Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chicago actress Cory Goodrich spreading message of hope through new album


When she is not playing June Carter Cash in the musical "Ring Of Fire,"  Chicago actress and
Jeff Award winner Cory Goodrich is trying to spread messages of self-esteem and positive body image to women and girls through her solo debut album, "W.O.M.A.N." and a website she has launched,  www.gobeautiful.net.

I had the chance to talk to Goodrich about her latest activities.

Q - Great talking to you. What was the concept behind "W.O.M.A.N." and do you think the album has lived up to your vision?

The title, W.O.M.A.N, comes from an old Peggy Lee song, “I’m a Woman.” You’ve heard it…"Cuz I’m a woman. w-o-m-a-n."

When my producer, Malcolm Ruhl ("Ring of Fire’s" music director) and I were choosing songs for this album, we both thought this Lieber and Stoller classic perfectly encompassed everything I was trying to say. The CD itself chronicles the many aspects of being a woman, from motherhood to lost love, finding strength and belief in yourself.

It’s very much MY story and what better than a song about all the many things we have to do as women? The care-taking, the cleaning, the money making,  the nurturing of the romance, and STILL we’re expected to look beautiful and sexy and effortless while doing it ALL.

When I decided to do this album, I thought long and hard about what songs would be meaningful to include. When I think about who I am now and what I’ve gone through…motherhood, falling in love, losing faith in myself as I’ve gotten older, losing friends and heartbreak, I thought, well, this is the story I need to tell.

This is a story that everyone can relate to, because it’s ALL of our stories.

One song in particular deals with the loss of my friend and colleague, Bernie Yvon. The whole album is very personal to me but I think it touches so many people for different reasons.

I’m incredibly proud of this CD, and the response has been so positive. Truly, it exceeded what either Malcolm and I had planned.

Q - How did you go about lining up the musicians for the album? Was doing a country album a natural fit for you?

Malcolm has been playing across the country for years, and he lined up some of the best musicians in Chicago. We both worked with Greg Hirte, Michael Monroe Goodman and Billy Shaffer in "Ring of Fire," and we all have such a great rapport, that it was a natural choice.

John Foley, John Rice and TC Furlong had all worked with Malcolm over the years and knew exactly the sound Malcolm was looking for. I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to work with all these guys.


As for a natural fit, that’s an interesting question. I am an actress, and I’ve sung jazz, opera, folk, and musical theatre. At first, country singing required me to throw all that technique I’d worked so hard for out the window, but as time passed, I realized it was really just how I was singing when I wrote my own tunes.

It really was my natural voice, once I stripped away the layers of “training."

Q - Did playing June Carter Cash in the production "Ring of Fire" provide you with the musical spark to make the album? Do you see her as a strong role model for women?

June Carter Cash was an incredible force of nature. She was funny and driven and spunky.

She had a winking sex appeal and she broke down barriers of what was “acceptable” for a female country singer in the '60s and '70s. She was divorced twice, had two daughters and a son and four step daughters with Johnny and still she worked right by his side, touring, performing, and producing.

She was integral to his career and his life and was his equal every step of the way. You know at the time, a lot of the young singers would disappear once they were married and had children. Not June.

I appreciate that about her because I too am a performer and a wife and a mother. They all go hand in hand for me.

I’m inspired by her sense of humor and zest for life and her utter devotion and love of her husband Johnny Cash. You see that in every interview she does, every performance she gives.

It’s honestly a joy to get to walk in her shoes every night.

Q - What is the idea behind the website you created, www.gobeautiful.net? What would you like people going to the website to come away with?

I’ve launched my website, www.gobeautiful.net to go along with this CD, because I wanted to create a site where women and men could go for inspiration and support. Body image and self esteem issues are something I’ve dealt with my whole life and I am facing it head on with my two daughters.

I wanted to create a community of support for people who are struggling with these same issues.

My first music video is “The Price,” which deals with how we, as women, try to turn ourselves into the women that every one tells us we should be. We try to confirm to the standards of beauty and it’s killing our spirits.  


