I’m glad I did it this time because this disc is something I can be proud of.

RE: Who has influenced you musically?

TG: The main "influence" on my music is the fact that I don’t have enough imitative ability to really claim anyone as an “influence.” People often have a hard time figuring out who I sound like, and that’s because I don’t spend much time sounding like anyone else.

Another “influence” is the fact that I have very limited playing & singing abilities, and it’s a challenge to write good material that somewhat fits those limits.

I suppose some influence from music I listen to – mostly made by artists who were around between 1967 & 1974 – has crept in, but said influence is mostly pretty indirect.

RE: What are the pros and cons of working with a producer, as you have with your latest two releases, versus doing it yourself as with the early cassette albums?

TG: The only “pro” to making cassettes myself was that it didn’t cost much money. Otherwise all the “pros” have been on the side of working with Kyle, who is not only a producer with actual equipment but an excellent guitarist and bassist as well. Production-wise, he knows that my ideas tend to be quite fully formed before I bring them to him, and he has been wonderfully respectful of that. As a lead guitarist – well, just listen to his work on my new disc, especially on “Down To You.” My chord progressions tend to avoid fixed key signatures and thus can be difficult to solo over. But Kyle hits the right notes, which is much better than playing a lot of fast notes that may or may not hit the mark.

RE: Your song lyrics reveal a definite ironical sense of humor; does that happen naturally, or do you plan to do a couple ironical and a few more serious songs per album?

TG: It all depends on what the general theme of the work is going to be. In the case of the new disc, I wanted to keep things relatively light-hearted. The last time around my focus was on serious songs, and I wasn’t satisfied with how some of them turned out. I think the more witty, ironical stuff suits me better.

RE: What would you say is the unifying theme for this record, if there is one?

TG: There really isn’t one. I just wanted to record the new songs so they’d be recorded, and a couple of the older ones because I’d performed them for friends and wanted to be able to share them (the songs, not the friends) on CD. Otherwise the main common ground between the songs is that they don’t run smack into my vocal limitations.

RE: Who are your favorite songwriters?

TG: I don’t really have an answer to that. I don’t think any one writer has been responsible for enough of my favorite songs to qualify.

RE: Do you have a favorite song on this record?

TG: “Down To You” - no contest. And not for the lyrics, but the music. It reminds me of being a kid in the early ‘70s when you could still hear these really long rock songs on the radio. And they were long because they deserved to be – they used their length to take you places. They had a certain mystique for me – maybe partly because I rarely got to hear them all the way through!

RE: Of the new songs on this record, which came first?

TG: The title track dates from 2006, around the time IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING was finished. It was one of many ideas I had for a tentative “next” CD, and the only one that got much beyond the lyric-fragment stage. At one point I had tossed it along with the rest, but it stayed stuck in my head so I eventually wrote it down again. “Down To You” dates from 2007, although the main bass riff & chords come from a 1994 jam between my friend Mark (credited as co-composer for said bass riff) and myself. I wrote “Plunge” in 2008.

RE: Songs like "Always Looking" feature a more acoustic sound and bluesy structure than on your previous records -- was this intentional during the writing process or something that came out of the recording sessions?

TG: Writing process. That song & “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” come from a time, around 2000, when I did all my songwriting on the guitar (which I can barely play) in order to force my songs to be simpler.

RE: Anyone in particular inspire the song "Everybody Wants To be Where You Are?"

TG: The basic idea did get set in motion when I once got to shake the hand of a well-known person, but it’s not about them – it’s not about anyone in particular.

RE: Have you ever ordered something that wasn't on the menu?

TG: (Nice reference to the title track!) Actually, yes. And often I ask restaurant servers if I can change something about an item. After all, a menu is just a list of suggestions, right?

RE: Having listened to this album a few times, I realize that some songs aren't about what I first thought they were about. Do you see your songs differently as time goes by? Do they mean something different to you? (submitted by Underdawg)

TG: There have been a few times where one of my more personal songs has taken on kind of a new meaning due to events in my life. But most of the time I have specific & set meanings in mind for songs. That applies to the songs you'll hear on this & my other discs -- even some of the instrumental pieces.

RE: Do you plan to get a regular MySpace / Facebook / other web page where folks can go to hear more and contact you about buying your awesome indie albums?

TG: Not really. Maybe if I were younger, or more talented, or more serious about making music. But indie music is an extremely high-supply, low-demand commodity, and I don’t have enough ability or inclination toward self-promotion (not to mention actual musical talent) to overcome that.

...There you have it, folks. Peace, love, and music...Support Independent Music!

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