S.G. Goodman’s Old Time Feeling is tremolo, reverb, the darkness on the edge of the farm, and the headlamp of lyric and truth casting light down the ever echoing shaft of the South. Trouble is, things move in those shadows, the snarls of bloody history and the wormy trails of poverty and racism that seem to brand the most indelible impressions on the disembodied eyes peering in from supposedly more enlightened realms of America. But we see it too, the patina from years of abuse. We scrub with expectations of change or deny the monsters even exist… Or we leave. We trek far enough to think we’ve escaped while deciding how much of who we are gets left behind, abandoning the very principles we claim to be self-evident. But we could make better choices. Born and raised in Western Kentucky, Shaina Goodman has chronicled her own story within the Southern dynamic, first with her band The Savage Radley, and now on her debut solo release that blends melody and memory with the emotions of the moment. Calling from her back porch in Murray, Kentucky, Goodman shares with Deconstructing Divas co-host Ashley Doolin (also a native of the Bluegrass State) the stories behind some of her most personal songs and how she’s working to shape the future of the South.
AD- What was it like for you as an aspiring female musician growing up in such a rural farming town?
SG- I would say it gave me enough space to be alone enough with myself to think about what it was [that] I wanted out of life. Music was always a fun pastime and bein’ from such a small place, there really wasn’t a lot to do other than ride around and listen to music and think about it. So I would say it was the perfect environment. A lot of my music is narrative, and I feel like growin’ up in a small town where you really knew your neighbors and your neighbors’ backstories, you were entrenched in a lot of real-life scenarios and understood people. That was pretty powerful– tryin’ to understand the human condition better because you actually were able to have intimate relationships with more people than I feel like a lot of my friends in cities claim to have.
Like it or not, they knew you and knew what was going on too. Same here. I knew I had to act right when I was out and about otherwise somebody would tell my momma and daddy!
Oh yeah! And take and take a lot of joy out of doing it too!
Right? How did you get your start in music? How old were you? Did the writing come first?
Growing up in church… A lot of people ask me like, “Oh, what were your first concerts?” And I always reply that I went to three concerts a week.
Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday!
Exactly! So at an early age, when your parents would make you take part in the church singing and kids choirs and things like that, if you could halfway carry a tune then you were expected to use your gifts for the Lord (laughs)! I would say that’s definitely how I got my start. And also, like I said, music was a pastime. I come from a farmin’ family, so the radio, that was our entertainment. I definitely heavily relied on bein’ able to escape my world through music whether through radio or singin’ with family and things like that.
Who were your biggest musical influences? What did you grow up listening to?
Well, my dad was a big fan of classic rock. I remember a time in my life where we had a record player in the house and the family records, and he was really big into Stevie Nicks and the Eagles and Creedence Clearwater Revival. My mother was a big Bruce Springsteen fan, but also, I was introduced to a lot of old country early in my life. And gospel music. I have a hard time answerin’ what my biggest musical influences were because I just feel like I was bombarded with a lot of different things.
I can remember my mom getting ready when I was a kid and she would put John Cougar Mellencamp on the record player. Of course, it was the ’80s, big hair, and she’s spraying her hair with Aquanet and a cigarette in her mouth– and how we both lived, I don’t know! After graduating high school, you moved to my hometown [Murray, KY], which is about an hour away, the farthest tip of Western Kentucky that you can pretty much go to attend Murray State. What did you major in?
I was a philosophy major and I was a creative writing minor. I started out as a literature minor but switched it over later in my college career to be a creative writing minor.
Now, are you still in Murray?
I am. I have a house here, and I’ve only lived a short time in Nashville. I’ve pretty much remained in Western Kentucky my whole life.
It draws you back, doesn’t it?
It does. I’ve felt very lucky through the pandemic to be here, that’s for sure. I have a little back yard and as you know, I’m twenty minutes from the lake. I go out there every day and do my best to really take advantage of the nature that’s around me because so many people are stuck in little apartments and don’t get that experience. I feel very fortunate to be here right now.
I check in with my mom every single day. I tell her, “Momma, you all are very fortunate right now that your governor’s taking everything so seriously compared to where I’m at,” which is just… It’s a hot mess.
I love that I saw a meme recently of the mayor of Atlanta. It was like a kid comin’ to their parents and saying, “Daddy said I could go outside!” And then the meme was like, “Yeah, but what did mama say?” (Laughs) That’s so good! But yeah, I feel so fortunate. I worked to get Andy Beshear in office through rural organizing. He’s havin’ to walk a real tight line and what a lot of people don’t, I feel like, even consider, he hasn’t even been in office for a year. So we’re so fortunate. He wasn’t even my kind of Democrat, but I felt like there was no question as far as Andy Beshear compared to Matt Bevin. I can’t imagine what this state would look like right now.
