Music from Matt Goud has been slow coming in recent years. But following a protracted and difficult period in his personal life, the Victoria singer-songwriter, who performs under the moniker Northcote, has a new record out.
Good, 35, hopes his first record in five years will help listeners who might be struggling as he is. “Music offers a connection for me,” Goud said. “I’m not extremely introverted, but I’m not very outgoing. But there is a lot of meaning in my music.”
Let Me Roar is the most personal collection of songs he has released to date, combining stories of faith, family and friendship into a very appealing Springsteen-esque package. Asked over a 40-minute conversation about the album’s content, the Victoria singer-songwriter paused before answering. “I’m not exactly sure what to share,” he said. “The kind of person I am, I worry so much about being perfect, and having my shit together.”
Goud’s new album took over two years to make. He wanted to work on himself as a person before he put into more into himself as a performer, he said.
But when it finally came time to write a set of new songs, he struggled with writer’s block. His job as a mental-health worker for the non-profit Portland Hotel Society, which offers services and support for the marginalized, also weighed heavily on Goud.
Now that he’s on the other side of the record, he’s in a better place.
“I’m a lucky and privileged person, with a nice apartment and food in the fridge and a loving spouse. I’m a very blessed person.“
Nine to Midnight is a tribute to his father, while Dancers and Queens is based on fictional characters.
Many of the songs on Let Me Roar can be taken at face value, Goud said — there is a sense of truth in his music, for those looking for it. “I think I’m writing pretty autobiographical from feeling. When I come into a struggle in life, or something I’m afraid of, it’s easy for me to avoid the journey ahead, to avoid sharing my feelings. In my music, I’m going from being numb to feeling what’s there.”
When he came off the road from touring behind his last record, 2015’s Hope is Made of Steel, Goud and his wife, Brittany, were living in Nanaimo, and Goud was battling depression. “I had been detached from my life, was painting houses, and was starting to turn down some tours. Then I realized nobody was calling any more. I wasn’t feeling very connected to my music. I was feeling lost. When I reached out to others for some help, that loosened things up for me.”
His wife suggested The Haven, a counselling retreat on Gabriola Island that fosters personal growth through experiential learning in nature. “That place played a big role on the record,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling very great, but found that while speaking with others, ultimately I found out a bit more about myself.”
He went back to Gabriola Island six weeks later, this time at the suggestion of his friend Rae Spoon, a fellow singer-songwriter, to record at The Noise Floor recording studio. The sharing vibe of his five-day stay at The Haven continued during the recording sessions, as everyone in the Northcote orbit — including guitarist Stephen McGillivray, drummer Mike Battle and bassist Eric Paone — stayed together in a cabin behind the studio.
Cellular service was spotty, so the group of musicians focused on conversation — about families and relationships, in addition to music. “We were there to make a record, but really, we were there to reconnect as friends.”
Good had an idea of what the record was going to be before he went to The Haven for help, but he reconfigured some of it upon his arrival at the studio. He added to the mix a few new songs that he had written at the retreat. There’s a reference to Cain and Abel on Streets of Gold, which brought to mind a previous conversation I’d had with Goud about his youth in Regina and the role religion once played in his life.
He was a devout Christian until the age of 21, when he dropped out of theology school, unsure if Christian life was for him. During his early days as a performer, he was in a rock band signed to a Christian record label that played mostly Christian festivals. Following his departure from the group, he went in a more folk-related direction on 2009’s Borrowed Chord, Tired Eyes, his Northcote debut.
These days, he says he’s not part of a formal Christian community.
“I’m still accessing spiritual traditions and my own way of praying,” he said. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so when I have that feeling, some time of quiet really helps. I feel lighter after that. I don’t know if I’m talking to God. I think I might be just listening.”