On Stage: Goss sings in praise of ‘Bears’

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Tom Goss

Bears take notice. Tom Goss is coming to the area this weekend.

On July 28, Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com) will present “An Intimate Evening with Tom Goss in ‘Songs & Stories.’”

Tom Goss loves bears.

But, he’s not a naturalist focusing on 400-pound behemoths from the forests of North America or the ice floes of Antarctica.

He loves bears but not because he’s a fan of professional sports teams from Chicago (Bears, Cubs) or Boston (Bruins) or college teams from the University of California.

He loves bears but holds no special affection for the popular forest fire fighting bear — Smokey Bear.

The talented singer/songwriter even has a song about bears called, not surprisingly, “Bears.”

Goss loves human bears.

Obviously, there is a backstory here that needs to be told.

Goss, a nationally-celebrated gay singer-songwriter, is well known for his hit music videos (“Bears,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Breath and Sound,” and “Illuminate the Dark”) and the seven albums he has released over the past decade. He has built a strong following in the gay community, having performed in a hundred cities to a growing group of dedicated fans.

He has been compared to Brett Dennen and Mat Kearney — but with a distinct voice shaped by his identity as a gay man and his unusual history. A college wrestler turned Catholic seminarian turned award-winning musician, Goss weaves his story throughout a powerhouse performance that moves between touching love songs and high-energy anthems.

“I spent most of my young life in Wisconsin,” said Goss, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Los Angeles.

“I went to college at the University of Central Missouri on a wrestling scholarship. Wrestling was a very aggressive sport – and an aggressive way of being. I was just sick of that, so I let the pendulum swing the other way. I went to school at a seminary to study to be a Catholic priest. I was more asexual at the time. I wasn’t attracted to men or to women.

“Then, when I was 22, I fell in love with one of my classmates. It was my first crush. It was wonderful – and gratifying – to realize I was gay. I also realized that I was mostly attracted to bears. I came out in a lot of different ways. My time at the seminary wasn’t great. I left and met the man I eventually married. I got married in 2010.”

If you’re wondering what Goss means when he refers to a “bear,” you need to look at the gay culture. “Bear” is a gay slang term. It describes a hairy, heavy-set (sometimes muscular) gay or bisexual man. A bear typically projects an image of rugged masculinity.

“When I was younger, I was an athlete,” said Goss. “I wasn’t really into music. Then, I became obsessed with the Dave Matthews Band. I had a lot of teen angst. As I got older, music really touched me. I believed in its immense power to reach and heal. I wanted to reach and heal people.

“My mom bought me a guitar for high school graduation. I learned every Dave Matthews Band song that had ever been written. When I was at the University of Central Missouri, I’d go busking and play Dave Matthews Band songs.

“Then, I was in the seminary for one-and-a-half years and it was horrible for me. I just wanted to do something that was more chill. So, I decided I was going to make a record.

“I made my first record in 2006. I had to make a record so that I’d be able to go out and perform. It was a snowball effect.

“I had no training as a musician. But, I was always an athlete, so my training ground was performing in public.”

Goss’ debut album was titled “Naked Without.”

He then released one album a year from 2009-2012 — “Back to Love” (2009), “Live at Terry’s” (2010), “Turn It Around” (2011) and “Love Songs and Underdogs” (2012). Goss followed with “Wait” in 2014 and his most-recent album “What Doesn’t Break” in 2016.

“I’m certainly a pop singer, a singer/songwriter and gay – but they don’t detract from each other,” said Goss. “My stories are from the perspective of a gay man, but my songs are gender non-specific. They’re human experience songs.”

In closing, Goss was asked if his husband was a bear. His response was – “Of course.”

Video link for “Bears” by Tom Goss – https://youtu.be/XqlF0h1qMoI

The show at the Rrazz Room on July 28 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Rachel Taylor

Rachel Taylor’s two most recent music projects have been He Is We and She Is We – titles that sound more like a lost lyric from the Beatles “I Am the Walrus” than names for a rock band.

He Is We was Taylor’s band that began in 2008 and released one album and several EPs over the next few years — the last of which was “Skip to the Good Part” in 2011.

Then, Taylor put He Is We on the shelf. In 2017, she emerged with a new project – She Is We – and a new SIW album titled “War.”

Taylor also brought He Is We back to life and released three EPs in the last 16 months – “Fall Out of Line,” “He Is We Chapter One” and “Hold My Heart,” which came out in April 2018.

On July 29, Taylor is bringing He Is We’s “Let’s Talk About Us Tour” to The Trocadero (10th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215-922-6888, www.thetroc.com).

“‘Hold My Heart’ was recorded last year,” said Taylor, during a phone interview Friday afternoon as she travelled east across Pennsylvania to a gig in Lancaster.

“I went to Cincinnati and got the record done in 10 days. I produced it myself at One Louder Studio with a studio guitarist. It was definitely my record.