Eventually we plan to do more inspiring videos and messages. It’s been challenging trying to do eight shows a week, promote an album and get the website going, but you know….we’ll get there!

Q - You are a big part of the Chicago theater scene. At this point in your life, do you feel you need both music and acting in your life?

Music and acting are one and the same for me. Both are about telling stories that connect with people, and that’s my purpose in life, so I’ll keep doing both for as long as I can.

Q - I understand you have already started on your next album, which will feature you performing traditional and original folk songs on an autoharp. Do you see the album as a new musical direction for you?

I think this new album will dig a little deeper into the roots of the current CD, "W.O.M.A.N," and delve more into the bluegrass sound. I’ve always been very attracted to the concept of people coming together and sharing songs. It’s something we’ve lost in our culture of late.

Now music is mostly a solitary experience. We put our headphones on and tune out the world. I long for the days of sharing community and spirit by singing together and that’s exactly what many of these folk songs are. 

The basis of the album will be songs from the Carter family, but also a few that I’ve written myself and several more contemporary pieces that have always struck me as folk songs, like the Eagles’ “Desperado,” for example. There’s a loneliness and loss in that song that echoes some of the haunting Appalachian folk songs from years gone by.

Q - What do you think of the acting and music scene in Chicago and how do you think you fit into it?

Chicago is a gritty and naturalistic acting town, founded in improv and truth rather than slick commerciality. I love that.

I have certainly made this my artistic home and I’m actually really excited to be entering the music scene as well. I had worried that people would think of me as the “theatre girl”, but really, we’re all doing the same thing.

We’re story tellers and dreamers, and we’re challenging both audiences to think, to feel and to listen. I feel fortunate to be in such a thriving artistic community.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chicago musician Matthew Morgan releases new album, will perform Sept. 26 show


On his latest album, "Empathy for Inanimate Objects," Chicago musician Matthew Morgan proves that you don't have be loud to gain attention.

The EP's hushed, intimate sound goes far in grabbing the listener's ear. To mark the release of the EP, Matthew Morgan & The Family Band will perform Sept. 26 at the SubT Lounge, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago.

Sarah Eide & The Borderland Band also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Morgan about the new album. 

Q - Great talking to you again. The last time we spoke, The Lost Brigade was releasing a new album, "Found." You parted ways with the band two years ago. Was it just time for you to go in a new musical direction?

Hi Eric - It's great to talk to you again. Yes, Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade was a great band and a great group of people, but ultimately I felt myself moving in a different direction as a songwriter.

MMLB had three different song writers with three very distinct styles of writing that you can hear on the album we released, which was a really great record that we're all proud of. Ultimately, I just felt my musical message was heading in a very different direction than the rest of the band.

Q - In sitting down to make "Empathy for Inanimate Objects," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the EP's name?

I wanted the album to sound intimate. I'm a huge fan of outsider singer songwriters like Elliott Smith and Nick Drake and in that vein I wanted to make an album that had more of a boutique aesthetic.

I feel like I express myself best with that kind of music, or it comes more naturally to me. But, I still want to work on getting better at writing bigger sounding arrangements too.

I'm really happy with the way this album sounds and I think working with Nate Lockwood was a great experience. He really captured not only what I was going for with this record, but molded it into something that sounds unique and timeless.

The title was just something I found interesting and it didn't really evolve until I found this old tin dollhouse of my mom's that ended up being the image for the album cover. There's both a sadness and a strength to objects from the past and that has always held an appeal for me.

If I wasn't a songwriter I would probably run an antique/vintage toy/clothing shop.

Q - How did you go about choosing the musicians on the EP? What did Nate Lockwood bring to the table?

Most of the musicians that I brought in were friends of mine from Chicago. Liz Chidester has this fabulous sounding voice that sort of lies somewhere between jazz and folk and she has the rare ability to move effortlessly between sounding pure and bird-like and versus husky and sensuous.

Sarah Blick is a local violinist who's in pretty high demand because of her mad skills, but I'm lucky enough to be her friend and so I was able to get her involved. Her violin on "Lost At Sea" has been a huge talking point since the record came out because it sounds amazing!

