S.G. Goodman: “Music is healing for the listener and the writer... You don’t always know exactly what a song is trying to teach you while you’re writing it”

S.G. Goodman
(Image credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images)

“There’s power in owning things about yourself,” says Kentucky guitarist and songwriter S.G. Goodman. While creating her sophomore album, Teeth Marks, Goodman decided to take full control of the narrative and further embrace her identity as a queer artist. After coming out while promoting her 2020 Jim James-produced debut, Old Time Feeling, she found further empowerment in writing the follow-up. 

“Music is healing for the listener and the writer, and it’s a way for other people to get to know me better and where I come from,” Goodman says. “It’s a way for me to understand more about myself. You don’t always know exactly what a song is trying to teach you while you’re writing it. I’m also reflecting on what particular songs mean for me after the fact while other people are getting to know them, too.”

Goodman’s lyrics focus on “love and the marks it leaves behind, whether that’s in a romantic sense, in a positive way or a negative way – or also the presence of empathy or the lack of it, no matter what, as we’re navigating the world. The presence or absence of love in one way or the other, we wear those marks on us.”

She also grew by taking more control of the recording process. After leaning more on others for tracking the songs on her debut, enabling her to focus on production duties, she knew she wanted to do more. “I leaned into more of my fingerpicking style and things that come a bit more natural to me,” she says. 

The album’s eclectic sound draws from her garage rock, Appalachian folk and post-punk influences. She often enjoys off-center melodies when it comes to lead parts and often doesn’t mind if she “hits a note that’s not supposed to be there.” 

“I cut my teeth amongst a lot of post-punk rockers,” Goodman says. “Even though my style of music was never that, I have a deep appreciation for texture that’s built with feedback and using different parts of the instrument for rhythms.”

She’s mostly played rhythm guitar since she was 15, learning chords by ear and by playing with others. She enjoys vintage Guild Starfires because of their humbuckers, which create a “really rich tone that you can’t really find in anything else.” It combines nicely with guitarist Matt Rowan’s style, she adds. “Having that low-end, rich tone underneath Matt’s P-90s on his Jazzmaster, it lends a nice balance of highs and lows within the mix,” she says. 

She tunes her guitars a whole step down, playing in D “across the board.” “On this record, I did capo up the neck a bit on certain songs, but I always play with the strings tuned a step down. I feel like it gives more room for my voice to sit in a song, and I’m allowed to play a little bit more with the range.” 

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Joshua M. Miller

Josh is a freelance journalist who has spent the past dozen or so years interviewing musicians for a variety of publications, including Guitar World, GRAMMY.com, SPIN, Chicago Sun-Times, MTV News, Rolling Stone and American Songwriter. He credits his father for getting him into music. He's been interested in discovering new bands ever since his father gave him a list of artists to look into. A favorite story his father told him is when he skipped a high school track meet to see Jimi Hendrix in concert. For his part, seeing one of his favorite guitarists – Mike Campbell – feet away from him during a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert is a special moment he’ll always cherish.