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Gooding Sounds Rejuvenated With '99 Rebellions'

Kevin Deems

Gooding returns to Wichita this weekend in support of a new album, 99 Rebellions.

Listening to “99 Rebellions,” the latest album from Gooding, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an album made by a man who has come through darkness and emerged, in some way, more whole.

The record comes after a series of albums released in 2020 and 2021, largely at his home outside Nashville, on which the former Wichitan probed some of the darkest corners of his psyche. His father had died and his longtime bandmate Jesse Reichenberger took leave from the band the pair had started in their teens. And there was the small matter of a pandemic raging and leaving the musician, who’d lived much of his life on the road, home and isolated from the audiences who’d come to love his electric live shows.

But all of that is a trick of time and industry cycles. “99 Rebellions” was conceived of and written before the pandemic began, when much of Gooding’s life was in more familiar terrain. No matter when it was made, the album proves that a step toward a song-driven direction -- that features the former North High student attacking his guitar with refreshed abandon -- was the right one for this time in his career.

It’s a musically eclectic set that feels like another step forward for the musician, who is now joined by drummer Kelsey Cook and longtime guitarist/bassist/vocalist Erin O’ Neill.

Gooding performs at Wave on Saturday, March 12.

He recently spoke with KMUW about his continued musical evolution and some of the recent changes in his personal life.

Interview Highlights

This is the kind of record that you make when nobody’s looking: It’s like a lot of peoples’ first records in that sense, it’s just about the writing and playing. The difference, of course, is that you have a lot of records under your belt. 

This was a record that started when played a festival in our manager’s hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin; it’s called Mile of Music. We went up to this idyllic, magical place, and we played a rock ‘n’ roll set. None of the depressing stuff that I put out on four records during the pandemic. Not death and fascism and all my sadness. We actually play our rock ‘n’ roll, man. We have guitar amps that have tubes in them. No shiny surfaces — the things I always fall into with a power trio. There was no was no pandemic. The world was still open. My manager said, “I want you to go home and record 10 songs that are [like] what you just did up there. Get your 10 best rock ‘n’ roll things.”

I was obsessed with my vampire-y minor-y things. There’s still a lot of my threads in there but there’s love songs, there’s lots of songs that aren’t about anything that’s gonna trigger anybody about politics. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record. There’s actually a couple of fun songs on there, God forbid. But to finally answer your question, Ryan said, “Make a rock ‘n’ roll record.” I was, like, “Absolutely, man. It’s been too long.” We held onto it. I finished it in two weeks and played most of the stuff. And then Kelsey and Erin came back and did “Don’t Look Back,” the leadoff track because we didn’t have Kelsey in the band when I made that record. That track is us live.

But the thing is, I wasn’t thinking about singles. I feel like Ryan thinks this actually might be some of the strongest stuff I’ve done in a while because maybe I finally stopped being so ridiculously self-conscious.

That’s interesting because I very much heard it as, “Wow. He made those pandemic records and now he’s come out on the other side of it.” 

I hadn't and maybe this speaks to my maybe need more therapy because I mean, there's still threads of darkness. There always is. … If you want to look at the world in any fashion … your eyes are hopefully a little bit open; there's going to be some things you're railing against. I've got the follow up for it. And I want it out now. Of course, [everyone else is saying], “Would you just stop it?” Erin’s been in the band for coming up on six years now. We’re comfortable enough that she can tell me when I’m being a complete idiot. She says, “Play things people want to hear.” It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? It features the best of what we do live.

Ryan sent me the record and said, “There’s guitar solos on there. Some of his best.”

There’s always been, depending on what cloth you’re cut from, too much guitar or never enough guitar. When we worked with [producer] Matt Wallace [Faith No More, Paul Westerberg] on a record called “Building The Sun,” you could hear that that it was very much, “Hey, I want to record a live band, but you’ve got eight bars, bud, say something on that instrument. You’re not going to go for 32 bars. You’re not going to do your weird reverberated intro. Put away your Led Zeppelin records. We’re going to make something palatable.”

I don’t feel like I was constrained. It was good for the songwriting. If you don’t have any parameters, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble. I think any artist, if you can do anything you want, that can be really great for a couple of years and then you’re, like, “I’ve officially lost my mind.”

The song “Daydreamers” coincided with a very strange thought I had. I was listening to the new Steve Vai album and I was thinking, “Here’s a guy who has really created his own sound but it’s so alien to what a lot of people in the mainstream like.” I kind of wondered about him and a lot of those people who have singular voices in their art, if there’s part of them that’s saying, “You know, I don’t really know about the world the way it is. I’m going to make my own world through my art.” That’s what I took away from that song, the idea that we need those people who get lost in reflection and dream up these things that make life more bearable. 

There’s a lot of that in there. This sounds hippie dippy, but how do you become your best self? How do you take all the things that are going on that can make a person feel like there’s no reason to try, that can make a person get so apathetic? You get compassion fatigue. We’ve never lived in a spot in human history where every horrible thing that’s happening — among 7 billion people — can reach your doorstep at once. There’s a lot about trying to keep some optimism even when there’s no reason to me. If you want to see darkness, man, you can fall right in there in about a … millisecond. You can live in there, and I've done it, and, boy, it doesn't make it any fun to be around.

If we could become our best selves, I think other people feel that. If we could be a little more authentic. Once you please everybody you please nobody. It's dangerous on those songs when they first come out because … you want people to be able to put themselves into it.

And so many times … you've done this before, people will have a much clearer idea about what I was writing about than what I was.

I'm just trying to hold on tightly as I can due to the fact that we can all change and that includes me. I can hear some things where I'm being too woke, and I'm saying something insane. That doesn't help anybody. And I need to hear that … I need to be open. If you can get away from all that and get rid of it, I can get rid of my own cynicism. Maybe I could; it'll be a little bit better day for me or somebody else.

The last time we spoke, your father had passed and you had gone through a number of things that go with saying goodbye to a parent. Now we’re talking again and you’re about to become a father. 

It’s been a wild ride. You know, [over the last few years] I lost my great aunt, my dad, my dad’s lady passed away. A few of our friends out in his community out there. Basically, all the Goodings except my sister and I were gone.

My sister just had a little baby named Austin Daniel out there in New York City; I spent Christmas with them and it was incredible. We have a surrogate up in Montana, my wife and I, and it's been a long road. Been going through it for a few years. But this amazing woman, my wife’s best friend from childhood, named Cody, is carrying this child.

When I finish this tour, I am hopping on the plane and getting in a hotel up there and Billings, Montana, and waiting to bring back the baby in April, as crazy as that is.

The Gooding fam is getting slightly bigger. We can’t wait. I’ve got my lady. We’ve been together 16 years, and she’s everything I’m not, which is a lot of stuff. She’s incredibly patient and very down-to-earth and practical and doesn't talk in endless sentences. She's just amazing. And so I'm going into this with a good person to be in the foxhole with. I'm very lucky.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.