I was determined to squeeze in another interview before next week…
PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Hess
and speak with Annie Goodchild about her new track, Ether. She talks about the importance of Boston and how the city influences her. I learn how music came into life and the moment she knew this is what she is supposed to be doing. She reveals a few albums that are especially important - I ask what we can expect from her upcoming E.P., Meditative Mouthfuls.
Goodchild looks ahead to gigs and where we can catch her; which musical memory is her favourite; what it is like being on stage connecting with an audience; the rising artists we need to follow – she ends the interview with a great song.
Hi, Annie. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey. I'm good. Busy in practice, but that’s a good thing.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure thing. Hi. I’m Annie. I grew up in Boston; been obsessed with sound since I was a kid and would describe myself as a 'fierce dreamer'. Musically, I’ve had a really hard time describing what I make in just a few words - but I've landed on 'American-Roots-meets-Cinematic-Pop'.
Ether is your current single. Is there a story behind the song?
Ether is the first song I wrote for myself. I’ve talked about this a bit before but I’ve had a close relationship with anxiety and, for a long time, I let my fear dictate what I do and don’t do. Ether is about finding balance in mysel: some kinda of harmony between the part of me that is self-conscious and the part of me that is finally showing up for myself. It’s my own mantra and a reminder of this symmetry at the moment.
It is from the upcoming E.P., Meditative Mouthfuls. What sort of themes and ideas inspired the music?
For me, inspiration comes from everywhere. There are so many layers to the human psyche and I want my art to reflect that as much as possible. Instrumentally and musically, I really like to play with genre and create an abundance of sound or space in my songs. This has made it hard to categorise, but I can’t think of another way to create that feels right to me.
During the time, I was writing this E.P., I was doing a lot of meditation and self-reflection about where I’m at and where I want to be as a person. I think the biggest theme of this E.P. is my relationship to fear: fear of letting go of relationships; fear of knowing if I try I could fail and the fear of learning to trust and count on myself.
When did music come into your life? Which artists did you fall for at a young age?
Music has always been a hugely important part of my life. I grew up with a piano in the house and a mom who loved Classical and Jazz music. My childhood was filled with hairbrush microphones, shower acoustics and singing in Gospel choirs around Boston. I’d say my greatest early-age influencers were/are the great female voices: Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin; Nina Simone, Whitney Houston; Etta James, Billie Holiday; Ella Fitzgerald etc.
PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Hess
It’s hard to express what these women mean to me. They can take any emotion you’re feeling and turn it into sound. It’s magic. They've all saved me in their own way. Once I became a teen, I was introduced to Classic and Psychedelic Rock, which still influences my writing today: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin; Queen, The Clash; The Velvet Underground and many more were played on repeat
Do you recall the first time you took to the stage and became a musician? How did that feel?
Ooh, yes I do. I was eighteen, in Antigua Guatemala and I was terrified. Haha. At this point in my life, my anxiety was its own outlawed entity running wild; sabotaging, pillaging and that sort of thing. My friends didn't know I could sing or even wanted to and I don't think my family had heard me sing since I was a small child. Anyways; I was in Cafe No Sè, a tequila/mezcal bar very near and dear to my heart with some friends. There as an open mic happening and we’d just gone to enjoy; absolutely not to perform. It was late (and drinks generous); the house guitar was held up and Mike the greatest bartender asked who's singing next. My friend yelled out “SHE WILL!” and pointed to me.
At this point, I'm ready to hide under a rock but this small bar encouraged me for the next ten minutes until I edged my way over to the bar stool in the front and said ‘ok’. I remember my hands shaking and staring at the floor. I sang Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason; one of the only songs I knew how to play on guitar then and the whole place fell quiet. I was dying inside. I finished and was afraid to look up...but I got a big applause and the owner came up to me and offered me a weekly gig. I said ‘yes’. I’m forever grateful for that night.
Boston is where you were born and raised. How important is the city’s music, past and present, to you?
