In 2004, Gooch was in a terrible car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Five years later, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Through it all, including still-daily chemotherapy treatments that have kept the cancer in remission, Gooch has used music to soothe his soul and rebuild his life.
Under the aegis of nine-time-Grammy-winning studio whiz Joe “The Butcher” Nicolo (Billy Joel, Cypress Hill, Boyz II Men), the 30-year-old singer-songwriter is releasing his debut album Feb. 19 on the newly minted Blacbird/Universal label.
The long road to his achievement began two years after the accident. Gooch’s grandfather bought him an electric guitar. Mixed tapes from friends provided the inspiration and Gooch began writing lyrics and composing music.
Not that it has been easy for the New Jersey native. He had to learned how to play guitar by placing it on his lap and using a specially-fitted bottleneck.
Musically, everything begins with the blues for the inspirational singer-songwriter, whose vocal style is a classic swampy moan somewhere between the vocals of Dr. John and Tom Waits.
He cites such specific influences as Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars and the late bluesman R.L. Burnside.
“I really try to draw from everything. And being from rural South Jersey, my music kind of comes out of a bluesy, Southern-rock-type sound,” he says. “But I think you can hear elements of funk, hip-hop, a little country and jazz.”
TheImproper caught up with Nelson in rehearsal for an exclusive chat about the album.
IM: Before your accident in 2004, were the blues as prominent a source of inspiration for you?
Nelson: Ironically, I listened to more jam band stuff; like Phish, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, My Morning Jacket, Blues Traveler, Clapton, Allman Brothers. As my life situation changed, I was more drawn to blues.
IM: We just loved the track “Diamond on My Windshield” which references that great bass riff from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” How’d that track come to be?
Nelson: Joe Nicolo had previously produced a demo of “Diamonds,” which never got used. I just felt my vocal style was perfect for it. I felt I could deliver a performance on it.
IM: How did you and your producer Joe Nicolo meet and decide to work together?
Nelson: I was in a band called 51 North and a mutual friend, who worked for Joe, introduced us. We just hit it off and when Joe offered me the chance to be the first artist on his new label, I just jumped at the chance.
IM: We also loved “Sitting On Top of the World” and “Devil Don’t.” Tell us a bit about both those tracks?
Nelson: “Sitting” is an old blues track and one of my favorites on the album. “Devil” is one of my own songs and about my life. The way Joe recorded it gave it a great back porch feel, which I think is perfect.
IM: Who do you listen to and enjoy?
Nelson: I’m pretty diversified; I love The Black Crowes, country … I think this fellow Chris Stapleton is terrific. Also, The Heathens and Jason Eady are great.
IM: Tell us about The Motion?
Nelson: The name The Motion came about because of the ever changing cast of killer professional musicians that support me. Eventually we grew that concept to encapsulate the audience and venue employees as well. There is no show without the sound engineers, security, lighting, stage hands, and of course the fans bringing their energy. So it’s now become Gooch and anyone supporting him being dubbed the Motion.
IM: There’s always a place for the blues – so, this album will get heard and played. What are your hopes for it? Are there plans for a second one?
Nelson: This is my first footprint in the business; so I want it to get heard as much as possible. I’ve got so much new material that we’re already talking about the second album. Blues is the foundation of music; even the Adele-production borrows from the blues.
IM: The accident and your cancer issue; how has that impacted your musical career. If anything, it seems like it’s been a source of great strength for you.
Nelson: It’s a catch-22, I get that. It’s transcendent, this whole life. It’s funny how things work out
IM: The trailer for the album is great; how’d that come together?
Nelson: There’s a fellow (Jonas Stone) that’s been shooting a documentary around this whole project and every time I look at it; it’s astounding. We’re looking at a release date in April.
IM: The album is released on February 19; what are your plans from there?
Nelson: This is the last piece of the puzzle. We want to get out there and most likely will do a limited tour. I can’t wait.
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