A ukulele, a stove, a set of spoons, the autoharp, the upright bass — these are just a few of the instruments up-and-coming artist, Rachel Goodrich, has in her repertoire.
It doesn’t seem quite so unusual when you realize this is a girl who records her music video in a ladybug costume, “just for fun.”
Born and raised in the Sunshine State — Miami to be specific — Goodrich definitely does not need to worry about Seasonal Affective Disorder. With a healthy dose of sunshine on her face most days, Rachel says the warm weather has more than slightly shaped her music. “Keeps it a bit more upbeat,” she giggled.
Goodrich’s style is not typical of the area, but really neither is any other musician’s hailing from South Beach. It’s a mix of electronic, Latin fusion, funk, and the worldly sounding artists who line Lincoln Road, where Goodrich has spent countless hours buzzing her kazoo, strumming her ukulele, and crooning about life as she knows it.
She could play music on just about anything, probably even the kitchen sink if presented the challenge. It was a literal lack of instruments that fostered this resourceful creativity.
“I had to be inventive. I used to use the stove as a snare, made the best of what I had. Then I was like ‘Wow, this sounds much better than a snare.’ I stuck with it and enjoy those sounds a lot,” she said in a recent interview with Blast. She believes her music style is “a little different.” How different? Goodrich coined her own term to describe it: “shake-a-billy.” It makes you want to move your hips and, well, shake.
As for influences, she names Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, The Dead, and Dr. Seuss among the many.
Goodrich’s father played the guitar, and her grandmother, he piano, so there are at least a couple of musical genes in the family. Her parents fueled her musical passion by passing down numerous old-school vinyls, which she continued to collect, cherish, and idolize.
“I was introduced to (music) super young. Growing up, I thought it was part of being a child, regular, like taking piano lessons. I was like yeah I really want to play music,” she said. Rachel took action and started learning the guitar as a twelve year old. From there, she formed a few bands in high school and kept moving forward in the musical direction.
“It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I got really serious about it,” she recalled.
Goodrich left Miami for a brief academic stint in Gainesville, Fla. There, she tried her hand in the formal study of music, but found that it “stunted her growth.”
“Gainesville didn’t play a necessarily negative role,” she said, in a charmingly defensive manner. “It was just the whole small town, college party scene- it wasn’t my thing.”
Rather than going out eight nights a week to keg parties full of inebriated undergrads, Goodrich retreated to her bedroom for almost two years. There, basking in the creative silence of her own space, she “became truly acquainted with my records and music and real things and stuff.”
Goodrich returned to Miami and dabbled in jazz guitar. Despite honest intentions of continuing her studies, Rachel found herself fully immersed in the South Florida music scene. Now twenty-four years of age, her favorite place to play is Churchill’s Pub, a local joint. “It’s the best place ever. Everyone just kind of ends up there at the end of the night. Sometimes it’s just one big jam session. It’s awesome,” she said.
The past several years have been spent recording tunes in friends’ bedrooms, eventually releasing her first album, Tinker Toys, which dropped on her self-made label last October. Yellow Bear Records is the label, and Goodrich hopes to develop and grow it in time.
The story behind the name Yellow Bear is only fitting. Goodrich had been living in Gainesville at the time, hanging outside between classes (one can almost picture her: long shiny black hair, white retro sunglasses, skinny black jeans and converse sneakers– strumming the banjo) when a Native American man suddenly approached her and said “Me, I am Blue Bear. But you, you, you are Yellow Bear.”
“I thought I was hallucinating. I could have been,” said said.
While usually displaying an uninhibited and optimistic tone, Goodrich breaks her own mold in “The Black Hole,” a track with undeniably dark and downbeat undertones. Most of the album, she corrects, has dark undertones.
“It was a pretty weird moment when I wrote that song; it was a bright and sunny day but I wasn’t feeling so bright and sunny. Most of my songs are very related to events in my life. Sometimes I need an escape and it’s fun to tell a story,” Goodrich said.
What’s fun is being the listening ear to Goodrich’s many and colorful stories. In between our questions, Rachel inserted more than several “Oh mans” and “Ya knows.” It’s hard to tell if she’s an active participant or desperately reassuring herself. Either way, her manner is genuine and heartfelt.
As for a five-year plan, well, Goodrich has never even heard the phrase. Lucky her.
“I am so not aware of that term. I do live day by day. Wow! I mean, I do think it’s good to maybe set up some goals or, you know, things to look forward to- challenges and stuff. But no, I don’t plan ahead years I don’t think. No. No. I can’t even think…” and she trails off as if the here and now is all that is relevant.
A self-proclaimed “thinker,” Goodrich really does enjoy life — sudoku and good food among her many pleasures. The highlight of her most recent gig at the Heineken Transatlantic Music Festival was the spicy Jamaican food a fellow performer dished out.
As for all of that thinking, “It’s ok, but not great always. Either I am really excited and enjoying everything, or I am totally having an anxiety attack,” she said.
This sentiment seems all too familiar in the artist’s persona. Truly gifted musicians are, more often than not, conflicted, in one way or another. For Goodrich, the tedious tasks in life bring her down — like folding creases in sweaters at an old retail job, or the mixing of each individual track on her album.
No, Rachel Goodrich does not suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. She is an upbeat, positive young woman with a disposition as sunny as the state she calls home. Only by delving deep into her person, her lyrics, and her tone can one begin to sense what may be found beneath the sunny exterior- conflict, struggle, and thought. It is a rare bunch, however, which is so blessed and able to turn such complex talent into such beautiful music.
Listen for yourself. Buy Tinker Toys, and listen to every single word on every single track. You too will become one of Rachel Goodrich’s newest fans. You may even find yourself picking up a set of spoons and trying to make your own kind of music.
So what would she be doing if music weren’t an option? Goodrich says she’d be painting or doodling. For a long time she wanted to be a cartoonist, and was encouraged by her grandmother in that pursuit. “So for now I do both. If it’s not music, it’s art,” she said.
A moment passes and she nonchalantly adds, “or maybe I’d be a tollbooth collector or something.”