Photo Credit: Ashtin Paige
Americana has a definite sound and style all its own, but there is a bit of its essence in every genre as Americana is all about the art of storytelling with an insane amount of heart. No one knows better than that than Angie Goeke. Her April 29th release, ‘If I Were Honest,’ packs in a heap of Americana vibes and earnestness. We talked about all of the above, as well as settling into her own, prayer, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: Music came to you early in life due to being born into a musical family. You even performed for Queen Elizabeth II back in the day! What do you think singers who come up in their church choirs have over other vocalists?
Angie Goeke: Well, I can only speak of my experience. Growing up in the church choir exposed me to a supportive group of music-lovers who were also a mixture of ages and talent levels. Those differences provided a non-threatening, non-competitive space to learn the basics and to understand early on that “being the best” isn’t the goal. It’s all about a love of the music and that there’s something bigger that happens when you share that music appreciation with others. I found it easy from an early age to pick up on harmonies, and I think I can owe that to my regular exposure to choral hymns…well, and Vince Gill.
Kendra: You noted that you spent so much of your life trying to live up to the expectations others had of you. Was that outside of music?
Angie Goeke: For the most part, yes. Some of those expectations were self-imposed based simply on what I assumed others expected me to do. Being a mom made me assume that I had to spend every hour of every day meeting the needs of my children, so much so that a personal pursuit of my own would be seen as selfish and irresponsible. I feared for a long time that pursuing a musical career would only be perceived as a hobby that no one really needed to take seriously.
And even if I did go down that path but pursued making the style of music I liked, it would not meet the expectations of others. Maybe it wouldn’t be sophisticated enough or difficult enough, or at times it might have too raw and too honest lyrics that would make others uncomfortable. And I think I assumed the expectation for me was to not ruffle feathers, but rather just be content with motherhood and not having a music style or a career of my own, especially if it wasn’t financially responsible and included significant risk.
Kendra: With your debut LP, “If I Were Honest,” you said you got to come into your own. Does that mean you got to take more control of the creative process from the start?
Angie Goeke: I think I just needed to musically mature a bit with my writing and my process. I also think working with Mary Bragg as the producer on this album was key. Not only is she collaborative and easy to work with, but I knew before we even started working together that we were going to be on the same page about so much creatively. We are like two trees in the same orchard. We’ve got similar tastes, so I wasn’t worried she’d have an idea that I didn’t love or felt out of left field. I’ve been a longtime fan of her own music and work, so I felt very confident that she would help me find my true style and unique sound without pushing me into a different orchard altogether.
Kendra: How do you feel your debut LP compares overall to your debut EP from 2019, “KNOTS?”
Angie Goeke: I think with “KNOTS,” I was still figuring out what my sound was apart from just me and a ukulele or piano. I kind of just went with the flow of everyone else in the room without bringing a true vision for each song to the table. Between the two albums, I released a single each month in 2020 and worked on stretching myself on arrangements and compositions. And that really helped me define the sound and instrumentation I was looking for…much of which I also found coming through Mary’s work.
Kendra: One of the songs featured on your April release is “So I Pray.” I’m not religious, but something is calming and reassuring about prayer when things get to be too much like when my mom was going through some major health issues in 2021. You said this song was an ode to the power of hope and I think that’s what prayer ultimately is; a way of hoping for the best. With that though, what are your thoughts on the other side of prayer that seem a bit like the fast food, drive-thru version that comes with those quick “thoughts and prayers” comments people post on social media without really giving the situations much thought?
Angie Goeke: What a great question! There are definitely different kinds of prayers, postures of prayer, and experiences of prayer. And I, too, find that telling someone on social media that they are in our “thoughts and prayers” sometimes falls pretty flat and can feel dismissive. My personal opinion is that the power of prayer isn’t found in the actual prayer itself, but rather in the belief that the prayer is being heard by something bigger than oneself. So maybe that’s why those drive-thru prayers seem to fall short. Telling someone you’re praying for them and actually doing it are completely different things because the one receiving the communication is completely different.
For me, it doesn’t matter whether a prayer is two words or an hour-long rant, whether it is eloquent memorization or just inaudible sighs. What matters is whether or not it is directed to a higher power. The reassuring or hopeful aspect of prayer is that it isn’t a magic formula that I have to perform in order for it to work. So much of our lives are performance-based. Do better, work harder, and you’ll succeed more often. Prayer isn’t that at all…it’s all about someone bigger, stronger, otherworldly even, working hard and in ways on my behalf that I just simply am unable to on my own. It’s calming that I don’t have to “get it right” when it comes to prayer. There’s no pressure. My problems get to become someone else’s problems for a little bit. And there’s a hope that while I can’t control every circumstance or situation in my life, I’m choosing to believe that there’s someone out there who can and that perhaps they’re listening and will act on my behalf.
Kendra: Musically speaking, you bring forth beautiful Americana. This is a style I feel is still very much appreciated. I come across these artists all the time. What do you think has made this somewhat of an evergreen genre over the years?
Angie Goeke: I feel as though Americana music seeks to reach into the deepest parts of our souls…to bring out the common feelings and emotions that we all feel as humans all while creating a musical soundscape of “home.” I feel as though the unique sounds and instrumentation of Americana music paint the scene of the song so that the lyrics can sit down on the porch rocking chair to tell the story and probably shed a tear. Connecting through our triumphs and failures is what makes us remember we are human. Musical expressions of time and place that intertwine listeners and transport them to the same moment are magical. That kind of storytelling is timeless.
Kendra: Okay, time for a side note – with this month being Easter…my favorite holiday only because the candy game is on point, I want to ask if you could have the perfect holiday basket filled with your favorite treat and an album that you cannot live without, what would be in your basket?
Angie Goeke: Oooooh, love me some candy. I’m a sucker for Jelly Belly jelly beans, especially at Easter, and those speckled malt ball eggs…the kind that come in the little boxed milk carton-shaped container. Balance that out with some gummy bears and dark chocolate, and I’d be a happy girl. The album I can’t live without is a more difficult answer. I’ll go with one classic — Ella Fitzgerald ‘The Best of the Song Books’ (1993 Compilation); and one more recent — The Civil Wars’ self-titled album from 2013.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘If I Were Honest’ out April 29th, what’s next for you as spring continues to roll into summer?
Angie Goeke: The spring will be busy with the middle school musical I am directing, as well as my oldest’s high school graduation. Once summer hits, I’m hoping to do a little touring through a few states and take my two daughters with me. I’ve got a few new songs to keep working on and hopefully will use some of those summer months to write more. I’d like to also work on some small producing projects so that I am on a trajectory to self-produce my next album!