There’s absolutely no telling what it would have been with Bevin! As a Murray, Kentuckian, do you prefer The Keg or do you prefer the [Big] Apple?
(Laughs) I don’t really have a preference out of those two.
My husband was like, “You’ve got to ask her about The Keg and The Apple!”
That’s funny. I’m friends with Robert Danielson who used to own The Apple back in the day. The Apple has a really interesting history and some music that’s come through there. But Darren Yates, I believe, is one of the owners of The Keg and he’s a good boy. A lot of my family went to school here. My uncle and my cousin, Ben, were both presidents of the Pikes [Pi Kappa Alpha] here, so they kinda have some loyalty to The Keg, but in my college days, I didn’t really go to either of those places. I went to The Olive. That was my spot– which now, it’s Tap 216, and I don’t really care for it at all. I graduated in 2013. I think it would be that summer when Murray went wet. So the bar scene, in general, has just totally gone to shit around here.
Yeah. When I was in college, when you went to Vitello’s– or it was The Olive at the end of my college years– you couldn’t walk through that place. Now that you can buy a six-pack at the store, people don’t really go out to the bars as much.
I know that you discovered– mine and my husband’s favorite store– Terrapin Station. Matter of fact, when we lived in Murray, we live two streets behind Terrapin Station on Whitnell. So come Record Store Day, we were always the first ones in line. We love Tim, Connor, Butters– the super adorable dog. Tell me about playing there as The Savage Radley.
That’s another place that’s changed a bit. When I was really cutting my teeth there, not only could you smoke inside, but it was BYOB. But now the city has cracked down on all of that. So it’s changed a bit. You’re not as likely, I guess, to get cancer there, but it took away a little bit of the feel and what we were used to. But it’s just a really homey environment, a safe place for a lot of people that maybe don’t feel like they belong in places like The Apple or The Keg. It’s a melting pot of a lot of good people that are really wanting to listen to music. I can’t remember if I’ve played in The Keg… Maybe once? Actually, I don’t feel like I have at all. But playing the bar scene compared to playin’ Terrapin Station is a different world because Terrapin, I would argue, is one of the only real listening rooms in Western Kentucky. You came there for the music.
That’s what made it special. And that’s also what makes it special to people that are not from around here. You can have bands that are used to playing to 500 people come through there and swear that Terrapin was their favorite stop on tour! Because of the intimate nature of that experience. I think it’s really special. We’re lucky to have it, and hopefully, the conservative community members will just let us have it.
Terrapin Station has always been an amazing little hideaway in Murray. I can remember finding it in 1995, I was in high school and that’s where we would all flock to. We were introduced to so much great music during such an awkward stage in our lives. Like you said, you just didn’t feel like you fit in or you belonged anywhere. You did there.
I think it’s really powerful. The week the world shut down, I had just come back from tour and was about to leave for pretty much two months straight. I had an opportunity, I was gonna be in Rolling Stone print. So they sent a photographer down, and some of the pictures that I took were at Terrapin. My label came down in February and we were doing a lot of EPK stuff where they would interview me at different places that were special. So I went to Rudy’s and I went to Terrapin. While I was giving my interview in Terrapin, there was a kid on the couch who goes there every day to play video games. He brings his laptop and headphones and just sits on the couch all day and plays. He was sittin’ on the couch and playin’ video games the whole time I was doin’ my interview (laughs)! And the label was kinda like, “What is going on here?” And I was like, “Nope, don’t ask him to leave. This is his spot!” And Val, of course, the owner was there sittin’ near me. There’s a picture on my Instagram of me and her from that day. It was really special.
I moved from Murray to Macon in 2016. One thing that Macon and Murray have in common, these two Southern towns share their affinity for Confederate statues. They’re here and they are big and they’ve actually been voted here to be relocated to the Confederate soldier cemetery. I know Murray’s is gonna remain and it’s been a topic of conversation every time I speak to somebody in my family. It has been there since 1917. What’s the climate been like in Murray with that? And what are your feelings towards the issue?
First off, I’ve had this conversation with a few people. As you know, being from Murray, Murray doesn’t have a very high population of African-Americans at all. And a lot of people are like, “Don’t, you have bigger fish to fry?” I would say, “Not in this town.” Because it really is symbolic. I feel like there’s been hundreds of letters written to Kenny Imes [Republican member of the KY House of Representatives, Calloway County Judge Executive and Funeral Director] over the issue, and he’s gone out of his way to disregard the feelings of the community. I’m gonna be working together with some friends of mine and faculty when the students do come back to Murray State. We’re gonna let them know that it’s not welcome here again, and continue to push for it to be removed.
