Premiere of “It’s Not The Spotlight” – EP Appleonfire will be released Feb 17th
A Conversation with Louise Goffin ♠ Premiere
Huffington Post Entertainment: The Soundtrack Of My Life – Premiere
Mike Ragogna: Let’s talk about your Appleonfire EP. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you being the daughter of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It seems like a logical approach to do a project of your parents’ recordings, but this goes beyond that. The EP also features a song you co-wrote with your father, a long lost Goffin/King composition and a couple of your own songs. How did the idea behind this project start?
Louise Goffin: It started with “It’s Not The Spotlight.” When my father passed away I was doing a house concert the next day. I always loved that song of his. He’s written so many great songs but that one really had his essence because he sang it. He didn’t really think of himself much as a singer but in 1973 he went to Mussel Shoals and made a double record and sung all of the vocals on it. Most of it was a political record, but there were some songs that later got covered and became hits and charted with other artists, and “It’s Not The Spotlight” was one of them. At his memorial gathering I saw his co-writer Barry Goldberg and I said, “Oh, I just played your song.” He said it would really be a great thing to go and record it, so that was the start of the whole EP.
MR: And then the thought got bigger, you recorded that song, and it snowballed.
LG: Yeah, that is what happened. There were all these fantastic musicians who I wanted to play with, and when he said, “Let’s record that song” I thought, “If I’m going to call all these amazing musicians who have expressed interest in working with me, it doesn’t make sense to record just one song.” So I played Barry a couple of brand new songs of mine, a few of them are on the record, “Everything You Need” and “Higher Than Low,” and he loved them.
MR: And then Jakob Dylan came in?
LG: Jakob Dylan guests on a Goffin/King song because at MusiCares a year ago he and I sang a Goffin and King song together and I mentioned to Barry, “Why don’t we ask Jakob to sing on a Goffin/King song?” So that actually happened, he came down and sang on “Take A Giant Step.” I love that song so much. So that was the Jakob Dylan connection, and that was four songs we did in one day. For it to really be a substantial EP I need two more songs. I was really asking the universe, “What should the other two songs be?” I went through a lot of obscure songs my father wrote. I didn’t want to do the heavily-covered songs that everyone had known, I wanted to find something more under the radar. That song, “If I’m late,” was on YouTube and I had never heard it. I also remembered that my dad and I had written the song, “I’m Not Rich But I’m Not Poor.” I’d always wanted to do something with it, he and I talked about making a demo of it last year or a couple of years ago, but I got really busy and we couldn’t do it. I thought those were really good choices for the other two songs.
MR: Yeah. So the expression behind the title “I’m Not Rich But I’m Not Poor” came from your grandfather, right? Gerry’s dad?
LG: Yes, it was something that he told me, that his father used to say to him.
MR: I love the concept of finding one of your parents rare songs on YouTube. It’s almost like the song reached out to you.
LG: I would be very aware of songs that my father sang lead vocal on because it was such a rare thing, but to find a demo of a song they wrote and he sings lead and my mother harmonizes throughout the entire song like an old Everly Brothers-style duet but with these really romantic lyrics… And I love the message, “If I’m late, say you’re gonna wait for me.” I often say that to people. [laughs]
MR: Louise, is it possible it was written for the Everlys?
LG: No, there’s really no connection, I just brought it up because of the style. That song was apparently written in 1969. ’69 was a very transitional, bumpy year because we had all moved to LA in ’68, so I’m sure there were separations and a lot of starting over again in a new place with two little girls. I’m sure they could’ve written that song and gone and demoed it and it could’ve ended up on some demo reel at a publishing company and then my mother went on to make The City or something. I think a lot of songwriters churn out so much stuff that sometimes things just fall through the cracks. It just ends up on a publishing tape somewhere. So that was amazing. Recording it with Joseph Arthur was also very synchronistic because I knew it needed someone who had a bit of my father’s style. In fact, I switched it so I was singing the lead on it and had to change a couple of gender-specific words here and there.
