Payin' Dues: Torsten Goods

The 35-year-old singer and guitarist’s sixth album, Thank You Baby!, sees him interpret a set of blues, spirituals and work songs in a small group setting. Goods recorded the album at Berlin’s Hansa Studios, with drummer/producer Wolfgang Haffner, keyboardist Roberto Di Gioia and drummer Timothy Lefebvre. Goods says: “We wanted a kick-ass rhythm section so we chose this all-star line-up, and getting these cats together at the same time made me very happy.”

You co-produce the album with Wolfgang Haffner.
Wolfgang has been one of my idols from my teenage years onwards. We are from the same region, Franconia in Bavaria, and I had always attended his concerts and did a workshop with him when I was 17. Since then we’ve played together on many occasions, plus he’s on the same label, ACT. We had the same kind of ideas as to how to make the record and arrangements sound. His drumming fits this recording and the sound perfectly.

How did you approach Ray Charles’ Hallelujah I Love Her So and Lead Belly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
With Hallelujah I Love Her So we wanted to leave out any kind of piano or big-band brass sound. We stripped it down to a quartet setting with Fender Rhodes and then a Meters-type groove, which I think turned out nicely. With Lead Belly’s song, I took time to reharmonise the changes in a very jazzy sense. I started quite simply, then built the intensity before returning to simpler changes for the ending.

When I met George Benson I was terrified

Les Paul gave you your artist name…
It was 1999, I was 18, in New York for the first time, and I met Frank Forte, a doctor and jazz-guitar lover who was a good friend to George Benson and Les Paul. He took me to the Iridium Jazz Club where he introduced me to Les before his show. He convinced Les to allow me to sit in on the gig. Before the show Les asked me my name again because he hadn’t understood it properly the first time. I said, “Torsten Gutknecht.” He said, “Torsten what? Good? Let’s just call you Goods!”

George Benson suggested you sing as well as play guitar.
I moved to New York in 2001 and I had a gig with Seleno Clarke at Showmans in Harlem on 125th Street. George walked in during the second set and as I saw him, I was terrified – my hands were shaking. I told him I’d sung in my first band, but after that concentrated on playing guitar. He advised me not to neglect the singing.

Thank You Baby! is out now via ACT