Music is such an important part of a community and I’m really grateful to have grown up in a city that believes this as well. Boston is the home to the Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory; Club Passim, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and much more. It’s also one of the oldest cities in America which gives it its own special feel and history. There are great venues around the city. My friends, old bandmates; countless musicians and music students are keeping this scene alive today and fighting for these gems to stay open. So, if you’re visiting Boston go check out some local music and support the scene!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I think, what I want to achieve in 2018, will be the same goal for the rest of my life: I want to make music and art that feels honest; that pushes me forward and challenges me. I want to hustle the means to make that art and I want to connect with as many people as possible while doing it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Hess
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
I was just talking about this the other day. When I was with my old band, Melou, I was performing at this festival on the North Sea called Oerol. We had played our set and covered Glory Box. I didn't know but the band we opened for, Andre Manuel, was there. Later that night, I was at their show with my bandmate and Andre Manuel and his band started playing a song with a really similar bass line. He saw me sitting in the audience looked at me and sang “I just wanna be a woman” and nodded for me to come up. I froze in place but Max pushed me up and said: “What are you doing?! Get up there!”
I went up locked eyes with Andre and the whole band and I jammed out this weird explosive version of both songs. It was like I had tunnel vision the audience disappeared and, for the first time on a stage, I wasn't afraid: I felt free and trusted in my power. It was a really significant moment for me.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
That’s a nearly-impossible question for someone as indecisive as myself. So many albums have been the soundtrack to my life at different times but, at least for today, my top-three would be Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. This was my high-school anthem. During this time, I fell in love; hitchhiked across America and went to Guatemala with a friendly stranger where I started really singing for the first time.
The second would be Etta James’ At Last! The album, the women; the voice is everything you could want and not know you needed from an artist. It also has maybe my favourite duet of all time on it (If I Can’t Have You featuring Harvey Fuqua). If you don’t know it, check it out!
Portishead’s Dummy is coming in at three. Watching Beth Gibbons sing is like being cast under a spell. I think ‘big’ voices were such a big part of my early musical life that I had a lot to learn about subtlety, balance and control - or a controlled lack of control if that makes any sense. There’s something really sexy and truly vulnerable about Portishead but, at the same time, strong. This has also stuck with me in all my writing.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I’d LOVE to support so many artists, so I’ll just choose who I’d want to support today. I think Hozier would be a great artist to support or work with. I’ve been on a Folk and Blues-writing kick recently so it’s an exciting idea. If, on this magical day, I was supporting a handful of artists I’d have to add Laura Mvula, Brittany Howard; Robert Plant and the kids, Maggie Rogers and Matthew Herbert.
If we’re talking hospitality rider, I’ll take all the Mexican food I can get my hands on.
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
Yes, absolutely! I’m gonna be part of a cool music installation for this year’s Klang Basel on Sept. 14; heading to Bern on Oct 17 for my first E.P. release show. Then, Oct. 19 at Parterre in Basel which will be an amazing night. Feel free to stop by my socials for future gigs etc. I’m putting new ones up all the time.
How important is it being on stage and performing? Is it the place you feel most comfortable?
Performing live is hugely important to me: to have a real connection to other people and to see the audience connect to the music you make is an incredible feeling. I think there are some artists who are really good at communicating who they are or how they want to be seen through social media. This is not a skill I have mastered yet. Until then, live shows are where it’s at. I feel most comfortable recording in a vocal booth; making all the weird faces I can to create the sound I want. It’s like an isolation tank for me but being on stage feels brave. Being on stage makes me feel awake and alive and terrified and thrilled.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
My advice would be to stay true to who you are and, if you don’t know who you are yet, then be true to your process. Everyone will want something from you; they will want you to have an easier sound to digest (not projecting here at all…); they'll want you to look more like some made-up beauty standard, especially if you're female (seriously not projecting here). They will tell you to jump through certain hoops to get where you want to go. I call bullsh*t on all of this: build your own hoop or star…or multi-dimensional doorway and shimmy through that sh*t.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
And The Kids is one of my favourite new bands. They are the kinda band I want to be best friends with and play with (call me for sleepovers!). Buscabulla are great as well. They are from Puerto Rico and have such a beautiful aesthetic to everything that they do.
IN THIS PHOTO: Buscabulla/PHOTO CREDIT: Franco Frontera
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Ha. It’s a double-edged sword: I need more breaks from the business side of music. The music itself helps me unwind. On my dream day, I’d be teleported to some beautiful cabin with a view. I’d be alone; there would be a fire and tons of instruments and I could just write.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Just to full circle it all, I’ll put my favourite Hozier song, Cherry Wine. Thanks! x
Follow Annie Goodchild
PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Hess