By ERIC SCHELKOPF
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.