Because I don’t feel like the friendliest town in America [Murray was voted Friendliest Town in America from 2012-2017] as Murray tries to claim itself to be can claim that while our elected officials are fighting for a piece of our so-called history. It is a part of history, but we need to see what it stands for. And Robert E. Lee was not a good man. There’s a lot more valuable people from that era that we could have– that wouldn’t be offensive to so many, including myself as a white woman walkin’ to get my license plate every so often! It needs to come down. It’s obvious that Kenny Imes is not willing to budge on this. He’s gone through what he believes are proper channels and the fiscal court voted to keep it in its place while the city council who represents the people voted unanimously to have it removed. I feel like there could be a happy medium. We’re gonna keep raisin’ our voices until it’s removed.
The statue in Murray is interesting. If you look underneath it, you’ll see a water fountain. Now, that water fountain was a white’s only water fountain and whenever segregation, when they started makin’ initiatives to end that, instead of bein’ willin’ to realize that both people of color and whites could drink from the same fountain, they just shut the water off. It’s a very telling story that we cannot in any way try to portray as if it doesn’t stand for systemic racism.
And that’s exactly what it is. I can remember being a young child thinking, “Who is the statue of this man? Because he must have been somebody really special, somebody really important.” I remember asking my momma, “Who is that man?” And my mother couldn’t tell me… My mother didn’t know! For people to fight to keep this symbol of hate and symbol evil… And not to know who he was anyway?
It makes no sense! But a lot of people don’t really realize that the time for change is now. I feel like they think this is a popular feeling for this moment, but they need to read the room and realize that this something that we’re not gonna let up on anytime soon.
Thank you for doing that. Thank you for being my voice. I can’t be there, but I shout it.
That’s important. That’s something that Kenny Imes needs to realize. I’ve paid thousands of dollars to be in this town through that university. And this whole town’s economy actually really depends on those students. We should respect that. It’s not just white kids that are coming to Murray State.
It’s not. Prime example, Ja Morant [Murray State College basketball player turned pro Memphis Grizzlies player] spoke up on this. And to see people respond to him asking for it to be removed [by] saying, “Well, we treated you like a prince when you were here!” I have no words!
My friend, Tim Johns, who was able to get in touch with Ja Morant’s team and to ask his opinion on the matter… There’s been talk of havin’ another statue made of Ja Morant slam dunkin’ on Robert E. Lee’s head. And I thought that was pretty funny!
You know, that’s probably not going to happen.
But I would love for it to! That’s awesome. You were actually scheduled to play in Macon opening for Son Volt at the Hargray Capitol Theater this past April, and then COVID-19 had other plans. During this crazy– and it’s a scary time– how has the pandemic affected you? Has it affected your writing? Has it affected even your mental health? Because I know it has a mine.
Absolutely. I’m pretty good about being in solitude, but I would say I found my limit around three months in. Things were evolving so quickly at that time in my career. I’d just released my first single, I was going through the press cycle and about to gear up [to go on tour.] As of the second week of March– was it 52 dates I think I had canceled? And a lot of those were major festivals that were lifelong dreams to be a part of. But I did my best to try to protect myself. It’s really hard sitting here on my back porch, looking at a beautiful luscious green yard and realizing that there are literally people going hungry and being evicted from their homes right now. So I’ve tried to keep in perspective how fortunate my situation has been through this. But also keeping in mind that as Americans refuse to wear masks, as Americans refuse to respect businesses’ ordinance around how to keep each other safe while they’re trying to stay open in these odd times, those people are actively fighting against my ability to do my job. It’s really disheartening in a culture, especially here in the rural South where Christianity is so pervasive in our daily lives whether we are involved with it or not.
Faith over fear.
Yeah. This idea of rugged individualism when I feel like if we really look at the message of Jesus, he wasn’t about individualism. Supposedly he died for everyone’s sins. One person. I don’t think that’s a picture of individualism. He cared for other people. I’m not a Christian, but I really get sick of some of these same people who are shoutin’ that kinda message, just the blatant hypocrisy that’s goin’ on. Ultimately, they’re choosing selfishness over compassion. It’s definitely enough to make you depressed– and I’ve definitely been there. I’m lucky I have a lot of close friends. Probably the middle of March, I felt because there was so much uncertainty at that point, I’d pushed back some tours to August of this year. Which is laughable at this point! But we didn’t know at that moment. Certain friends of mine would call me just depressed and scared– and then the next week I would be in their shoes! I remember tellin’ my friend, Courtney Marie Andrews, that this is gonna come in waves. We’ve just gotta be ready and hold each other up.