“I wrote everything in the studio. I’ll spend time with the instrument and my brain works in flashes. Whatever is in my head, I narrate that story using an instrument. I get one line and that expands into a chorus. I got a lot done in 10 days. Generally, people can’t write records in 10 days. When I went in, I didn’t know if I’d end up with one song or 10 songs.”

As it turned out, she ended up with five tasty tracks – “Dear Adam,” “Every Other Man,” “All I Need,” “To Infinity and Beyond” and the title track, “Hold My Heart.”

“He Is We took a hiatus in 2011 because of the nasty things that took place in my life,” said Taylor, a native of Tacoma, Washington who now lives in Seattle.

“From 2011-2017, it was like what you see in movies about all the bad things record labels do — and also having to deal with different bandmates. It really took a toll. I experienced the bad side over and over again.”

Taylor was able to let her emotions rip and go through a cathartic experience with the “War” album by She Is We.

“I was able to keep afloat and created a full-length album with Vanguard/Concord Music Group,” said Taylor. “It was the first time I was allowed to be angry and deal with it. I was able to vent my frustration.

“He Is We came back in last year. This time, I’m touring with a really friendly group. They really understand the heart of He Is We. We have acoustic guitar, keys, electric guitar, bass and drums – and three vocalists in the group so we can do some great three-part harmonies.

“Now, I have some gasoline for the fire.”

Video link for He Is We – https://youtu.be/R7Gf2SOmz5Q.

The show at the Trocadero, which has States & Capitals and City in The Clouds as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the Trocadero are Jay Critch on July 28 and Blueprint on July 31.

Darlingside

Another show worth seeing on July 29 will be Darlingside’s performance at the XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park (Harbour Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey, http://xpnfest.org).

Boston-based Darlingside released its new album “Extralife” earlier this year and immediately headed out on the road touring in support of the new disc.

Darlingside — Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals), Auyon Mukharji (mandolin, violin, vocals), Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello, vocals), David Senft (bass, kick drum, vocals) – brought the tour to Philly in March and headlined a show at Union Transfer.

“Since then, we’ve gone on a tour of the U.K.,” said Mukharji, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “It was our first time to play Ireland, which was a lot of fun. We also opened a few shows in the states for Brandi Carlile.

“Then, we took off a month in June and worked up some new music. For the recording process, we started with 30 ideas, went in to do 25 and eventually ended up with 12 finished tracks – and a few other almost-finished tracks. We’ve been doing a lot of songwriting and we have quite a few songs in different stages of development.

“Now, we’re doing a bunch of festivals this summer. Then, we’ll go back to the U.K. for a festival and follow with some shows in the Netherlands. We’ll be doing more shows in the United States in September and October.”

“Extralife” was not a project that came together quickly for the Boston-based quartet.

“We started recording the album almost a year ago,” said Paseltiner. “The songs came together last winter. In April, we went in and tracked it at Dimension Sound Studio in Jamaica Plain.

“Then, we took the tracks back to Dave’s house where he has a studio. We did experimental overdubs and vocals. We like to do a lot of experimentation on our own instead of using time in the studio. It gives us the ability to play with the sound.

“We went back to Dimension Sound in mid-summer to do the final tracking and experimenting with effects. Picking and choosing and editing is a big part of our process. It we send enough pellets toward the target, hopefully one will hit the bulls-eye.”

The four veteran musicians had plenty of time to get acquainted with the songs.

“Some of these songs have been floating around for a long time – as long as a decade,” said Paseltimer. “We usually have a round 100 melodies to work with and the lyrics start to coalesce later.

“We were in the studio around the same time as the election. We usually write at home but at the time, we were on tour with our last album. We had to find the time to write.

“We also had to look at what was going on in the country — and the mayhem in the world in general. All the big questions were slamming us at the time. Those themes infused themselves on our lyric sets — what do we feel right now?

“We tracked 26 songs and then whittled it down to those we used for the album. The theme started to develop as we whittled down. It was very late in the process.

“A lot of themes people say we’re tackling are things that are dealing with the world outside ourselves rather than the personal themes we had on ‘Birds Say,’ which was our album before this one.

“Still, to me, the new album feels very personal. It also feels like it’s really dark and really light at the same time.

“In our live shows on this tour, we’re playing half the new record along with songs from our previous records – ‘EP1,’ ‘Pilot Machines,’ and ‘Birds Say.’ It’s a good healthy mix.”

Video link for Darlingside – https://youtu.be/cI6Le6Rs5gA.

Darlingside’s set at the festival is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on July 29. One-day passes for Sunday are $80 and include performances by

Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band, Blind Boys of Alabama, Phoebe Bridgers, Tank and the Bangas, JD McPherson, Hiss Golden Messenger, Lo Moon, Mt. Joy, Devon Gilfillian and Harmony Woods.

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