Sounds of Detroit: Soul Goodman
With a name inspired by the hit television series, Breaking Bad, Soul Goodman is far more impressive than his character counterpart. The lawyer-turned-DJ/producer has been bringing his worldly flavor to the Motor City with his eclectic music style and tantalizing DJ sets built on a foundation of driving, bass heavy rhythms. Whether he is headlining a party or opening for a heavy-hitter, Soul Goodman can read the room to deliver the perfect track at any given moment. This week he brings his talents to South Beach for Miami’s most anticipated dance music events of the year, including WMC and Ultra Music Festival. We caught up with the Detroit native ahead of his performances during Miami Music Week to chat about his musical background, the Detroit scene, the art of the opener, and his producer debut later this year.
Catch him in Miami this week playing:
March 16 – French Connexion party at Ocean’s Ten
March 17 – Stereo Sunset Yacht Party
March 19 – Ultra Music Festival – Oasis Stage from 5-6 p.m.
Robotic Peacock: You played piano and violin growing up…did you always know you wanted to do something with music?
Soul Goodman: No…not at all (laughs)
So when did that switch turn on for you?
I played piano for 5-6 years growing up as a kid but I always wanted to be more in sports and part of that crowd so I quit playing but my love for music remained. I was big into Hip-hop and RnB growing up and then about 8 years ago I got into electronic music when I was in law school. I used to study with headphones on all the time because I’m not good with silence. I always had to have something going in my ears. So I would study listening to classical and electronic music. I didn’t know a lot about the electronic music I was listening to, it was whatever I could find on iTunes Radio…anything that would keep my ears busy and lock me out of everything going on around me.
I had a lot of friends that were DJs and they’d have me go out to shows and I started to uncover this whole world that I really didn’t know existed. The more I got into it, the more I started to develop a taste for it and it kind of just happened.
In your bio it says you’ve got influences from the Middle East and South America… is that part of your cultural background?
Yeah, I’m Lebanese so growing up I listened to a lot of Arabic music, which I also listened to while I studied. I couldn’t listen and study with anything that had English vocals because it would interfere with what I was reading so if it was something in another language I was fine with it. I have a lot of family that lives in Brazil so there’s a big influence of that in my life. I tend to gravitate towards music that has vocals in a foreign language – a lot of Spanish and Arabic.
Has growing up in Detroit influenced your sound at all?
Yeah, I think so. There’s so much music here…it is unfair when people say Detroit is “just techno” because there is so much more variety here and a lot of house influence.
I’m not a hard techno kind of guy in the sense that I don’t play sets like that. There are certain times where I like that warehouse vibe but just for a regular night out it can be too much because I don’t feel like everyone is on that same level the whole time. Even the big headliners that play techno at Grasshopper or TV aren’t going in there smashing your head. But when you’re in those certain situations like City Club basement at Movement then that’s different. But yeah, I’d say it has definitely influenced my sound.
What are some of your favorite spots to play in Metro Detroit?
I have a residency at Grasshopper so that’s been my home base for a year and a half now. TV Lounge is another favorite…I played there a few weeks ago which was great. It has this hangout aspect that’s such a big draw and there are different places to hang out especially when it’s summer. I love playing at Populux, especially the outdoor patio. I got to open on the main stage for Moodymann and Eddie Fowlkes for the official Charivari after party last year which was amazing because I had played the main stage at Charivari earlier that day. It feels great to be part of the Charivari family and it’s an honor be a part of a festival in your hometown.
I also love to play in Chicago. I played there close to a dozen times last year and got to spin at amazing venues like Primary and Spybar. One of the highlights was being a special guest for Anthony Attalla’s Incorrect Music yacht party. They had 2 stages set up and great talent came in to play, like Space Miami residents Cocodrills…the party was at capacity so it was crazy!
You played a killer opening set for Chuck Flask and Matthew Dear last month…Tell us about the art of the opening set. What makes it so important?
Well when you first start out playing, that’s all you’re going get when you first come on the scene as a DJ. It’s such an interesting thing because when you start out, you want to make an impression but at the same time you need to fight that urge to show off. You need to realize the importance of it because you’re setting the tone for the entire night. If you come in and start playing a certain way (where you’re super hard or playing too big for the room) then you’re not leaving the rest of the night off correctly. If I was going to play for 5 hours (open to close) I wouldn’t start off playing super hard— that’s stupid.
So during my set that night what I was trying to do is keep a driving groove. Most people don’t come in at 10 p.m. rearing to go so you got to help them settle in…at this point in the night people are hanging out, grabbing drinks, talking so your job is to get them to stick around.
From the very beginning I realized that I had to do this [opening] right but then as I got more gigs and I became more comfortable, it became more of a showcase mentality like “this is how I want to do it and this is what I’m trying to grow.”
You’re playing a few shows in Miami for Miami Music Week and this will be your second year playing Ultra Music Festival. So what does it mean to you to play this world-renowned mega-festival?
Honestly, it didn’t really sink in that I played it last year…it was a blur. I played it and then I realized, “Woah, I just played Ultra.” It’s pretty surreal to see your name on the stage and on the app but it’s fun. For me this is just part of the equation. There are steps I want to take and places I want to play and I look at Ultra as one part of a greater whole.
I look at being involved in all of these great events as steps toward the greater goal of being an international artist and playing worldwide. It’s an awesome thing to be a part of but at the same time I’m not done. I want to build upon this.
At the end of the day just playing a festival is not the end-all be-all…what you produce as an artist is what gets you to that next level. Very few DJs are big headliners without producing music. I think what happens is some DJs focus on just playing and playing is fun, but you have to remember at some point you have to take another step or you’re going stay where you are or fade out when new talent comes along.
Are there any tour dates/releases coming up?
I’m headlining at the Grasshopper Underground on April 15.
My debut track, “Continuance,” will be released with a remix package on a label out of Italy called MoveUBabe Records. Then I’m doing a remix for Itchy Records out of NY. I’ve got a handful of tracks that I’ve been working on that are at varying stages of completion so that’s kind of what I’m focusing on now.