GOODING is much more than a rock band on the rise in communities and nationally. With a new album due out this summer and lead single “Troublemaker” stirring things up for them this spring, the band also makes time to invest in the education of future generations.
The four member band is comprised of Gooding and Erin O’Neill on lead vocals and guitar, Jesse Reichenberger on drums and Eric Santagada on bass. Confiding the themes behind their music are inspired by truth and justice, they use as a springboard to speak with students across the country about financial literacy.
The Feature Story caught up with Gooding and Erin in front of a gas station in Alabama while enroute to play in New Orleans. Erin began, “None of us are rich or feel like we’re famous or anything, but we’re all committed to this and we’re all putting in the work.” She added,“It is cool to get to share that with students when they walk up to you and ask, ‘what’s it like to be famous?’ I’m like, I don’t know. I’m still trying to make it like you. They probably have more Instagram followers than I do.”
Gooding concluded, “I think that we all are kind of waiting for the big break and that is a really dangerous way to live because you can get to a place where you’ve lost a lot of years always living on that one hope instead of building a life for yourself.”
This duo had so much to share with us and such wisdom. Read on to find out more about their forthcoming album entitled, Building the Sun, the biggest misconceptions they see with fame and making it in the music industry, as well as their advice for success, (spoiler alert it involves a little bit of work every day)!
The Feature Story: Let’s start with your work as a band. How did making music become less about making it in the industry singularly as artists and more balanced with focusing on how you can use your art to educate and do good for future generations. What was the catalyst for all this?
Gooding: We really just fell into this organically. I’ve made a lot of mistakes that I’m talking to the kids about. Of course working in the music business you see people who are incredibly successful in one breath and then before you know it, they’re back down on the mat. Between friends and family and people I come across in the business, I knew that if this message got across to people it could make a difference. We’ve always been interested in a lot of social issues, a lot of issues with young people especially. This seemed to be one that was sort of a common denominator for a lot of other problems that people are experiencing. One of my heroes is a guy named John Hope Bryant and he has a great mind. He said, “You show me a kid without a hope and I’ll show you a kid that can be violent.” It’s so cool to get to play music and to do this high energy show and play rock and roll but you notice as you see people standing on stage, you do have a moment to try to make a little bit of a difference. So we figured we have a mic, let’s use it.
I wanted to say too that an organization called Funding the Future has been a huge part of why this is working.
TFS: What would you say is one of the biggest misconceptions of being a successful band and recording artist for young adults on the outside looking in at what seems to be a glamorous lifestyle?
Erin O’Neill: It is a misconception that it is a glamorous lifestyle. We’re coming to you live from the front of a gas station in Alabama. You know, this other stuff that we post on Instagram and Facebook, we obviously are posting the most exciting things that are happening on the road and in our shows. We love to show you guys what we are doing, but really, this job takes so much work and so much sacrifice. We’re away from our families at least six months of the year. We’ve lived in vans and hotels and eating at Cracker Barrel. It really is hard work and I think a lot of the kids see us on a (social media) page and they think that we’re famous and they think that we’re rich and really we’re just a bunch of people with a dream and we’re trying to make something work and we’re working hard to make it happen. None of us are rich or feel like we’re famous or anything but we’re all committed to this and we’re all putting in the work. It is cool to get to share that with students when they walk up to you and ask, ‘what’s it like to be famous?’ I’m like, I don’t know. I’m still trying to make it like you. They probably have more Instagram followers than I do.
Our band too, it’s a business. I think that is the other piece that kids think you just make it and then somebody starts giving you a pile of cash. When really this band that has been together for a long time has been operating like a business to make it as sustainable as it has been. So that’s where the financial piece comes in for us as well. If we’re not responsible with our budget and finances, than we don’t get to do this anymore either.
TFS: Let’s dig a little bit into your music and the release of your next album, “Building the Sun” what are some of the influences and messages on this album?
G: Well first let me say we are super honored to work with our first major label amazing producer. His name is Matt Wallace. He is out in Los Angeles and we got to record in this place called The Sound City Plaza and we were absolutely honored to go out there and do that.
