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Stepping out: Mandy Goldman ready to release her debut solo album

Mandy Goldman will mark the release of her debut solo album, "Balance of the Trade," Sunday night at Deep Dive.
Mandy Goldman will mark the release of her debut solo album, "Balance of the Trade," Sunday night at Deep Dive.

For more than a decade, singer Mandy Goldman has played a key role in the Ithaca music scene. She’s a co-founder of the soul-rock band Noon Fifteen and also has contributed vocals to Maddy Walsh and the Blind Spots, NEO Project, and Alan Rose and the Restless Elements.

Now Goldman is ready to step out on her with the release of her debut solo album, “Balance of the Trade.” The record’s 10 songs showcase a different, softer side of Goldman, who has been known for her powerhouse vocal style on stage and in the studio.

Sunday night at Deep Dive, Goldman will play a release show to celebrate the new album. She’ll be backed by her Noon Fifteen bandmates – keyboardist (and husband) Samuel B. Lupowitz, bassist Harry Nichols, guitarist Joe Massa, and drummer Phil Shay – as well as Alejandra Diemecke (Ilium Works, La Llorona) on violin and Jen Cork on vocals, guitar, and tambourine.

“I wanted to have these guys on the show who I'm so used to playing with and who are so used to playing with each other,” Goldman said. “But I also wanted to get some other textures on there. We finally got the whole band together last night for rehearsal and they sound beautiful.”

At Deep Dive, “we’re doing the whole album front to back and then we've got a couple of covers as well,” Goldman added. “I'll say one of them is a recent cover that I chose because it's a song I love, and another one is a big family number that's going to be a lot of fun at the very end of the show.”

In a recent Zoom interview, Goldman talked about the new record, tracking the songs at Chris Ploss's Sunwood Recording in Trumansburg, and much more.

Q: What inspired you to put out your first solo album?

Mandy Goldman: Well, I started writing some songs that I didn't think were songs for Noon Fifteen a long time ago. Noon Fifteen has three songwriters, so we always have so much material that we haven't even touched yet. And I started writing the songs that kind of had more of a country vibe or acoustic vibe. And I thought, well, maybe someday I'll do something else with them, but I'm not really sure what I want to do. And then there were so many songs, and over the pandemic, I was like, “You know what? I think that I need to just try to make a record of my own so that I can actually put these songs out some way.” I thought at first that I might just make an EP because I only have like three songs, but I actually had 10 songs. So it was enough for a full-length record.

Q: I remember talking to you about this before you started, and even though you were playing in Noon Fifteen, you could use whoever you wanted in the studio. Did that actually pan out as far as using different people?

MG: Well, it didn't. Sam is all over the record – he plays all the keyboards – and Joe Massa also plays a lot of guitar on the record, and Harry sings a bit on the record. The only Noon Fifteen member who’s not on it is Phil, and that's that was really just a matter of convenience – the days that I went into the studio didn't work for him. But Chris Ploss plays drums on the whole record. And then I also had some other people come in to do extra things: Jason Shegogueplays lap steel, and guitar on a couple of tracks, and Sam Schmidt plays fiddle on one track.

Q: How did you like working with Chris Ploss in his studio, Sunwood Recording?

MG: It's the best – working with Chris is wonderful. I really had him produce the record – I asked him to really produce it, so he was really like a collaborator on all of the arrangements. And he was really amazing to work with. He's so empowering and inspiring, and it never feels like he's stepping on your toes as an artist. He really just wants to like support your ideas. He's amazing to work with, and I’d highly recommend him to anyone.

Q: Sunwood is such a nice recording environment.

MG: It's such a great room. It sounds beautiful in there. The drums sound so good in that room with all the wood and he has like a nice little isolation booth as well. There's a track, “April,” where we just ended up taking my scratch vocal and guitar tracks from the iso booth even though it really was miked just with one mic. We just really liked the way that take sounded and felt like we caught a good performance with everyone. So it has a really live feeling.

I also should mention that we did a number of the songs to tape. I think six out of 10 of the songs we recorded to a tape machine. For many of the tracks we had to, of course, do a couple of digital overdubs. But Chris was really on top of sort of my vision for the album being very soft and vintage and indie, so the tape was a great idea and it really helped give the record a lot of softness.

Q: Did you write all the lyrics yourself?

MG: All of the songs are music and lyrics by me completely, except for the song “April,” which has a little interlude section where the violin is featured. And Sam wrote the changes for that section of the song and a little melody that the violin plays.

Q: How do you actually write songs? Do you carry around a notebook? Or do you do it in your head and recond to your phone?

