by Mark Wright
photos courtesy of David Goodier
At the beginning of the tour, David was a juggler who could keep two balls in the air, maybe three—he could find the venue, get up on the stage, play guitar and remember the words to his own songs. By the end of the tour, he had five or six balls in the air. “I could perform, work the crowd, plan my route or where I was going next, adjust my set list, think about what I was going to eat after the gig. I was in Road Mode. It was exciting when I got the hang of it.”
I followed David’s posts as he toured and knew I wanted to talk to him about it when he returned. It’s a gutsy, exciting thing for a musician to do, and I knew he’d have some stories to tell when it was over. He did. I could write a few thousand words about David’s “eclectic singer-songwriter” music and lyrics, but you can listen to them on your own. I wanted to know about the tour.
“I play music because I love it, it’s just what I do. And I always wanted to try something like this.”
What made him decide to hit the road, and how did he arrange everything and tackle the planning and logistics of the entire thing? “I play music because I love it, it’s just what I do. And I always wanted to try something like this.” One night, while mixing sound at The Verve in Terre Haute, he met a musician very much like himself, who was on the road playing at a lot of smaller venues. He gave David the number of a booking agent, whom he contacted. “He had a ton of contacts and is extremely organized. I told him what I wanted to do, and he went through state-by-state finding small venues I might play, sent me the list, and I contacted them and set up dates.”
Eventually, David had a schedule of around 60 dates, running through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and back to Indiana. “It was a very fluid, thing—dates would change, get cancelled, mix-ups would occur. These were small venues and weeknight gigs. Sometimes I would arrive and the staff would say, ‘Nobody told us you’d be here tonight.’” Flexibility is a major component of Road Mode.
David never knew what to expect. Usually, he would put on his one-man show, carting in his Gretsch and his Acoustic combo amp, one channel for his guitar and one for his mic. He would play a mixture of his own tunes and some covers. “You have to read the crowd and see what they want.” Sometimes he was the only performer; sometimes he was a performer on an open-mic night, and other times he would even be the host. Newark, New Jersey, was another story. “That was the worst. I was sick as a dog with a sinus infection.” And the venue turned out to be a dingy, pay-to–play place in a horrible neighborhood. “It was open-mic, and they were gonna charge me ten dollars to play. It was a bunch of dudes paying ten bucks and shooting rap videos of themselves in front of a crowd to put up on YouTube.” He walked out on that one and left the expensive hotel he’d already paid for. And he contacted his booking agent buddy and said, “You can scratch this one off your list.”
Another fluid aspect of the tour was the lodging. “Because these venues were small and plans could change or gigs be canceled, I didn’t want to be committed to staying at a certain hotel each night.” Sometimes, that kind of commitment could cost him more than he would make that night even if the gig went on. So he slept in his car sometimes, camped some, and played it by ear, hoping to find a place wherever he was. “Fortunately, the tour was tight enough that I seldom had to drive more than 3 or 4 hours.” His favorite place to stay? The Burlington Youth Hostel in
Vermont. “Inexpensive, designed for travelers like me, and a bunch of cool people there.”
Some gigs were fantastic. “My third gig, at the Plain Folk Café in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, was where it started coming together for me.” He was just 5 days past his big gig at Blues at the Crossroads, he hit the road for Muncie where he had gone to college for a year, got his CD—his head was swirling. “The people at the Plain Folk were so nice and accommodating. I got to settle in and catch my breath.” Another Ohio gig in Dayton resulted in what David called his best crowd. “There is a great music scene there, a great original scene. The crowd was very knowledgeable and responsive, and the owner turned off all the TVs in the place—very important.” The crowd was hungry for merchandise. “Next time I’ll take a bunch of t-shirts. I could have sold a ton of them.” Unfortunately, had had just his CD for sale. Lesson learned.
David’s largest crowd was in a Burlington, Vermont, pizza place called Manhattan Pizza and Pub. “It was a small corner place on Church Street, packed to the gills with loud, drunk people going crazy and listening to loud music. I thought they were going to hate me.” But once the owner killed the music and the crowd quieted, David just started stomping his feet and playing the most raucous song he had; he grabbed the crowd and had them for the next couple of hours. “You gotta read the room.”
Not every gig went as smoothly. Besides those aforementioned moments when places weren’t expecting him or had forgotten he was coming, some venues in Florida had been affected by hurricane Irma; some were not even open. After leaving New England, he came down with a sinus infection and he broke the screen on his phone. “There went my communication, my GPS, my contact with people.” He stayed in a campground in Asheville, played two nearby gigs, and finally went to a Batteries Plus to get his screen replaced. “The first thing I see when I log back on is a notification that my credit card has been blocked. Someone had phished my info and charged 1500 bucks on Redbox. There went my method of paying for everything.” Fortunately, First National Bank worked with him and made sure he got money each day before his card was restored a week later. Another lesson learned.
When I asked David what the most difficult aspect of the tour was, he was quick to respond. “It can get lonely out there. There’s no one to bounce things off of, not gig things, but everyday things. Like, ‘Did that dude at the gas station just say what I think he said?’ Yeah, I interacted with people at gigs, but it was pretty much the same conversation at each stop.” He needed someone to share personal things with. Still, he would do it again. “Maybe just 20 or 30 dates next time. I would love to try it out west.”
What did he learn? “Seeing that it is a diminishing art—the art of going on the road, touring. It used to be artists would tour to make a name, to get an album out. Now you have to play live. Fewer people are going out and doing this every day. You are very much at the mercy of everything—so many things to do. And it’s not about ego. Many of my gigs were ego-breakers. If you’re really touring and you’re playing a Wednesday and everyone has headphones on and their phones out . . .” One of those joints that forgot he was coming, a venue in South Carolina, put him out back where three people were, who soon left. So he decided to live-stream the empty-house gig for some friends back home.
David Goodier did not make any money on this adventure. But he didn’t lose any, either, although he is seeing some profit of a sort now through additional gigs he has booked. “I could do much better next time with a little more merch and my experience.” And what he learned was invaluable. When he returned to Terre Haute, it took him a couple of weeks to get out of Road Mode. “I was chomping to get out and do gigs.” And gig he does, very frequently. You can find out where by checking out his Facebook page. You can listen to his album on Spotify, iTunes—almost all of the popular music distributors. You can view something of a photographic record of his tour at #davidgoodiertour on Instagram. You can watch him on YouTube. Check him out. You might just like what you hear.