I was at Village Recording Studio asking around, “Who do I get to sing on this one?” Jeff Greenberg who owns Village said, “Oh, there’s this guy, John Alagia knows him,” John’s a wonderful musician and producer. I call John to ask who this guy was he was working with. It turned out it was someone he had worked with several years earlier. A few weeks later, John’s in one city, Joe’s in another and I’m in LA and John’s making introductions via text. It turned out that Joseph was on tour and was only going to be in New York for the one week that I was going to be in New York in October but he said he’d love to do it. I went over to his place in Brooklyn and we finished up that song. I’d already cut the track but we did all the vocals and some overdubs and made a video all in the space of four hours one afternoon.
MR: This is your seventh album?
LG: I think that’s right – my seventh solo record.
MR: What was the studio experience like for Appleonfire?
LG: It was one of those heightened experiences in life. I really was saying, “I can’t believe I’m here with these incredible musicians and awesome people.” Bob Glaub has been very supportive, when I did the Carole King record he was playing bass on that, and I forgot what a monster Bob is as a bass player. He’s amazing. We live around the same side of town, and he’s been amazingly supportive, and played on all of the recordings that I’ve been doing since the Carole record, and at times playing on shows if the shows are in town. I hadn’t played with Jim Keltner since I was probably a teen. I called Jim I think within the last year asking him to play and he was booked that day. We had a great conversation and caught up and he said, “Call me again.” So this was the session I called him again. Val McCallum I saw play with his band Jackshit, have you seen them? He’s just an insanely talented guitar slinger. The whole history of soul and country and twang and all of it is in his fingertips. It’s all so accessible to him. And then Barry Goldberg himself, who was co-producing on that session of four songs, he’s one of the best B3 players out there.
MR: And you were given the studio gratis by Jackson Browne.
LG: Yes, and that’s another amazing story. My father passed away and I really wanted to do this thing, to cover his songs and make it celebratory in his honor. A lot of people felt that love and affection for him. I called Chris Aaron who I wrote “Higher Than Low” with, and I said, “Chris, you’re not going to believe it, I’m going to record our song, I’m just waiting to hear back from Jackson about whether the band and I can get any studio time. He said, “Jackson’s sitting right next to me. We just played a show together in Madison, Wisconsin.” I heard back soon from Ed Wong, who manages the studio and there was just this one Monday free. I swear to you, every single musician that I wanted was free only on that day we had a studio.
MR: [laughs] It was meant to be.
LG: The tragic thing is that Chris Aaron passed away a month later.
MR: Sorry about his passing, Louise. So Nathaniel Kunkel mixed the project, Niko Bolas engineered, and you recorded it in Jackson Browne’s studio. Nice.
LG: A lot of the cats who were in the studio that day are people who I’ve known since I was eighteen. They knew me when I was young and just having fun making records. I didn’t have adult responsibilities, I was just a kid having fun in the studio, Danny Kortchmar was producing and all that. Now I’m taking the reigns and producing and being the record company and self-distributing and making the calls. Just to be in a room with all of those people who I love so much, I feel so blessed, beyond blessed, to be able to have that continuity in spite of life having no continuity whatsoever. It’s really the people who you know and the people in your life who bring the continuity through all those different changes. To be here, so far down the path and be in the room with all of these same incredible musicians, and also realizing that they’re there for me, not because of a record company.
MR: These days, the role of producer is almost like a godfather or an advisor or a mentor compared to before when producers were totally hands-on.
LG: Yeah. The closest thing that I can think of is parenting. Yes, you’re in a room with musicians and musicians are like a bunch of kids, but I’m one of the kids too. Jim Keltner explained it perfectly. You can hire people like that, but they don’t guarantee that they’re going to make a great record or that things are going to sound great at all. What Jim said was “All artists command a song.” That’s where he looks for his view. That’s the horse leading. Fortunately I have played those songs. When I was at the guitar or the piano, I knew where the dynamics were. If you’re searching, if you’re not sure where it’s going to go, you can really lose yourself in a recording session, even with the best of intentions and the best musicians.
MR: True, but on the other hand, you as Louise Goffin had the exposure to the creation of music at a very early age.
LG: I don’t know how I know what I think I know, and it’s not to say I’m right in where I want to go, but where I want to go is old school. A lot of things don’t sound like that these days, so I’m just doing what makes my bells ring.
MR: It’s a culmination of what you’ve admired and seen in yourself and others over the years, and I think in some ways, it’s a nod to what Gerry represents, good songs.