It’s been a roller coaster for sure. Like you, I would be okay and then I would fall apart. And if it weren’t for my close friends, my husband… I didn’t know how to cope. I’m very much a control freak, I go by a schedule, and my life was just thrown off like everyone else’s. It really threw me for a loop!
And then you can really sink into your vices during those times to try to enforce some kind of schedule. I’ve learned a lot about myself through being quiet and still. I’ve never been a heavy drinker but looking forward to 5 o’clock so I could make myself an old fashioned, I realized like, “Now is the time where you don’t have any reason to do this!” But I was using that as somethin’ to look forward to in my day, you know? I didn’t have a problem, but it was just an unnecessary vice at the moment.
I’m going to tell you, your debut album, Old Time Feeling, is AMAZING!
Thank you! Appreciate it!
From start to finish, to me, it’s like the best book and you read it in one day and then you sit and you wait and you’re jonesing for that sequel. Basically, you’re my Harry Potter right now!
(Laughs) Hopefully, I’m a lot more PC than JK Rowling!
What was the process like for you– writing, recording, interviewing, plugging away?
A lot of aspects of it are brand new, such as the press cycle and stuff, but some of these songs have been formed over many years. I’m not a factory when it comes to writing. A song from five years ago might be on that record. But it’s been so encouraging to have gotten the response that I have. Also, once again, tryin’ to keep things perspective, there is a big part of me that wonders how different of a position I would be in right now if I was able to support it on the road and actually be able to connect with people intimately on a stage and bring it to life for folks.
But at the same, to be positive about it, I feel like people have this odd opportunity to really listen. I’m a new artist. I don’t have a big platform at this moment and there’s been so much good music put out in the last five months that I’m shocked that I do have listeners! Sitting on my back porch in Murray, Kentucky! That’s pretty amazing. I’ve always found music is healing and a great escape, and I really hope that’s what this record can be for people. Hopefully, they’ll find some healing or maybe a motivational charge from it. I’m just tryin’ to trust the process and trust the fact that this was the time it was meant to be released in the world.
It’s doing it. I promise you. It is here anyway. These pieces of work, I can only imagine what it’s like to be a songwriter. They have to be, to me, kind of like a child. You’ve breathed life into them. Do you have a favorite song on the album?
No, I always say like, “Mamas don’t pick their favorites!” But there’s a special story behind each one. For instance, “Supertramp” is the oldest song on the record. That was probably written in 2010. That song is special to me because I made a demo of it and that song is how me and my drummer and best friend Stephen [Montgomery]– who’s played with me for nearly a decade now– that was what I showed him and asked him, “Would you be willin’ to help me bring these to life?” That song has is totally different from that first demo and is, for me, a testament to how we’ve grown as people, and also really is a symbol of the time we’ve shared together.
And then you got something like “Tender Kind”, which I wrote in the studio, that was like this moment where we all were working on something new. And it was exciting! Makin’ the record is just a moment in time. Writing the songs and forming them…
It’s the journey.
It’s the journey! Exactly. I think that’s a great way of saying it. Each of them have their own special story. “The Way I Talk”, it was snowin’ one day, and I went over to my guitarist’s house, Matt Rowan, and he has an old Tascam 388. I showed him the song and we put it down. Each of them have a special little demo and the way they were first introduced to all of us. It’s just a fun process! It definitely has its payoff and I couldn’t be prouder of the way the record turned out. I mean, I’m a perfectionist too, and I’ve had to learn over the years to let things be what they are. Yeah. I definitely, don’t listen to my songs every day, but I do love that feelin’ after giving myself a few months of a break from listenin’ to a song to go back and be really proud of it. That’s great for me.
Track one “Space and Time”, it hits from the start. And honestly, when I hear you, it’s like Patsy, Kitty, Bobbie, Loretta, Tammy, all of these powerhouse women are just embodied in you. The first time I heard it, I’m like “This is great! I love this!” And then the second time I’m like, “Holy shit… This is a goodbye!” I mean, to me, it’s a goodbye. What were your intentions?
That song was a moment where I was in the mental state… I was dealin’ with suicide at that moment. I’ve been in therapy for years, but I suffer from a mental condition, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I feel like if anyone’s honest, they’ve definitely had the thought crossed their mind before– that they would like to escape. They would like to leave the world. They don’t want to face tomorrow. But for me, unfortunately, with that alongside Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, those thoughts, whether I allow them to [grow] or not, it’s just my disposition. They become very real for me, very intrusive. And that was a moment… I was with my boys, we were rehearsing for the Savage Radley record release of Kudzu, and I was in such bad shape, I could barely function.