MG: I do a lot of in my head singing to my phone, or immediately grabbing up the guitar and singing into the phone. Was it Neil Young who would say “If it doesn't come out in like, 20 minutes, it's not a good enough or worthwhile song”? So usually I write songs pretty quickly. I'll occasionally put placeholder lyrics in and then come back and revise them a little bit. But I usually think of an idea, think of a melody, sit down, and the whole thing comes out. I almost never able to finish a song if I don't do it that way.

Q: As far as lyrical themes go, what do you like to write about? Is there anything connecting all the songs? Is it like a concept album? How would you describe it as a whole?

MG: It's definitely not a concept album. The songs are pretty individual because they were written over a really long period of time. The oldest song on the record is “April,” and that one was written in like 2015. And “Same Old Song,” which I think might be the newest song on the record, I wrote that one in 2021 right before going into the studio.

So there's not really a theme. I would say lyrically, I have a lot of themes of relationships with other people and difficulties with those relationships. Most of the songs are not love songs, a lot of them are just about relationships with people. Because what I write about is pretty much my social strife and social anxiety.

There is some political stuff, and well, there are some political undertones, I would say, on “Same Old Song and “Watch Me Grow.” That's the second track on the record that is very much influenced by the pandemic. I wrote it at the very beginning of the pandemic because folks were talking about death a lot and everybody was kind of dealing with this scary, deadly virus. So I and a lot of people were like talking about prayer and talking about spiritual things that they get some kind of relief out of. But for me, I was like, “Well, what kind of song does an atheist write about death and about what you think happens to you after you die. So that's what that song is about, and that's definitely a pandemic-influenced song. But I think that a lot of the songs are really from long before then.

Mandy Goldman
Mandy Goldman

Q: It's interesting that Sam also put out a solo album while back, and you weren't really involved with that very much at all.

MG: I think I did some backing vocals on a couple of songs on that.

Q: Do you two ever write songs together?

MG: We really don't. Sam and I both keep our songs very close to the vest, and then we'll play them for each other. And we always love each other’s songs so much. And I think he and I both like that we're so used to working together. And I think part of lot of that is that we build each other up. When he was making his record, there were all these people that he wanted to work with, but hadn't gotten to ask yet. And I was like, “You know what? Now's the time to do that.”

I'm really glad that he and I both feel really excited about the other person making these kinds of bigger musical network friendships. And I think for him it was great to see me work with Chris on making the record. And then Sam loved it because he would just come in and be a hired gun for the day in the studio, and then all the decision-making was me and Chris. So for me, it was like I have this great keyboard player and bassist who's really easy for me to access. And I think for him, it was like, I have everyone who I can access right now, and my wife has been on every record up to now. This is my first solo album ever, so I was like, “You know what, I'm just gonna get the people who I can trust on it and who I know really well.”

Q: I’ve been seeing you sing in various projects since your college days, and you’re usually belting in most of them. But on this new album, many of the songs don’t have that vocal approach.

MG: Yeah, I love not belting. And it's funny because I definitely became known for that because I have been singing in these cover bands or in bands with Sam and Harry, where they kind of know what my voice can do and they'll write these songs where they'll be like, “Okay, we really want a big, big belt on this one so we'll give it to Mandy.”

But when I write songs for myself, I'm really writing about my emotions, and a lot of those are soft and sad. And I love getting to use my head voice more. I'm older now and I don't want to belt for two or three hours of these shows anymore, though. I will say after rehearsal last night, there will be a lot of belting at the release show. But definitely it was so nice for me to make songs from my heart and make and be able to sing in myriad different ways, instead of just coming out and doing my soul-rock belting that I do on the Commons for people.

Q: You’ve played a big role in the Ithaca music scene for more than a decade through your various bands. What are your thoughts on the local scene?

MG: I have just grown to love the scene more and more as I'm getting to know folks through the years. I know that it can definitely feel really closed off when it's new for folks because there are so many bands who have been here for a really long time and who have established crowds, and have established groups of musicians that they play with.

But I just feel like the more people I work with, the more amazing talent I am able to add to my own stuff. Sometimes you don't expect it necessarily, like when you get asked to play these bigger shows that the people that you play with in those shows are then going to want to play your stuff afterward or hear your new music and be supportive of your journey. But I really have felt like I haven't run into anyone in this scene yet who's not just fundamentally out to support everyone else. And it really gets better and better as you keep going.

Fusebox is (from left) Julia Felice, Harry Nichols, and Josh Ross.
Ksenia Verdiyan
Fusebox is (from left) Julia Felice, Harry Nichols, and Josh Ross.

Opening Sunday's show is Fusebox, a new local trio that includes Harry Nichols (Noon Fifteen), Julia Felice (The Whiskey Crisis), and Josh Ross (Kitestring). Their debut single, "He Feels," is now available on all streaming platforms.

If you go

What: Mandy Goldman album release show, with opener Fusebox

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Deep Dive

Cost: $12in advance, available online here; $20 day of show

Event Info

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.