By Victora Wasylak
Justin Goodrich is at his second gig at Able Ebenezer Brewing Co in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and he didn’t bring any copies of his new CD.
“It’s always unorthodox with me, it’s never what you’d expect,” he says as he unloads acoustic guitar, amp, and $2 boots from his car.
This isn’t your average gig, but then again, Goodrich isn’t your average singer/songwriter. Once hailed as the master of “gloom pop,” Goodrich’s tastes and influences vary as much as punk-rock riot girl Joan Jett to the sweet vocals and dark vision of Roy Orbison.
“Rock and roll could be f—king anything. I mean, what the hell was that?” he says, gesturing to his turntable where he’s spinning Patti Smith’s “Hymn,” an oddball track from her album Wave.
Except Goodrich’s latest dose of the unexpected didn’t come as much of a surprise. For more than a year, he meticulously contemplated whether or not to re-record his past work, which between low sound quality and teenage vocals, no longer meets his ever-so-high musical standards.
His latest album, Steadfast Hearts and Borrowed Time (download here), is a collection of re-recordings of select bits of his older material, which he released before baring it all this summer when he put his entire catalogue of music online – for better or worse.
“The thought of doing that has been terrifying me for years now,” he says of adding his earlier releases to his online portfolio.
Goodrich has been recording his own music since age 16, when he started his own angry rock outfit – merely titled JPG at the time – to translate his adolescent angst into typical teenage screech-rock.
“I used to play all metal – that’s how I learned to play the guitar,” he says, whamming on his Taylor, which is usually reserved for uncanny and swift serenades. But in the back of his musical mind, there’s scraps of Gun ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, and Goodrich’s first lord and savoir – Jon Bon Jovi – waiting to be resurrected.
At this point in his life, an insightful 28, his tastes have shifted from riff-heavy-rock towards all things melancholy, and his musical deities now take form in HIM’s Ville Valo and the timeless singer-songwriter Mary Timony.
Although stylistically worlds apart from his current music, Goodrich decided he couldn’t allow those songwriting bits of times past go to waste in the corners of his old hard drive. Between the 10 tracks from 2002 to 2012 he re-recorded for Steadfast Hearts and Borrowed Time, and the rest he released as-is, Goodrich’s entire musical past is now available online. As far as vulnerability goes, he might have well as streaked across the Internet.
“It’s like re-living my entire life bit by bit,” he says wistfully of the process, which includes not only rifling through old music that was totally self-written, but self-recorded and self-mastered too. When you’re a one-man band, the memories are more than abundant.
“That’s why I have a hard time deciding to re-record things, it’s always been a timeline of my life in more ways than just the writing,” Goodrich says.
Of course, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of nostalgia when going through songs named “I Love You In Roses,” which was once a high-school declaration of infatuation, and “Realizing Your Crime,” one of the first songs Goodrich ever wrote.
Josh Foster, one of Goodrich’s long-term friends and a fellow musician, has seen Goddrich’s musical progression first hand since grade school.
“Over the years he’s taken his influences, refined them and turned them into something completely unique,” Foster says. “Justin knows how to craft songs that draw you in and stick with you long after the last note rings out.”
Goodrich’s new music, while slowly developing, is alive and well too. When it comes to plucking his guitar and penning new tunes, he holes up in the bathroom of his downtown Lowell loft, where the acoustics are good, and the lights are a moody purple (he’s duct taped colored filters over his lights to keep things eerie).
Although if it’s dark enough outside, you’ll catch him playing in a hushed, dimly-lit bar to the kinds of audiences who embrace melancholy stories that still manage to sound bright on Goodrich’s six string.
Inside the New Hampshire brew hall, a new fan shouts out, “You rock, Justin! Do you have any CDs?”
Goodrich smirks and sighs.
Listen at justingoodrich.com