The only other Chicago-based musician is my good friend, Dave Szpunar, who plays about a dozen different instruments and has been playing in bands with me since 2008. On this record, he plays banjo, accordion, and mandolin.

Chris Bosca is a multi-instrumentalist from Columbus, Ohio, who was brought in by Nate. Chris has this incredible studio with  an arsenal of vintage guitars that were featured on the record.

The lead guitar on "Hold On I'm Comin" is a 1936 National steel resonator that sounds hauntingly beautiful. I'm really excited to have become acquainted with Chris and we will be playing a show with his band in Ohio on Nov. 14.

Lastly, in addition to engineering/producing the EP Nate played bass and percussion...I did all the keys myself.

Nate really blew me away with his professionalism and his knowledge of sound for someone so young. We recorded this EP in numerous places to get the right overall sound.

In fact, all of my guitar parts were recorded in the sanctuary of my parents' church. We are both from the same home town and my mom was one of Nate's music teachers in high school.

He also studied music technology and production at the same music school where I majored in vocal performance (albeit a lot earlier). Nate is truly an artist with arranging and capturing sound to create an atmosphere.

I think he's going to go really far and I hope some people will listen to the EP and want to work with him, I know I would.

Q - You cover the Sam & Dave song "Hold On, I'm Comin' " on the CD. How did you try to put your stamp on the song?

It was pretty random, actually. I was messing around in this type of A tuning that Nick Drake used on several of his songs and simultaneously listening to Sam & Dave's greatest hits.

It just kind of came together spontaneously and I ran with it. I'd love to say that I was purposely being clever, but I'm a firm believer that the best songs are kind of a gift in that they tend to write themselves.

Q - Are there any songs off the new EP that you are really interested in playing live?

I'm really excited to share the live versions of all of the songs at the EP Release, which is coming up on Sept. 26 at SubT Lounge. I think (I'm hoping) people will be surprised at how some of the songs change and evolve with the live band arrangements.

There's one song in particular, "SticksNStones" that has a completely alternate version that we play live that sounds more sultry and "Beatles-ish".

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I love how close knit and supportive the scene is here and I've met some of my best friends. There is so much talent here.

I wish that there were more industry people looking at Chicago, but it has and continues to be a very insular place in the musical landscape. That said, everything is D.I.Y. now, so I really think it's one of the best places to live if you want to create your own music.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicago band Some Years Later releasing new album, will perform at The Abbey Pub


Chicago band Some Years Later hopes to make everyone's life better with its new album, "The Better Life," which will be released later this year.

The band is bound to play songs from the new album when it performs Sept. 19 at The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace St., Chicago. Also on the bill are The Title Trackers, Captain Coopersmith and Oakley Station.

The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketweb.com. 

I had the chance to talk to Some Years Later frontman about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. I understand that the band will be releasing a new album, "The Better Life," later this year. What should people expect from the album? 

The fans will get more of a heavier side of Some Years Later but we'll still have that "up and down" kind of mix of songs on the plate. The title "Better Life" is a portrait of today's ever-so-fast pace of life when the true quality of life is lost.

The songs chosen for this album are almost like a storybook from start to finish.

Q - You formed Some Years Later in 2005. In forming the band, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

In forming the band in 2005, the goals back then were just to write new songs and finally record a album. It took some time to release 2010's "Wonder Ride" EP due to some early member changes.

Q - Your son, Robert Anthony, plays drums in the band. How does it feel having your son in the band with you? What kind of dynamic do you have together?

Having my son in the act is very exciting, at least for me as a father. We get to experience a lot of different situations together on and off stage, and its time well-spent together.

Memories! As far as a dynamic together, we're tight! His drumming follows the tight end of the rhythm guitar like glue!

Q - Some Years Later has shared the stage with a variety of well-known acts, including The Verve Pipe and Jefferson Starship. What has the band learned from such experiences?

When the band plays with national acts, we all try to absorb the professional way they go about their performance, so we can take that to our next show, to be more of a success.

