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Artist continues family legacy with unique pop/rock sound

In the music business, a surname can often open doors—the puzzle has always been in establishing one’s own identity once you’re inside.

Many famous offspring never push past the inevitable comparisons to stake their own claim as artists. It can be a tough cross to bear. Ask Frank Sinatra, Jr.

For Louise Goffin, who brings her sophisticated pop/rock songbook to Claremont for a house concert on Saturday, July 14, that burden could well have been insurmountable.

Her mother is Carole King. Ms. King’s 1971 record, Tapestry, has sold more than 25 million copies and is considered one of the cornerstones of the singer/songwriter genre. She’s member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She penned “Up on the Roof,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and more than 100 other pop hits from 1955 forward.

That baggage alone might have been enough to set young Ms. Goffin on a path far from the arts.

But consider this: her father is the late Gerry Goffin, a legendary lyricist (“The Loco-Motion,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Take Good Care of My Baby” and more than 100 other hits) and also a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Still, she persisted.

Ms. Goffin made her stage debut in 1977. She was 17 and opened for Jackson Browne at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour. Two years later she released her debut record, Kid Blue. Now 58, Ms. Goffin long ago established her own bona fides as a singer, songwriter and producer. She’s released seven albums since her 1979 debut.

She’s worked with everybody from legendary Beach Boys lyricist Van Dyke Parks to innovative indie singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur. She’s always writing, both for herself and other artists. Her new record, All These Hellos, is scheduled to be released later this year.

Ms. Goffin—who was born in New York City, but now calls Los Angeles home— is a fan of the increasingly popular house concert format. For the uninitiated, these shows are usually held in backyards or living rooms. The intimate gatherings sometimes even include a potluck dinner.

“I love doing them,” Ms. Goffin said. “It’s very relaxed, and people are comfortable. They’ve been where they’re going before, and it’s social and there’s food and you’re in the comfort of somebody’s home.”

The mother of two teenage sons has in the past taken the traditional touring route with a bus, a band, crew and an entourage. These days, she finds the small-scale model works best.

“It’s a lot harder to get people to show up to a club,” Ms. Goffin said. “I know for me if someone asks me to come to their house for some food and to listen to some music, I would way rather do that than to go to Hollywood and park my car with valet and show up for an hour set in this place where there’s going to be a cover fee and drinks. There’s not as much meat on the bone for someone to go out and spend their $25 or $40 as there is when they know they’re gonna have a whole night of socializing and being with friends.”

House concerts also cut a layer of overhead right out of the equation, which can be appealing. “It’s really the only time, as an independent artist, that there’s any hope of coming out ahead,” she said.

In the ever-shrinking and consolidating traditional music business, Ms. Goffin has the luxury of being multi-talented. She’s a songwriter first; she records and performs, of course, but she’s also a producer, is proficient in industry standard music software Pro Tools, is a digital video editor and recently launched her podcast, The Great Song Adventure, with collaborator Paul Zollo.

And though she feels most free in the recording studio, she also enjoys performing, but with some caveats.

“The way to have a better approach to playing live is really to get into a routine with it by resting and preparing, and the ritual of whatever you do to get ready, where you know the gear is going to show up and everything you need will be at the venue,” she said. “But I’m still an independent artist. I’m still in the place where I’m building my empire a toothpick at a time. That’s just what it feels like.”

Working with all those pieces of her creative life, which sometimes overlap, can be a challenge, she said.

“For me, writing a song is one brain space, performing a song is another brain space, and recording a song is another. When I’m writing a song there’s a lot going on in my head, like the lyric, the syllables, the lines, the economy of words and the key. Then to perform, it’s like going to the gym; you’ve got to get in your body, you’ve got to be earth mama or earth daddy, you’ve got to be free and open and rested. You’re projecting, you’re putting your energy out, and it’s such a shift from where you are as a songwriter.”

The new paradigm, with artists touring with a manager or sideman, or even by themselves, suits Ms. Goffin.

“To get name recognition, if you’re not with a major record label, that comes very slowly,” she said. “You’re building fans by the five-at-a-time or the one-at-a-time. They are telling other people, and I get feedback that people love the shows. I’m always surprised, because I’m always thinking, ‘Oh, I want this to be better and I want that better.’”

Ms. Goffin plays a Gelencser House Concert solo show in Claremont at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 14. Tickets are $15 and are available at gelencserhouseconcerts.com, by phone at (909) 596-1266, or via email at singfolk@yahoo.com. The concert location is given at the time of reservation.

To learn more about Ms. Goffin’s music, visit louisegoffin.com. The Great Song Adventure podcast is available at iTunes.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com