Joe Goodkin To Release 'Paper Arrows' Weaving The Past Into His Future

Article Contributed by KG Music Press | Published on Monday, September 23, 2019

Joe Goodkin is a lifelong musician who is known for his larger scale concepts.  At the beginning of the aughts, he found inspiration in his university degree in the Classics.  Invoking the spirit of the ancient Greek bards, Goodkin deconstructed Homer’s The Odyssey and re-structured it for acoustic guitar and voice.  Part lecture, part musical performance, and part interactive discussion, the centerpiece of his program is a 30-minute continuous performance of 24 original songs with lyrics inspired by Odysseus' famous exploits. The piece turned out to be so popular that he is now approaching 300 shows in 39 US States.

In 2015 Goodkin came up with an idea for releasing a trilogy of interconnected albums over two years–  Record of Life/  Record of Loss/  Record of Love. The series of EP’s (totaling 18 songs) established Goodkin’s reputation as an important songwriter known for his honesty and emotionally affecting lyrics. “People like the honesty with which I approach my lyrics and the fact that I’m not afraid to write about difficult subjects (divorce, suicide, aging),” he notes.  Anhedonic Headphones declared “…this series of personal albums are a master class in how to lay it all out on the table, set it to music, and absolutely devastate the fuck out of your audience.” 

Goodkin’s latest album Paper Arrows, takes its inspiration from the Chicago indie-pop band he founded in 2008, Paper Arrows.  The album is made up of 16 songs:  10 are songs he previously recorded and released under the name Paper Arrows (with a rotating group of musicians), and 6 are new songs that he’s never recorded and released.  “When I toured my Record of… releases, I played some of my older Paper Arrows songs in new solo arrangements and was pleasantly surprised at the response of the audience,” he explains.  “I decided I wanted to try to capture these new versions in a solo format and connect my recent material to the first part of my music career.”

On Paper Arrows Goodkin has the music pared down to his voice and two instruments he uses alternately:  a 1962 Gibson acoustic and a Mule Resonator Guitar (#430).  Comparing the trilogy with the new album Goodkin describes the differences, “The trilogy was very meticulously produced with layers of guitars.  This is all live, single takes with no overdubs and no editing. The lyrics for the trilogy were very specific and narrative and very vulnerable in the material, and these are broader. I wanted to try to create a recording where the vulnerability was in the performances. I was very influenced by listening to the Blood on the Tracks alternate takes which contain a lot of single live in the studio takes of just Dylan playing and singing.”

The self-produced, Paper Arrows was recorded and mastered by Shane Hendrickson and was tracked in Chicago in a small studio space in Humboldt Park, Sync Studios. The opening song, “Tell the Kids” is a Paper Arrows’ song from 2012 (Days of Getting By).  A song about divorce Goodkin reflects that, “In the end everyone loses everyone | our castles come undone”.  The album then moves into a new song, “Every Light is a Fire”.  “This song captures the spirit of the record,” said Goodkin.  “I’ve gone far but come back to the start of my musical career, the older songs on this record.” 

“Look Alive” is another Paper Arrows song (Look Alive 2008) but the arrangement is wildly different from the PA version.  “Different key, different feel,” said Goodkin. “This song in a lot of ways pushed my musical path to the Paper Arrows name for almost a decade and changed the way I wrote music.” “Light Out” (PA Days of Getting By 2012) was largely a piano song on the PA release.  “The line ‘I was left knee deep in the water and trying to catch your tears’ is my wife’s favorite I’ve ever written,” Goodkin notes.

“Something Worth Fighting For” is a new song in 6/8 and is the lyrical conclusion of the span of the record.  “The lyrics, ‘Came through doubt and pain to love and make something worth fighting for’ as in the music on this record,” explains Goodkin.

Goodkin is willing to write about things that others don’t as readily and sees opportunities for material in strange places.  This makes people assume that he’s a dark person.  “I’m not,” he said, “I get it all out in the music and I’m generally able to be positive in life.”  As one reviewer wrote, “Touching on the touchstones of his life, (Joe Goodkin’s) music will reassure you that you aren’t alone.”  “I think my music demands patience and multiple listens which is a lot to ask of someone,” he realized. “I appreciate anyone who will take the time to really dig into what I do.” 

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