Q - As a side note, your rhythm guitarist, Mike Pantazis, made an amazing catch from the stands at a 1995 Chicago Bears game. Did you ever guess that he was such an athlete?

No, I never knew that he was an athlete. We met in 2003, started writing songs on our acoustic guitars. We never discussed sports that much. It was always about the music. 

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

The band's short-term goal now is to release "Better Life." Long-term, we'll try to get on the road a bit to spread the magic, as a "better life."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chicago sax player Sam Burckhardt releases new CD, will play at Green Mill


From playing with legendary musicians like Sunnyland Slim to being a founder member of the Mighty Blue Kings, Chicago sax player Sam Burckhardt has had an enduring influence on the Chicago music scene.

In celebration of his latest release, "Fly Over," Burckhardt and his group will perform Sept. 4 and Sept. 5 at The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago. The Sam Burckhardt Quintet will perform from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sept. 4, and from 8 p.m. to midnight Sept. 5, and there is a $12 cover charge each night.

I had the chance to talk to Burckhardt about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make "Fly Over," what were you goals and do you think you accomplished them? How do you think the record is different from your past efforts? 

One of my goals is to remain creative. And this includes periodically releasing a CD.

The process forces me to plan the whole undertaking from beginning to end. I’m very happy with the results of “Fly Over."

I collaborated with Joel Paterson. We wrote the original tunes, together, and Joel did all of the art work.

Each CD I have produced and recorded, thus far, has been a different experience, mainly because each involved different people. 

Q - Over the years, you've worked with the likes of Dr. John, Buddy Guy and Pinetop Perkins. What did you learn from those experiences? 

I think I have learned something from all the musicians I have worked with, over the years, not just the well-known ones. What is great working with very accomplished musicians is that you get to see and experience how they approach a show, how they deal with the audience, how they work with the other musicians.

With less accomplished musicians it might try to figure out what I can do to make the band and sound fuller and more cohesive. I believe if I felt that I cannot learn anything any more my playing would begin to sound stale and tired. 

Q - You also had joined Sunnyland Slim on two of his European concerts before moving to Chicago in 1982 to join his band. Why did you want to join his band, and what was the most important thing he taught you? 

I had the opportunity to accompany Eddie Boyd on drums when I was 14 and I got the bug. When I met Sunnyland three years later and I got to play with him for two nights, it intensified my desire to play music.

However, it took a visit to Chicago seven years later to make me realize that I could actually try to make a living as a musician. Sunnyland was very kind and invited me to join his band which I did in July 1982.

As to what Sunnyland taught me, it could probably fill a whole chapter of a book. However, his commitment to the audience and the band, and his integrity were exemplary.

By observing him lead the band, feature each musician in the group, and communicate with the audience, I learned much of what I do as a musician and band leader. 

Q - Who or what are your biggest musical influences and how have they impacted your music? 

Other than Sunnyland, my greatest influence as a tenor player is Lester Young, whose lyrical style I greatly admire. I love Ellington and Strayhorn and I love the way they wrote music for Duke’s orchestra.

I was fortunate to hear Count Basie and his band live in 1974 and I experienced first-hand what swing is all about. There is my music teacher Chester Gill, who planted the seed in my heart, Ron Dewar, who taught and teaches me so much about music, Floyd McDaniel and Hubert Sumlin, who were both great guitarists and very special human beings, and Othella Dallas, who worked with Duke Ellington in 1959/60 and who at the age of 90 still has the energy and thirst for music and performance of a young girl combined with an iron discipline –– truly inspirational.

Q - You were a founding member of the Mighty Blue Kings. Did you ever imagine that the band would have achieved the amount of attention that the Mighty Blues Kings did? 

Not when we started practicing in Ross Bon’s flat. But once we started playing out, it quickly became clear that the band got an especially enthusiastic response from the audience.

At the latest when I saw the lines forming out the door and around the corner when we were playing at the Green Mill, I realized that the band would go places.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you see yourself fitting into it? 

I think Chicago has still a good music scene and in particular many great musicians. I see us a large guild with me as one of the tradesmen.