We do not sing about financial literacy. Nobody wants to hear that band. I don’t want to hear that band. That sounds absolutely excruciating. Some of the things we care about are just the search for truth and justice. Trying to figure out how we can be our better selves. Some of that stuff is in there. There’s a few tunes dealing with the anxiety of the world and how to move through it. There’s some good down and dirty blues songs. There’s a song called ‘Because It Hurts’ that’s really funky. There’s some soulful rock and roll Americana type of stuff. We are really excited to have it come out! The first single came out called ‘Troublemaker’. That’s on Spotify and iTunes. We’re going to put two more songs and videos out and the whole thing should be ready to roll at the end of August. We’re doing a big club and theater tour in August to promote it.
TFS: What is your writing process like? Is it collaborative or independent?
G: Most of it is independent and it has been fiercely independent over the years. But Erin has been one of the few people that I co-write with. She is the co-writer on thE single, ‘Bring the World Around’ and she is brilliant and super easy to work with.
I’m definitely kind of one of those writers to just get in a room alone and work through it. Living in Nashville I do a lot more co-writing because it’s kind of a co-writing town. But in general, the stuff I am sorting through personally requires me to shut out the entire world. It still is a job and you really have to put in the time for it. I love it if the songs come quickly or if you have a dream and write it down, these wonderful moments where you get lucky and you kind of get one that’s not a fragment. It’s in one piece but I don’t think anyone gets that every day. In general, you’ve got to put in the time. I’m one of those people who tries to force myself to at least do something creative every morning before the world starts chiming in with its demands.
TFS: To date, what do you consider among the most memorable or defining moments of all the touring and mentoring you’ve done?
EO’N – Grateful is the key word there. We hear a lot of stories and see a lot of things and have a lot of long days and nights. Sometimes it feels really hard. But at the end of the day we get to get on stage and sing songs and play songs that we made and have the time of our lives and effect positive change. Not a lot people get to do their favorite thing in the world and know that they are doing it for something that they believe in.
TFS: Touring for over half the year, how do you keep from burning out and what keeps you going as a band?
EO’N – Target runs. Target is the same everywhere you go, so you can walk into a Target and feel like you are somewhere familiar and you can get your chocolate and your fancy sparkling water.
G: Just making sure to reach out to your lifeline is really important. Everybody has got a couple people that are their anchors and that they can trust. And I think that’s the key is just making sure you check in with reality and home.
TFS: What is something you look forward to the most when on the road?
EO’N: Eating at Ruby Tuesdays. That’s a silly joke. Our drummer loves Ruby Tuesdays and we always tease him about it. I think just playing. I’m fortunate that I get to say my actual job is going on a stage and playing music. I’m not supposed to be anywhere else, but here. That is such a cool feeling and a luxury I’m so grateful to be able to claim that as my career.
TFS: How much of your time on the road touring is spent in schools versus just playing music and doing live shows?
G: It started 4-5 years 80% shows and 20% schools. But things took off so fast this last couple of years with the charity. Now we’ve got United Way helping with some things. We’ve worked with Junior Achievement on some thingS. I think we’ll do probably 80-100 this year. So, it’s probably flipped now and is probably 70% Schools and 30% shows. But once this record comes out and we have a couple festivals coming up that we’re really excited about and as the festival stuff comes in, I’m sure we’ll get back to 50/50.
TFS: I you could boil it all down, what do you consider one of the most important pieces of advice for the next generation when they consider a career and financial security?
G: It’s not very sexy sounding but, slow and steady, do the work. Just do the work. Even if you have that great day, where everything seems to click, everybody struggles, everybody is dealing with things. You have to master yourself first. Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside. If you’re a little bit better at what you were working on yesterday, that’s where you need to work from. A little bit of work every day and in a year you’re in a totally different place. But I think that we all are kind of just waiting for the big break and that’s a really dangerous way to live because you can get to a place where you’ve lost a lot of years always living on that one hope instead of building a life for yourself.
I’m just preaching to myself here, trying to figure this stuff out too.