Fresh off the release of her second LP, Teeth Marks, S.G. Goodman finds herself on the brink of her most extensive touring yet, with the most buzz behind her thus far, and in a vulnerable space artistically and physically.
“The reality is, when you’re a touring musician, guess what? You’re responsible for getting people in the door and that’s a lot of responsibility,” says Shaina “S.G.” Goodman, following her June 4 album release party at Third Man Records in Nashville. “So it kind of felt like the worst and most anxious birthday party I could have ever thrown for myself. And then there was a moment while I was doing that, that it hit me that, ‘Oh, when you’re headlining a whole tour, it’s like having that every single night.’ So it’s a little bit of an anxious and vulnerable spot for me to be in, but I’m really excited because I do feel people connecting with this record. And I’ve grown into loving performing, and I’m excited about it despite the nerves.”
Blessed with a powerful voice reminiscent of old Nashville, sung over tunes that feel just as at home at the cozy campfire as a sweaty nightclub, Goodman’s sophomore release includes intentionally candid looks at heavy topics such as homophobia, her native rural South, opioid addiction and love.
Self-described as a queer farmer’s daughter from Western Kentucky, Goodman threads the needle between wanting to let the work speak for itself while also advocating for those who may otherwise feel out of place.
“Why I don’t always push back when it comes to questions about my sexuality is because of the negative response I received by certain people from my community – a lot of people aren’t here for the complexity of this,” says Goodman, who notes that she uses she/her pronouns. “A lot of that boiled down to the fact that I come from a small, isolated place where they didn’t have people in their lives to look to as examples in any kind of way. The negative response really boiled down to the fact that those people weren’t present in a way in their lives that made them, in their minds, respectable human beings.”
Honing her vocal chops in a church setting as a young child and raised in a strict religious household, Goodman says the environment can foster isolation or closed-mindedness.
“It’s not that there weren’t gay people in my community,” she says. “It’s just, you work through social codes, and are expected to be closeted and not talk about it. So I think it’s important still for people to understand that even though things have definitely changed in my lifetime and are continuing to change, isolation provokes a lot of hesitation to see people as people, a lot of times.”
Goodman’s music resonates with many in the LGBTQ+ community as well as in the critical press and fellow artists, with Jim James producing her 2020 debut, Old Time Feeling, and she’s toured as support for the likes of Jason Isbell, Shakey Graves, Son Volt and more.
With her debut solo LP released right as the pandemic hit, the touring landscape has finally allowed Goodman to tour and she’s currently on her first run in Europe, which is described by manager Jay Steele at TT Management as “a backpack tour” with just Goodman, a guitar and a fellow guitarist – not even a tour manager.
“I’m scared to death, really,” Goodman said days before the June run. “I get sick every tour I go on so I can’t imagine what kind of insane illness I’m gonna come down with, jet lag on top of just how hard touring is in general. I’m gonna come back in really good shape or completely broken. I’m flying over there with my bandmate, Mikey, and we don’t have a tour manager, so thoughts and prayers, you know.”
Although humble in both her background and during an interview, the team behind S.G. Goodman know her as both incredibly talented and true to herself.
“Authenticity is what is driving this entire thing,” says High Road Touring’s Brian Jonas, who represents S.G. Goodman. “She’s someone completely comfortable in her own skin and with who she is and where she’s from. Her voice is incredible, from her actual physical voice, but equally important is the message behind the music.”
After the June tour in Europe, S.G. returns to the U.S. for dates supporting John Moreland into September, which will see her largest headline run yet, including at venues such as Cat’s Cradle in Raleigh, N.C.; Shuba’s in Chicago; 7th Street Entry at Minneapolis, as well as an appearance at Ohana Festival in Southern California.
Jonas says next up will be Europe again, supporting Shakey Graves, followed by a headlining run in early 2023, which has holds in place but is still taking shape as momentum builds.
Hampered somewhat by the pandemic and now with two full LPs out since touring, Jonas says there’s a lot of opportunity for his client.
“At this point, she can do whatever she wants,” Jonas says, noting that Goodman’s style of music, which incorporates elements of garage rock, country, gospel and more can be appreciated by varied audiences. “Not to speak for her, but the goal of any artist is to not be a flash in the pan. We’re very career-driven and want her to be able to do this for the next 30 to 40 years and on her terms.”
TT Management’s Steele says Goodman is not only talented enough to be a career touring musician but has the work ethic and relatability to get there, which is just as important.
“She’s not only engaging as an artist, but engaging on stage with her banter, the way she interacts with the crowd and tells stories,” says Steele, who adds that success requires not only talent but the ability to listen.
“She’s able to get out of her own way and listen to people who have done this before and open herself to the work,” he says. “It’s a lot of work. When you see a breaking artist, most of the time they’ve been slogging it out for a decade already.”
Demonstrating that humility and work ethic, Goodman says her goal is to tour sustainably for herself and those who believe in her as an artist.
“The list goes on and on,” she says. “It’s such a humbling experience. Every time someone chooses to buy my record or buy something at the merch stand or tell me that they look forward to that next show, it makes me believe that there is a place for me out there. And I just have to work hard and put the time in and build that for myself and for other people. My team, my label, management, my agent, they work so hard on my behalf and I just feel so indebted that it makes me work harder. That’s something that’s never far from my mind when I’m out there and hustling.”