I remember showin’ up at Matt’s house– and the rest of the guys were gettin’ their stuff together downstairs– and just sittin’ on his couch and bursting out in tears that I just can’t do it anymore. You know? I had written what is probably thought to be the chorus of the song, the lines that start the song out. But I hadn’t written the really only true verse of the song. Stephen, my drummer, and I, we have a special relationship. Oftentimes, when I have an idea of a song, I’ll start it with just him and play. So we went upstairs and I took my little legal pad and we played through the chords over and over until that line came to me. Then the rest of the guys came upstairs.
I still have that demo on my phone. It’s not too far off from what you hear on the record. In fact, the guitar solo in it, which I refused to change, is exactly the same. On the first listen, that’s what Matt came up with, and I felt like that said musically everything I couldn’t say with words. I felt like I had to respect that moment. Each little thing about it is a testament to that circumstance that I found myself in. And it just goes to show that music and friends? They really can save you.
And sometimes it’s the only thing that can. And you’re right. If everyone is honest, there are times that it has crossed everyone’s mind. I thank you, though, for not giving up.
It’s interesting, that song in particular. Not a lot of people know the backstory or would put together that it was any sort of goodbye. ‘Cause sometimes it registers as just a straight love song. And it is! I was a little embarrassed by the way it was written for a long time because I felt like there was nothing to hide behind. But I really felt, even in the midst of all that anguish and thoughts of ending in my life, that I really was thankful for people. That was a really weird thing to experience– this immense amount of gratitude for the people that I’ve been able to share my life with, good and bad. They really do accumulate to make the sum of somebody’s existence. That’s what I needed to say aloud.
The day that your album arrived here, I snatched it and I took it with me to play while my husband and I were out running some errands. We were sitting there in silence, listening to each song– and this is just super unusual because if there isn’t something that we jive with, we’re pretty quick to change it. It wasn’t the case here at all! It was just stillness in that car. And then we got to “Red Bird Morning”. He looks over at me and, SG, I’m sobbing. I honestly can’t tell you why. It just hit me. And he said, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Shut up! Don’t say anything!” I didn’t skip it, I played it again. It is my absolute favorite. Can you indulge me? Can you elaborate on the writing of it, on the story of it? Because it is one of the most beautiful songs I think I’ve ever heard.
I’ll tell you some things that I haven’t told other people about it. At that point in my life, that was around the same time I was struggling mentally. The boys and I would have released Kudzu on June 30th , and I feel like I wrote that song early August of that year. In between June 30th and August, I had started medication for the first time in my life. Well, not for the first time, but that was the second time I’d tried to medicate myself for my mental condition. And I was really scared that it would not allow me to be creative anymore. That’s oftentimes the side effect of anti-anxiety meds and things like that. You feel dull.
Earlier that June, my partner and I had split. She had moved out of my house and I had actually decided to not live in that house anymore because my rent had gone up. So I was a bit homeless. The house I own now and am living in now, my friend who was runnin’ around with me, we started squatting here. My buddy who owned the house had… You could get into this house, so we would sleep on the carpet down in this little music room that I have now. My friend who I was with was at his mother’s and I was dealing with the ending of that relationship and had my guitar out on the back porch… And that song came to me in about 20 minutes. Which is really odd for me. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I felt like I was really tryin’ to grapple with where things went wrong in that relationship. I’ve said this to a few different people, but I feel like when a relationship ends, whether you’re the person who ends it or not, I think there’s a moment where we all become detectives and try to figure out exactly where things went wrong…
What happened? What did I do? I don’t want to do this again!
Yep! And so there I was. A lot of odd things that happened earlier that winter, but right before my birthday, I’d left town with some friends to drive some donated goods to the Standing Rock protest in Cannon Ball (ND). I feel like I really offended my partner at the time because maybe she had some plans for my birthday, but I was pretty hell-bent on doing what I wanted to do. For some reason– which is not the truth, that’s not why our relationship ended– I just started going on that journey again in my mind. It was August, so the cardinals were out, and oddly my ex, the day my album came out for The Savage Radley, her grandmother died. It was like that first realization of someone who you had been so intimate with and a source of comfort that there was now a boundary put up to where you couldn’t comfort them in the way that you would have. I tried to make a scenario in my mind through that journey of trying to reconcile what had happened, [and] I realized that we both needed comforting. That’s where I go with the idea of the red bird throughout the song. Because that’s an old Southern saying, that when a red bird visits, that’s your loved one who’s passed coming to visit you.