LG: Yeah, I sure wish he could hear it, because he would really get a kick out of it.
MR: What is your advice for new artists?
LG: It’s very important to find what’s different about you, what’s uniquely you, and then amplify that by twenty. People tend to want to mask and cover what they think makes them stand out. They try to sound more like what they hear on the charts, but I think that’s the kiss of death, because really what’s interesting is the most unusual aspects of an artist. Whatever those things are, make them rhyme and repeat them. [laughs] Take your weirdness, make it rhyme, repeat it and put a beat on it. That’s my advice.
MR: Is that how you did it over the years?
LG: I think I’m going to get more relaxed in my writing and recording the less I feel this need to “catch up” with myself. I’ve had so many unrecorded songs for so long that in the last year I’ve just been recording songs that were on my hard drive and I thought, “This is really good, I should just do this.” There’s still plenty more of that, but I think at this point I have a lot of effortless creativity at my disposal that I don’t really run with as much as I could. The record I make when I’m not trying very hard might be interesting.
MR: Everybody loves recording, but I’ve heard a lot of artists lately tell me they love playing live more because they can express a lot more of their creativity that would be too difficult to record.
LG: I love playing live. It’s new for me because I never did a lot of it. I think I was too insecure and just too shy about my ability to do things, especially solo. I wanted someone backing me up all the time. I’ve gotten so much more confident in the last year and a half or so, just because I threw myself into water and made myself swim. I enjoy playing live a lot.
MR: So where’s the apple rolling from this point on?
LG: You have to be ready to believe in yourself whether other people are green-lighting things or not. Too much time goes by waiting for other people to notice. At some point, that gets exhausting. I love the camaraderie, my favorite part of music is the camaraderie, the community, the travel, the interweaving of other ideas. To me that’s where the excitement is. I like working with other artists, I would like to tour with other artists and write songs with them, maybe get back into producing with other artists again.
MR: In some respects, you couldn’t be making music at a better time because of advances in digital technology and marketing through social networking. You have the potential of not waiting for anyone to green-light anything, you can take everything into your own hands. You’re releasing this yourself, right?
LG: Yeah, I was going to release it and distribute it digitally and then on this record I decided to make hard copies on CD just because I like being able to hold something that you can look at. And when you do a live show people really, really love after they’ve heard the live songs to hold something and take it home. When I played the Bluebird in Nashville, because of the TV show “Nashville” there were people from all over the world who wanted to go to the famous Bluebird that they’d seen on TV. There were people from Italy, Australia, it was not just a Nashville audience. Everyone else had said, “You remember this famous song that this guy covered?” but I was going, “Here’s a famous song you never heard.” They were all songs no one had ever heard before that I was playing. It was really nice at the end because a lot of people wanted CDs to take back to wherever they were going. That felt meaningful to have people in the audience want to take it home with them.
MR: Yeah, I miss the physical aspect of music production, but we’re here now.
LG: Well, we live in a disposable culture. You’ll never get this far into the interview, for sure. I don’t even know if people read stuff on Facebook, they just “like” it. I wonder if eighty out of a hundred people have read the thing, or even opened it, when they click the “like” button. Do you know?
MR: I don’t know what the percentage is, but I know that a lot of people are winging it.
LG: It’s digital and disposable. You put a song out, another song out, a video out… I read this great quote, “In this age, you don’t want to be a genius, you want to be a ‘seenius.'” It’s all about being seen. If there’s one thing you do that’s amazing, it’ll be yesterday’s news yesterday. People just go to the next, the next, the next, the next and they consume and absorb and move on from things so fast that it almost makes sense to practically put out singles. I don’t know if people take time anymore. A lot of it is about how the younger generation is quicker with technology. I’ve always felt that you have to spend a little time to find out more about something that you’re going to love. That’s the key. There’s lots of things out there that you’re going to love, but how do we find out about it? That artist has to work really, really, really hard. I’ve been hitting it hard in this last year. I’m not raised that way. I was raised that if you do good work and raise the flag then people will come. That is not true anymore. It’s not a fact. If a tree falls and no one hears it…
MR: Sadly, there are a lot of trees falling that nobody’s hearing.
LG: It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
♠This is the abridged version of a longer piece with conversations the writer had with Rumor, Melissa Manchester and Donny Osmond
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne