Photo by Ruel Lee Photography

By Paul Freeman [August 2014 Interview]

You won’t have to do much digging to find the gems on Louise Goffin’s new album, “Songs From The Mine.” From the first track through the last, you’ll find one jewel after another.

Goffin has been honing her craft for most of her life. She’s the daughter of legendary songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. But Louise Goffin displays a talent all her own.

She was 14, when she and her sister Sherry contributed vocals to their mother’s 1974 “Wrap Around Joy” album. The following year, they sang on mom’s children’s classic, “Really Rosie,” King’s collaboration with Maurice Sendak.

At 17, Ms. Goffin opened for Jackson Browne at the Troubadour. She was still a teen when she released her first solo album, 1979’s underrated “Kid Blue.”

Her “Uptown Boys” song was featured on the all-star “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” soundtrack.

While living in England, Goffin recorded two albums for Warner Bros., an eponymous LP and “This Is The Place,” which includes the gorgeous “Bridge of Sighs.” 2002’s “Sometimes A Circle” and 2008’s “Bad Little Animals” deserved far more attention than they received.

The gifted pianist can be seen playing banjo in Bryan Ferry’s “I Put A Spell On You” video and she played guitar on tour with Tears For Fears.

Goffin, who can been heard singing the theme song, “Where You Lead,” with her mother, for “The Gilmore Girls” series,” produced 2011’s Grammy-nominated “A Holiday Carole,” King’s first studio album in more than a decade. It included Christmas classics, three Louise Goffin originals and a jazzy version of a Chanukah prayer.

Drawing on numerous styles, “Songs From The Mine” shows that Goffin is definitely in her prime. Her brand of pop is infused with rock and folk, even a bit of country. The album brims with diverse, delicious treasures such as “Everybody But You,” “Get With The World,” “Deep Dark Night of The Soul,” “Here Where You Are Loved,,” “Some of Them Will Fool You,” “Main Street Parade,” “Sword in Your Heart” and “Good Life.” Her vocals are expressive and irresistible. The songs are elegantly crafted, eloquent and deeply resonant.

You’ve described the making of this album as a journey. What did you mean by that?

The thing is, for years, I’ve been raising kids. I never stopped writing. But music was more on my hard drive and more in my studio. If someone said to me, “Oh, play us a song,” I wouldn’t really know how to play any of my songs, because I had become so dependent on the arrangements, the demo of something, or attached to a recorded version of a song.

And I wanted to change that at one point. And it was scary to do it, but I did start it off by wanting to do a residency at Hotel Cafe here. The first show I did was in November of 2012. And they had said, “Well, you can do one show and we’ll see how it goes.” So it went well. People came. It’s very hard to get people to come to shows, in Los Angeles, particularly. So they asked me to do another show in January. Then I realized, “Okay, I can’t afford to play with this great band. They’re in L.A. and they’re friends. They’re showing up and I’m underpaying them. But if I really want to play a lot and travel, I need to be able to really do it with as few people on stage as possible.

I had met Billy Harvey from that show. I was looking for a guitar player/singer-songwriter, who could be in the band and who I could also highlight with their own songs. And that’s what I had originally wanted to do - I wanted to play every month and have a new person join me and highlight their work, as well. But Billy was so good. And we had such great chemistry, that after two shows, we talked about doing a duo and do his songs, my songs, we could write songs. And that was what happened.

And he and I were both so busy, in between the time that he and I were writing and doing any shows, I was also continuing to travel and play shows of my own and write. So, at some point, the whole thing about being afraid to play live just went away. At the end of the year, I’d played, I guess, 18 shows. That was really helpful. And I just set myself a goal. I wanted to be able to do an entire show without any other band member, because you have to, in this day and age. You have to be able to travel light as need be - or you end up losing money every time you play.

So it really was an assignment for me. And it started out as just - get out of my comfort zone, jump into risk, be scared and do it anyway [laughs]. And then someone said to me, they gave me the analogy of, when you’re a fish, you don’t know the water you’re swimming in, because you’re always in the water. And this friend, who’s really talented at what he does, what he was really saying was, you can easily take for granted what your strengths are, if you’re surrounded by it all the time. If you go into other situations, you realize people don’t have those strengths necessarily. You project on the world and you imagine that, “Oh, everyone can do this, because it comes naturally to me.” But it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And it’s good to get a perspective on that and know what your strengths are.

Just traveling around made me realize, oh, I’ve been swimming in songs for a long time and I don’t have people around saying, “That’s a great tune. You should cut that. I love that song.” I was surrounded by people going, “Mom! Can you get me... “ Wanting these things from me. There wasn’t a lot of applause. It was more, “What have you done for me lately?” [Laughs[ That was more the message I was receiving. Or “Can I have $20?” Whatever it was. So I didn’t really have an idea.

I’ve been writing songs for a long time and I’m not really chasing the same thing that a lot of professional songwriters are, in that, for me to be an artist in the way that I’m doing it now, independently, you don’t have a record company and a manager and a this and a that, calling you up, organizing everything. I do all of it myself. Although I do have a booking agent, who’s great. And I do have Monica [publicist Monica Hopman]. I have a few people, actually more than a few, people who are just really supportive. And I’m so grateful that they’re there, because what I do, it’s full time, around the clock. Just the pledge campaign, I mean, the record’s been done since the middle of March. It just came out in the middle of July, a few weeks ago. And I’m still fulfilling the exclusives - what people paid for to help make the record [laughs].

The ones that are really time-consuming - I will make an original video for a cover song of your choice. Well, that should cost at least $1,000, for the amount of time that it takes - recording the song, filming something that looks good, cutting it together. It takes so much time.

And everything takes a lot of time - artwork, manufacturing, traveling, putting the band together for a different lineup and a different show. Sometimes I can’t afford to take people who live near me. So like if I was to go to Austin, for example, or New York, I would be teaching songs to a whole new group of people. So it’s exciting and it’s fun. But it’s life-changing to advocate for your own art. It’s a full-time commitment.

It may be a lot of work, but did you end up enjoying the crowd-funding, because it freed you from answering to a label?

Photo by Ruel Lee Photography
Oh, I loved it. It’s incomparable. The only thing I’m thinking of is making it good, where, before, you have your moment of artwork, you have your moment in time, when you get to make a decision and if one link in that chain, when other people are paying for stuff, is weak, that’s it. You’ve had your photo session. You pick from the results of that particular photographer. I was frustrated so often with that way of doing things. The first time I wasn’t frustrated was when I did a record for DreamWorks, because they had an amazing team. And I loved the record [2002’s luminous “Sometimes A Circle”]. And I really pushed for things. I said, “Oh, can we go that extra mile on the video?” Or whatever it was.

But you have the moment with the record company and, if things don’t happen within two months, goodbye to your record. It’s over. If you make your own record, and you really put a piece of yourself into every aspect of it, every single element, the project has more vitality to it and your fans feel more connected to you and I feel more connected to my fans, to the point where, they’re writing, saying, “You should play in this part of the U.S. “ - where I’d never thought of - “and there are some great venues.” People were really jumping in with ideas and support and wanting to be a part of it, which really is what the whole pledge, crowd-funding thing does. It’s not a record company, it’s your fans helping you make the record. So I love the whole process. It’s very enlivening. It is a lot of work. And it does not pay well [laughs]. You just barely have enough money to make ends meet. And sometimes you’re running at a deficit and borrowing from yourself to make things happen.

But it’s all in the service of having a catalogue, because, the thing is, now when I make a record, I was still be promoting that record a year from now. And when I make another record and put it out, I will still be playing songs from this record. Or previous records. It’s not something where you have a little two-month window with a record company and then, when it doesn’t go to the top of the charts in that amount of time, they’ve moved on and there’s no support for it. And you wonder where three years of your life went. That was the old model for me, as an artist.

You made a number of great records that didn’t get the attention they deserved. Do you take a philosophical perspective now, that what’s most important is simply eloquently expressing yourself musically, not the level of acceptance you reach with any song or album?

Honestly, there’s not time to think of every aspect. I have a friend who’s a photographer and she lived in the middle of nowhere. And all she did for seven or eight years was just take photos. She didn’t do anything with them. And then she moved to the city and all she did for five years was take those photos and put them up in galleries and do interviews and promote her work. It really comes down to, yes, definitely, I want people to hear the work. Sometimes I wish I could just magically have more man/human power to help get the word out. Sometimes I don’t even have time to make the call to someone who might know how to get something in a film or TV show. To me, that’s a whole other gig - going out to meetings and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this thing I’m promoting.” That’s a full-time job. It’s like actors who go out and audition. They have a full-time job, auditioning... until they get a job. And then their job is like a vacation from their auditioning job [laughs].

But I don’t have time to get on the phone and go, “Hey, I’m going to go down to Warner Brothers and meet...“ You know? I don’t have that time. I honestly don’t. If I shifted my focus into that, I would not be making records. I would not be writing songs. I’ve done the math. There aren’t enough hours in the day. So right now, I feel excited that, with crowd-funding, and just having confidence in my skills and having the resources, in terms of the musicians and studios and my own home set-up, which is limited, but highly effective for songwriting and vocals, I’m just excited about making the records. And the records will be there. In three years, the records will still be there. And I will still be able to promote them, because I’ll own them. I’ll be able to say, “Hey, put this in a movie.”

A good song is a good song. And the right version of it is key. And that’s what’s exciting me now, because I used to lose sleep over it - “Oh, this isn’t right. The key isn’t right. The arrangement isn’t right. The sound isn’t right.” All these elements. So I feel like things are falling into focus, in that regard. And the rest, I just have to have faith that it’ll find its home.

Did you always have that viewpoint of, “a good song is a good song”? Was there a time, early on, where you were trying to fit in with the marketplace - or was that more external pressure, rather than internal?

I never was trying to fit in with the marketplace. I feel like that’s one of my blind spots. Honestly, I feel that I never knew how to make a song for someone else. Every time I put my energy into - “I’m going to write a song and pitch it here and pitch it there,” I’d always just end up having these great demos that no one would record, because I guess they were full of my character or personality. It made me hone my skills, but I wasn’t necessarily writing about what I would personally want to say. So some of it feels like wasted time.

A lot of songwriters are aware of that equation, where you write a certain number of songs a year and, maybe, if you’re lucky, three of them will be cut. I’ve never been able to function that way... happily. I’ve tried. I have, a few times in my life, sat down and had that parental talk with myself and said, “People actually do this to make a living, you know.” And I’ve always done it for this personal, somewhat spiritual - it’s almost like my church. I do it because it’s good for me to dig through my feelings and emotions about something or write a story. It is transformative, when a song puts something together that you’ve experienced in a way that’s smarter than you are, in your life. And that happens a lot, where I’ll write a song that will be a precursor.

It’s almost like, psychically, I’ll know something that’s going to happen, that didn’t happen yet. And the song is giving me advice on how to handle something. My songwriting is just smarter than I am. That’s just been the case for me. So I do it for those reasons. It’s kind of like the church - people go on Sundays and they hear the gospel. For me, songwriting is the gospel. Also, what I realize is, it enhances my life, it enhances the lives of people around me. And that grown-up talk I’ve had with myself several times [laughs], saying, “You know, people actually do a job to make a living, not just for enhancement,” it’s almost like being a hostess, where, “I just do parties, because they’re fun for people.” Okay. You really enhance people’s lives... and how is that helping you? So sometimes I’ve sat down and really asked myself, “Well, how are you going to pay for things, doing this?,” because it has not proven itself to be a way to pay the rent... or even a grocery bill. But it is something that’s somewhat accumulatively, a brand, eventually, if you stick to something that’s original. Then other people can’t do it. There is no competition for what you uniquely do. And that’s really the appeal, is just staying out of the world of “cut my song instead of theirs.” [Laughs].

You have to be wired in a certain way. That’s a real business brain. And I think my parents were more geared that way. In spite of the fact that my mother was an artist, she was a songwriter first and an artist second. And her style of performance was very much like a songwriter. She wasn’t doing the Celine Dion vocal performance. She was doing the Carole King vocal performance, which was, “I’ve got an amazing song” performance. And that’s a great way to go. The songs live on beyond the artist’s career. And that's a smart thing to do. But you have to be wired in such a way that you’re willing to go out and hustle and sell your songs to people.

But are you actually thinking about that, when you’re writing - I hope this is going to connect with people and live on? Or is it just a matter of getting out whatever is inside you?

Oh, I never think that, ever. The world is too vast and diverse to have any kind of knowledge of what people will like. I totally write what I like. I think writing is very much about personal taste. It’s like - I don’t like that line. I like that line. I don’t like keyboards that sound like that. I like Wurlitzer that sounds like this.

So do you tend to be your own worst critic, very demanding of yourself, a perfectionist?

I used to be. Honestly, I used to be. Now I like more of what comes out of me. And I trust it more. So I’m not beating myself up and going, “It’s not perfect.” And sometimes I want to change a line, because I over-analyze it. I’ll go, “Grammatically, this is not right,” and over-think it. And lately, I’ll leave the line and just say, “It works. I’m not sure why, but it works.” It’s a total personal thing.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, used to say that the more specific and detailed you make something, the more universal it is, the more it’s really about your experience, the bigger the appeal. When you start living in vagaries, thinking it will have a larger appeal, it actually doesn’t. It just comes off as mediocre. I think detail and specificity and your own deepest truth is what has the biggest appeal to people.

[One of her sons dashes by]

What are the ages of the kids now?

Photo by Ruel Lee Photography
I have one who, unbelievably, is turning 15. And one who is 11, going to be 12, two boys.

Did you try to make sure they had a lot of music around them?

Oh, it’s there, genetically. They don't require much teaching. Obviously, I’m a musician and I think one of the best investments I made was a piano I bought myself... I say I bought myself [laughs], I’ve been making payments, for years, on a piano, a nice one. And that was a really great investment in them, as it turns out. I remember thinking that at the time. The younger one was just standing up, playing the piano. And he just took to it incredibly. And I’m a multi-instrumentalist, so lately, I’ve been acquiring like a mandolin and a banjo. We have lots of guitars around. Bass. They have a drum set. And that’s the house.

My older son, every time I come home, has got my amp, my Moog pedal, my guitar [laughs], maybe my ukulele, in his room. And he’s learning to play other instruments. And he does tracks. He does these tracks already, on his computer, that sound like records. He sits there on his bed, with his headphones, and puts together these tracks that sound like records. Like, all he needs is the singer and he’s ready to go. So that’s one kid. And the other kid writes incredible melodies. And lyrics with no fat on them whatsoever. Like every line is really great. So I don’t do anything [laughs]. I just facilitate and try to get them to be good people and go to bed at a decent hour and think that homework is important.

Was it like that for you, always interested in music and curious about instruments? Or were you nudged towards piano at an early age?

Not at all. I had children way older. My mother was a teenager, when I was born. Pretty much, it was like, “Put her over here with a couple of Cheerios, let’s go write a song.” Whatever would keep me occupied long enough for my very ambitious parents to do what they needed to do is what would happen. I brought my kids up in a whole other time with a whole other set of what one does as a parent. And I’d already had record deals, I’d already traveled the world, when I had kids. So I was this child-centered parent. I went to school to the art room with them. I performed in the parents’ band at elementary school [laughs]. I helped make costumes for Halloween.

I just completely embraced motherhood, like a whole new job description. I was living with a producer and songwriter [her then husband Greg Wells, who has worked with Katy Perry, Adele and Mika]. I had a little studio in the back of my house, a little closet. So I would go off, I’d have a babysitter and I’d go in it for four to six hours and work on something. But all you have to do is look at the gaps of time between the records I’ve put out and it will make sense. I’d be making a record forever and mostly raising them. My parents were not like that at all. My life was very separate from theirs. And they were very busy. And pretty much, it was about my friends. I don’t remember a lot of parenting [laughs].

Modeling was what I got, more than parenting. It was more like, “Oh, don’t eat junk food.” My Mom doesn’t buy junk food. She eats well. So I took that on. She exercises. She’s fit, healthy. She doesn’t smoke cigarettes. Like I got all the good modeling - Be respectful. Don’t talk badly about people. Don’t talk disrespectfully to people. Those were the most important things. And ultimately, those are the most important things. So it all works out.

When you observed them working on a song, did it seem like painstaking work? Or did you see joy in it, as well?

Oh, yeah! Here’s the thing - my mother was visiting recently. I learned a song of hers recently. One of my crowd-funders, the cover song they wanted me to do was one of her early songs that I didn’t know very well. I didn’t even know that they had written it. I think the song pre-dated my birth. I learned this song of hers... and I was cursing her the entire time, like, “This is like skiing the Swiss Alps!” It never stopped - the chord changes, the key changes, augmentation - it never stopped. So the vocal came out amazing on this. And the chords, somehow I got through. It sounds like I knew what I was doing, by the end, by punching it in.

She came over and I played her this thing. And she said, “That’s not the way the chords go! They go like this.” And she plays me these other chords. And I actually think the ones I have are good, because hers are very of the time - late 50s, early 60s. I felt like it didn’t need to be that way. So I was fine. And then she was going, “And then it does this. And check this out!” And she was showing me these different songs. “And then it goes to the 4th and then it goes to the 6th and then it goes to the augmentation.” And I’m lost. I’m completely lost. I just don’t operate that way.

And she always says to me that I’m more sophisticated than she is, in my writing. And I think what she’s saying is that I end up coming up with things intuitively, that she would never come up with, that are, to her, out of the range of how she would think. But honestly, I could no tell you what those chords are. I can hear it. And I find the notes. And I have to write them down, so I don’t forget them. And I don’t have that theory training, that she has. I have a very basic training. It’s kind of hard to get through life as a musician and not know what what a one and a four and a five is. Or a minor-6th or a minor-2nd, all those. But when it comes to writing charts, for example, I write very basic charts for my musicians. And sometimes they’re going, “Does the bar change there? Or does it change there?” “Oh, yeah, I put the line in the wrong place. The bar changes there.” They’re more like class notes than they are charts. So she’s very old school. And didn’t get there. Started there. Started at 17 and 18 already having this sophisticated arrangement sense

When I produced her in 2010 - it came out at the end of 2011 - we were in a session and we had Dean Parks, who’s an amazing guitar player. And everyone’s in different isolation rooms and I’m in the control room. And she’s singing. And she goes, “Dean, on bar 53, there is a chord you’re playing. Are you playing the 7th in that chord, when you get to bar 53? I hear a note in your chord that has a 7th in it. Yeah, take that out.” [Laughs] Everyone’s going, “How could she hear that?!” It’s another class.

I don’t know how I got off on this - oh, you asked me whether she pushed me, the answer is absolutely not. Not in the least. All I knew was, there was a piano around. I asked for piano lessons. I quit piano lessons the moment I knew enough chords to write songs. Songwriting’s always way more interesting to me than learning how to play classical pieces. Although, now I really like being able to play them, when I can.

So it was really always songwriting, more than musicianship. And then I guess I just became a better musician from playing, from enjoying music, enjoying guitar. Some musicians are really great musicians and they go through decades of never writing. Not writing tunes. They finally get it, that writing is the thing, rather than needing someone to hire you. That was the main message I got from my parents, in terms of my occupation, which is that songwriting was where the action was. You had songs, then you had a band, then you went on the road, then you made records. People in the business would like say, “Song is king,” meaning song rules every other level of everything. And the thing is, is you have someone, a musician who is iconic, because of who they are, their careers end, when they don’t do it anymore. If you write songs, songs go on beyond your life span. People can remember songs that Hoagy Carmichael wrote. Songs live on.

And what was the song of your mom’s that you were doing for the video?

Oh, “It MIght As Well Rain Until September [Sings] “What can I write? What can I say?” I mean, listen to the middle eight on that song [laughs, then sings again] “My friends look forward to their picnics on the beach. Everybody loves the summertime...” And then it’s a new key [sings] “But you know darling while your arms are out of reach, summer isn’t any friend of mine.” It just races along.

And then I had to learn one of her songs last year. She played the White House. I knew I wasn’t in that show, but I got this invitation from someone in that whole production, saying, “We want you to play one of your mother’s songs at the Library of Congress.” I didn’t know what they meant. I thought, the Library of Congress, it would be a library with politicians sitting down at tables and it would be like a kind of intimate little show. But it was actually a theatre and there were all these other people on it, like Shelby Lynne and Siedah Garrett - incredibly talented people. Anyway, my first thought was, “My mother’s songs are so sad,” thinking “Tapestry” - “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late, Baby.” I’m thinking, “I am not going to play one of her sad songs from my childhood [laughs], about her breaking up with my Dad - I do not want to play one of those songs.”

So I was hard-pressed to find one of her really upbeat songs. So I said, “Oh, yeah! [Sings] ‘You’ve got to get up every morning... With a smile on your face.’ That’s a positive song. I’ll do that.” And I thought it was really simple. It sounds like it’s oom-pah, oom-pah. Very simple. Then I sat down to learn it. And it’s like a George Gershwin song. It’s ridiculous how many hoops it jumps through. And then it has a key change in the middle of it. And then it plays all these crazy inversions and things a half tone higher.

So absolutely, she’s one of a kind. She’s just one of a kind. And we share music and we do music in a very different way. But we do both manage to translate it to musicians and be able to perform it. And nowadays, because we have ProTools and recording and we have an iPhone, you get an idea, you put it on your iPhone and then you hold it up and play it for someone and go, “Like this!” [Laughs]. But you used to have to be able to tell them in writing - here’s how it goes... or be able to keep playing it over and over yourself.


It is remarkable how even the early Goffin & King songs, though they flow so naturally, are so deceptively complex.

Well, they are. Since my father passed away I have been listening, first of all, this is crazy, but, because of him passing away, I have started my next record already. I mean, I put this one out a couple of weeks ago. I was not thinking I would start my next record. But a few days after he died, I had a house concert in Austin, Texas. And I really felt compelled to play this one song of his, that he had recorded in 1973, that I loved, that he sang the lead vocal on.

And he never thought of himself as a singer. He always wanted to play an instrument and he was just way more cerebral and didn’t have the control over his hands to really be an instrumentalist. But he’d hear melodies. And he loved - loved, I say - he was just completely knocked over by Bob Dylan. He thought Bob Dylan was the greatest writer, wanted to be like Bob Dylan. Of course, Bob Dylan has said really sweet things about my Dad. So he thought, in 1973, “If Bob Dylan can sing, I can sing [laughs]. Bob Dylan’s not really a singer and he has a whole career. So if he can sing, I can sing.” So he went to Muscle Shoals and he recorded a double record, a fantastic record, with one of the best organ, B-3 keyboard players, I mean, blues - just one of the greats - Barry Goldberg.

He and Barry wrote a double record. And my Dad, all he was thinking about, that particular year, was Nixon and politics and hating everything happening in Washington. And so he wanted to write this political record. And Barry said, “Well, Gerry, I’ll write the political songs, but we’ve got to make a deal.” I don’t know exactly what the deal was. It was something like for every five political songs I write, you’ve got to write me one commercial one. So they were writing these things about honorable peace - “What kind of logic, what kind of brain, would choose to kill millions and think it was sane?” I mean, this was not what people were expecting from my Dad. But he was compelled to say it. And Barry would say, “Okay, give me a commercial lyric.” And he, in 10 minutes, would write, “I’ve Just Got To Use My Imagination,” which Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded. And he’d say to Barry, “Here - are you happy?” So he wrote a couple of commercial songs on that record. And one of them was a song I love, called, “It’s Not The Spotlight.” And I love his vocal on it. I particularly love his vocal. And Rod Stewart cut it and changed some of the lines. I think he had a hit with it. Anyway, I always loved this song. And it’s quite simple. And so, for this house concert, I sat down at the piano and worked up the chords and I played it.

And at the memorial, Barry was there, one of my Dad’s oldest friends. I said, “Yeah, I played the song you guys wrote.” He said, “We should cut it!” I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, we should go in and record it.” And I was like, “Okay.” So I went to Barry’s and I had just written some really good songs in Wisconsin. And I played him those songs. And he said, “Those are great. Those are killer. Those are keepers. We have to cut those, too.” And then I said, “Oh, you know, Jakob Dylan and I just, for my mother’s MusiCares, sang one of parents’ songs, as a duet [Goin’ Back”] So I called Jakob and he said he had just recorded the song. So he didn’t want to do that one on another project. So I found another song I loved, that my parents wrote and cut that one, too. So several days ago, I was in the studio, recording four songs that will be on whatever the next record will be. So I was suddenly thrown into doing that. But I am still promoting this one and I have a whole tour booked into April of next year. So I guess that’s the lifestyle - you just keep writing, recording, performing... and taking care of children.

Did you have to go through that period of standing up and saying, “I’m my own artist” and not worrying about the shadow of the two legends?

That’s the question that never goes away. But I never in my life thought, “Wow, there’s a really big shadow. Hmmm, let me think about this.” Never. I never thought that. I just knew I wanted to do music. I thought, “Oh, wow, this is kind of a pain that my parents are...” I remember when I moved to England, being very clear - I went there when I was 24, almost 25, and I was in England for 10 years - and I remember when I got there, thinking, “I have to be really good at lyrics and melodies.” And that’s how your question translated into my inner thought of the time. That was all. Never, never, like, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this.” Because that’s a spectator question. That’s somebody writing about something from the stands, looking from afar, looking at a bigger picture. But for me, personally, I just knew I was going to do music. There was no question. It wasn’t like, “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” I was doing music. And I just thought, “Hmm, I don’t really get off easy at all. I have to really be great at lyrics and melody.”

And I was already really good at music. I had really good piano-playing chops, right from like eight years old. And I didn’t realize it. But I did eventually go, “Oh, I really know how to play the piano!” But I didn’t necessarily have the confidence in my singing. And I didn’t have the depth in my lyric-writing. I was too young. I didn’t have things happen to me. And at 24, 25, I was thinking, “Oh, shit! I have to really get good at the whole enchilada.”

In fact, the band I had in the studio the other day was, I would say, a dream band, total dream band. It was Jim Keltner on drums, Bob Glaub on bass, and Val McCallum on guitar, who’s great. I gave Jim, who I hadn’t played with in decades, I might have even been a teenager the last time I played with him, my CD. He looked at my CD, “Songs From The Mine,” he opens it up, he goes, “Wow! You’ve grown up real well, haven’t you!? Look at this!” And then Bob says, “You’ve got to check this out. There’s great songs.” Jim says, “Well, you better have great songs. You’re Louise Goffin, aren’t you?” [Laughs] And I didn’t get what he meant. I didn’t get it until after the session, I thought, “Oh, I see what he meant.” It was exactly what I was saying to myself, when I was 24 - “Oh, yeah. I have to be really good.” But that’s how it manifested itself. It wasn’t, “Should I be an accountant? Should I be a marine biologist? Or should I be a songwriter.” It was really, “I’m a songwriter. I’m going to be writing, recording, performing. This is my chosen path in life. And shit - I have to get to get really good at it!” [Laughs] It was more like that.

Having gone back and done some of your dad’s songs recently, what does impress you most about his work as a lyricist?

He’s really in his lyrics. Every one of his lyrics, he’s really in them. It’s often about getting the girl. It’s often about getting the person to see how their goals are superficial and how there are deeper, better goals. There’s a philosophical aspect. There’s teaching in his lyrics. Not only are they really expertly written - and when I say “expertly,” meaning they’re simple. So you don’t see the expertise in it. You don’t have to crawl over complications to understand what’s being said.

Even in “Might As Well Rain Until September” - “My friends look forward to their picnics at the beach. Yes, everybody loves the summertime. But you know darling, while your arms are out of reach, the summer isn’t any friend of mine.” It’s really so simple. And then in that song, “I don’t need sunny skies for things I like to do, ‘cause I stay home the whole day long and think of you.”

And I was actually saying to my Mom, the writing in it is so of its time, I actually can picture Lucille Ball saying some of these phrases, like “For all the fun I’d have while you’re so far away...” I can picture I Love Lucy saying that, like, “Oh, Ricky, for all the fun I’d have, while you’re so far away, it might as well rain until September.” [Laughs] I love that it speaks the way people speak.

But he was deep. And he was troubled. That’s in his songs, too. And he had this thing of, when he’d write a song, it was like a little boy, with this honesty and authenticity, reaching out, saying, “Hey, take a moment, slow down.” He really was thoughtful about life. Very, very thoughtful.

And honestly, my kids, particularly one of my boys, are really into hip-hop. And I completely get how fun it is, with the sounds, the mixing of the sound, the taking something from here and something from there. But what I don’t like is when there is a posturing, where the lyric isn’t really talking about someone’s deep soul. The lyric seems to be more about ego, posturing of, “Yeah, the homies and the bitches...” I mean, to me, in a song, I want to hear a piece of someone’s soul. I want to hear their pain. I want to hear their dreams. I want to hear their losses, their gains. I want to hear it on a deeply personal level. I don’t want to buy into somebody’s ego-posturing. So to me, that’s what my father really could do well - write deeply personal, authentic lyrics.


Have you seen the Broadway show [“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”]?

I haven’t yet. I haven’t been in New York. I will be in New York in October, so I will see it this year. And I’m excited to see it.

Does it seem surreal - your parents as the subject of a Broadway musical?

Well, it’s always seemed surreal to me. I always felt like I didn’t need to see it. I lived it, so why would I need to see a song-and-dance routine about it? But what’s meaningful is that it was really important to my father. And he was very involved in it. And it’s meaningful to me that he got to see it. And it was a dream come true for him, because, when he met my mother, I guess he was 20, he wanted to write a Broadway play then. That was what he wanted to do in life. She said, “I want to write songs, rock ‘n’ roll songs.” He was like, “Well, I want to write a Broadway show.” [Laughs] She’s like, “Okay, how about I’ll write music for your Broadway show, if you write lyrics for my rock’n’ roll songs?” That was the deal. And they kind of accidentally were incredibly successful at writing songs. But he wanted to write a Broadway show, from then.

So it’s very meaningful that the show happened and that he got to to see it before he died. I think it was fairly recently that he was there, in the last two or three months. And I hear that the cast is great and it’s gotten better. You get into the flow and you know what to take out and what to augment. And I’ve heard that they’re really doing an amazing job. What’s really weird for me, people tell me my name is mentioned in it a bunch of times. I’m a baby - “Oh, we need to get Louise.” It’s going to be very surreal to sit in the audience. I’m sure it will be impactful.

In terms of the whole evolution of your life in music, when you started out, opening for Jackson Browne at 17, were you already fully confident, knowing that this was going to work for you?

Oh, no. The story of that is, Jackson Browne called me. I was already living alone at 17, because my mother moved to Idaho and I was living in this house on stilts, over on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. And Jackson Browne called me and asked me, if I wanted to open for him. And I told him, no. And I hung up the phone and my boyfriend was sitting there at the time, and he said, “Jackson Browne just asked you to open for him and you said no?!” I said, “I’m not ready yet. I don’t know how to play live. I don’t know how to play any of my songs live. I don’t feel ready.” He looked at me and said, “Call him back. Right now.” [Laughs] “Call him back and say yes. You have to call him back!” And I did.

And I was pretty scared. I remember what the Troubadour looked like, to me, from my point of view then. And I was there in ‘08. And I guess it’s set up differently than it was, a little bit. But yeah, I just got up there. I had done some performing for my high school, I did like assemblies and talents shows. And that would just be like one song. But, at that age, I really had stage fright, when it came to singing. Singing, that was the thing. When I played people a song, on piano I was very confident. But you’d have to come up real close to hear my voice, to hear my sing, because I was so scared of singing.

And then I made that ‘”Kid Blue” album a year later and Danny Kortchmar, who produced me, had me singing really out, like almost operatic, influenced very much by Linda Ronstadt at the time. And I don’t even recognize my voice so much then. But he really was into rock And he infused my very dainty, singer-songwriter, strummy little songs with heavy drums and rock guitars. And so I had to learn to sing over that. It’s all very imprecise. When I listen to those early records, I honestly feel that I should not have been making records for another for or five years. I was just chomping at the bit so much, to go do it. And had the opportunities. So it was hard to not jump in. But I’m really way happier with where I am now. I feel like I found a home with my singing and my playing, where I’m not trying to ride a galloping horse that is out of control and unmanageable. I actually feel like I’m master of the animal, rather than it being the master of me.

You do sound great on the new album. There are a number of collaborations on there. You’ve written great songs on your own. Does the process of collaborating spark a whole new wave of possibilities?

Well, I like collaborating a lot. One of the things that I do, I travel, sometimes I go to Nashville or Wisconsin. Or occasionally, I’ll write here in L.A. I write least frequently in the place I live, L.A.. I get caught up with so many other things here - mothering. L.A.’s also very spread out. And it’s also very much a business town. People are writing to make money here. And I’m not going to be the first person that they’re going to spend their limited time writing with, to make money [laughs]. I’m motivated by, let’s write a great song. And this is a town that’s motivated by, how do we get the new so-and-so cut? Or how do we get in this movie? That’s almost a different job description.

But when I travel around other places, people are writing songs, doing what I’m doing. They’re playing shows, making records, but a lot of the people I write with, they have regular jobs. They do music in this way that is good for their soul. And they need to do a different job to pay the rent.

So the collaborating comes more from the fact that, if it’s just me writing, I may not write the song. I might get caught up in other things. But if it’s all arranged that I’m coming to your house, we’re writing a song today. That’s why there’s more collaborations than not. Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Oh, I’m going to write a song alone, just to prove to myself that I can.” But I don’t really feel that there’s anything to prove there. A great song is a great song. Sometimes, a great song, I feel like I have written 20 percent of it. Other times I feel like I’ve written 80 percent of it. It doesn’t matter, because the song would not be there, if you hadn’t all been in the room that day. It could be one thing somebody said - and then they never said another thing - that started the song. It really does happen that way. So it’s just whatever it is, wherever it ends up. It’s just about having an idea that’s worthy.

When you’re not working with someone else, do you tend to wait for the muse? Or do you discipline yourself, saying, “It’s time for me to sit down and write something”?

I’m not very disciplined about doing that. But I’ll tell you what I do do. I’m not very disciplined about starting songs, but I’m very persistent and tenacious about finishing them. So, while I might not go away with my dog and guitar and say, “I have to write a song this weekend” - although maybe I will do that now that I’ve started another record and need another eight songs [laughs]. I probably will do that more.

What I will do - oftentimes, I’ll write with people who I’ll never see again. And we’ll have three-quarters of a song on an iPhone. And know that that person is not going to finish that song with me. And if I really think it’s good or going somewhere, I’ll finish it - by myself. I’ll take it the extra mileage it needs to go, to finish it.

It’s kind of like children - once I give birth to them, I’m thinking, “Oh, I do actually have to teach them something” [laughs]. “And get them pants that fit.” So every time a song is started that I think is a good idea, it’s really hard for me to ignore it. So I will say, I do have a very good work ethic. And I do finish what I start.

So do you try to find a balance between the intuitive and intellectualizing about the writing? Or does one weigh heavier for you?

It’s all intuitive. The only thing that is analytical is when you get to the very end. Often I don’t even know what a song’s about, while I’m doing the entire writing of the song. And then, at the end, I go, “Oh, I know what this is about. Oh, what would be really cool is if that word were...” fill in the blank, because that ties up the meaning. It’s really all intuitive.

But the thing is, I think the analysis came a long, long time ago. It’s already the result of the analysis. It’s from listening to so much music over the years... and analyzing that music for years and years and years. So now I’m not analyzing it anymore. It’s just like driving car. You don’t go, “I’m gong to put the left signal on now. I’m going to pull out. I’m going to make a right turn coming up.” That’s analyzing driving. Once you know how to drive, you’re not thinking of any of that. But at one point, you did have to learn how to put all that together.

Looking back now, is there one song on the new album that most reflects where you’re at, in terms of mindset and emotional space?

Well, all a little bit. There are moments and moods. And moments and moods change. I think the lyric to “Good Life” is very much a place where I would like to be. “We Belong Together,” it could be interpreted as a love song, but it could really be a song about community and connecting with people. You don’t have to do it alone. And when you talk about love, you could be talking about your friends, too. Some of the sadder songs...

There’s a few songs. Right now, I’m really enjoying “Some Of Them Will Fool You.” And that was a song that was not finished, that I did really want to finish. We just didn’t have a title. And the whole idea of the song was there. And I changed some lines in the chorus. But we kept thinking the song was about liars. We kept trying to think of something with like liars. And it just never sung well. It just never sounded right. It always sounded too judgmental. And coming up with that title and being able to hang that song around it really brought that together in a way that I love.

But they’re all fun moments. ”Main Street Parade” is probably the oldest song on the record. I enjoy that. And the sentiments of that, I still feel. Like “I don’t need a big production. All I want is your sweet loving.” That’s how I feel in life. I don’t want to go to Disneyland [laughs]. I just want to sit on a beach. It’s much simpler.

“Deep Dark Night of the Soul” is another of the really cool songs. It seems like, even with that one, there’s a sense of the other end of the tunnel in sight, coming through the pain.

Yeah. What I like about that song is, okay, anybody knows the misery of the metaphor of building a sand castle too close to the shore. That’s a little childlike image there. But in life, when you do that, the recovery time is not fast [laughs]. You know? And investing in things that are very temporary, which the Buddhists would say is pretty much everything, investing any kind of faith in longevity, in things remaining the same, is a fool’s game. So, in the end, “everything works out” is a nice message. And I love humor. And that song, to me, takes a topic and has humor with it. I mean, the French-speaking and the trombones and all that.

”Watching The Sky Turn Blue” is another fun track. Did you have any trepidation about asking Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp to add backing vocals and handclaps?

I didn’t have any time to have trepidation. I definitely had like 10 minutes of trepidation. But the opportunity to have them sing on it presented itself as a now thing. It was Friday. They were leaving. I was leaving. It was about 4:15. They all usually left at 6. And Bob Ezrin [Alice’s producer] said, “You need rock stars?” And I thought, “Did he just say what I thought he said?” I had that moment of going, it was like that moment with Jackson Browne, where I wanted to say no. But at this point, I thought, I know what he just said. He just said, do I want Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp to sing on my record? I know he just said that. And so I went downstairs and I thought, I can’t not do that. I would be kicking myself to no end, if I did not act on this.

So I went downstairs and I went, “Okay Bob, ready for the rock stars.” He said, “Oh, I’m working on the drums right now. You’ve got to go talk to Alice. It’s his session.” So I did. I just said, “Hey” - this is a phrase that has served me well before - ”Would you be willing to... ” Like if I could get the “willing” out, maybe I could ask the rest of it. “Would you guys be willing to come upstairs and do some really simple handclaps and really simple backing vocals?” And they said yes. So basically, I hijacked their downtime. It wasn’t really downtime. They were working on drums and everyone was standing around, basically, including Johnny Depp. He was standing around, while Bob was working on the drum track.

So they came upstairs. And they were great. And at the end, Bruce Witkin [Depp’s lifelong friend and former bandmate/lead singer/bassist in The Kids] goes, “Wait till I tell my wife I sang on your record!” I go, “Are you kidding?” [Laughs] “Wait till you tell your wife? Wait till I tell my kids!”

Well, it must be great satisfaction, after a long gap between albums, to have this one out there and to know how good it really is.

It’s a nice feeling to be able to come out with something that I feel is so solid. And it makes me feel like I just can’t do it any other way. And also, the big lesson for me is that most of record-making doesn’t occur in the recording. It all happens before. And I never knew that. I always, thought, oh, you start a record and you’re in the middle of the record and you go, “Oh, we need more songs.” Or “Let’s try that song a different way.” Well, the difference between this record and every other record I’ve ever made is, all of these songs have been played live, with the exception of “Watching The Sky Turn Blue” and “Sword In My Heart.” “Watching The Sky Turn Blue” was just written and boom, recorded. Same with “Sword.” But everything else here had been played live a lot, before recording.

And this is interesting - I noticed that, because of that, every track on this record has an ending [laughs]. There are no fades on this record. And that’s because I had been playing them live. The entire record has endings.

Jim Keltner said to me the other day, “I always try to tell this to artists - if you know how to play your song from beginning to end and it sounds good with you playing it, the band will sound great on it. If you can’t play your song all the way through and make it sound good, then we’re just guessing.” He said, “When you sit at your piano or you sit at your instrument and you play your song for the band, you have to lead the charge. You have to take charge of what you’re doing. And they feel it.”

And I know, even just the other day, playing these new songs, when I know how the song goes, and I’m digging into that moment before the chorus comes in and I’m hitting the piano harder, because it’s building, the musicians will follow that and do that with you. But it’s got to come from you. No one’s going to save you. No producer...

I mean, a lot of people do that. The producers write and produce and they give the artist a sound. And it can be years - and maybe never - that an artist can actually pull that off without the producer or the record or the band. So this is doing it the old-school way. Engineers used to just take a live band and they’d mix the record before they would record it, by deciding where the mics should go. They would make sure that the mic placement had the right levels of the song. And then, when they recorded it, it already sounded great. That’s the way it used to be done. Now we record 38 tracks and move this down, move this up, tune things. And it’s really easy to come up with something that sounds like something in an inorganic way and then you learn it after - which is fine, too. But the reason this record was made so quickly, in terms of my history, it’s because the work had been done before the recording started.

With all the work, all the challenges of a life in music, what have been the biggest rewards for you, generally?

Well, the satisfaction is really the message of ”Deep Dark Night Of The Soul,” that things work out. I’ve worried a lot in my life. I really suffered from a lack of faith. Like I really worried about if things would work out, if I’d ever get any good at what I did. And I put so much stock, most of my life, especially when I was young, in people outside of me, to make things happen. I thought I needed a record company. I thought I needed somebody with a lot of clout. I thought I needed someone with power. These are all terribly disempowering beliefs to have, where you’re just a pinball machine, going through life, getting bounced around here and there. And if somebody doesn’t like something, you look for the next person who’s going to believe in you. That’s just not a good way to go through life.

And it really, really took me a long time to get to the place, knowing, just like Jim Keltner was saying, if I can do this myself, all the other things will fall into place. So, as soon as you’re looking for some outside thing to fill the equation, in any department of life, you’re in trouble, because nobody can give you what’s missing. Nobody can do that for you. And if they can, then you’re really walking a very unstable place, because they have too much power, because if they go away, then you don’t have it anymore.

So, to me, that’s the most satisfying thing, to know that I could throw myself into a lot of situations in life and swim. I could throw myself in water and swim. And having that confidence made me less frightened in life.

I mean, I moved to another country, when I was 24. That was a huge thing. I honestly did not know one person, when I moved to England. I had one friend who’d lived there and moved to New York and she gave me her phone book. She said, “Here are all the people I know. Here are their names. Here are their numbers.” And that was it. I would just call and say, “Hey, I’m a friend of...” And that was how I started there. And I had a record deal. I didn’t know the people there. I was just on my own, really, in this other country. And I ended up being there 10 years. Granted, they spoke English [laughs] at least. It’s a lot harder to move to a country where you don’t speak the language. Now, with the internet, England feels closer, but when I moved there, it really felt like I was far away. And the culture was completely different. I was taking buses, and I’d lived in a car culture. It was a very different lifestyle from what it is here.

The other satisfaction was, when I was asked to produce my mother. It was another one of those things where I wanted to say no at first, because I thought, “I don’t want to work for my Mom, one. Two, I don’t want to be in the whole machine. I want to have self-expression.” But I was so assured that they wanted me to do the record that I was hearing, that I wanted to make, the way I wanted to make it, and, in fact, she didn’t want to write songs. So there were elements missing, that we didn’t have, that we could not find, songs to fit the bills, that needed to be written. And so I ended up writing with other people, calling in the right co-writers for things. But honestly, when that record was nominated for a Grammy, that was so, so far from what I imagined would have come out of that record. I didn’t imagine anything like that.

It must have been so special to have that sort of validation on a project where you were sharing creativity with your mom.

Yeah, we were a great team on that record. We really were, because she was very much the artist and I was very much the producer. First of all, when you’re producing a great artist, the stakes, everything just goes up to a higher level. And I provided something for her. I mean, she could get anybody to produce her. But she really needed to feel comfortable being in the studio and comfortable being in L.A. And I provided her with a lot of comfort. When she didn’t need to be there, I would do the work. And, when she did need to be there, I would say, “You need to be there.” [Laughs]”You need to be on the mic.” And a lot of people wouldn’t be as strong with her. I was like, “You really need to be on the mic, when we record it.” “No, I don’t feel like singing. Can’t we just record the band and I’ll sing it later?” “No, you need to be on the mic, while we’re recording it.” [Laughs] And anyway, it was a really good collaboration.

You seem ready for many more great collaborations and solo efforts in the future.

Yeah, I hope so. Billy Harvey and I continue to write songs. So we have a record’s worth of material, as a duo. That’s another record waiting to be done. So I just really see this as a time when I want to write and record and make up for lost time.

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