Singer-songwriter Jacob Golden returns with a new album and purpose
Jacob Golden realized something important and poignant after his twin girls were born. One day, they would grow up and search for their dad’s name online. They’d probably find video clips of Golden, perhaps on the BBC’s Later… With Jools Holland. Maybe they’d see that Golden’s song was featured on the series finale of the teen drama The O.C.
“I don’t want to tell them that I used to play music,” Golden says. “It would be so lame to tell them that I gave up on my dream. I want to tell them they can pursue their creative passions and make a living at it.”
Now, at age 40, Golden is embarking on a new musical journey as a completely independent artist. It’s exciting—and still a little foreign—for the folk singer-songwriter, who grew up fixated on a traditional music career with a traditional trajectory. And he started out that way. He was discovered by the guy who discovered the Smiths. He signed to the label that simultaneously signed the Strokes. At 25, he was in London living the dream.
But at Rough Trade Records, he also faced the realities of label politics and competition.
“I was like the misfit guy from Sacramento, and it seemed like the UK press only cared about bands from New York,” he says. “I think people saw my talent and they saw the songs, but I wasn’t the focus of the label.”
He moved to Portland, Ore., worked at a clothing-optional relaxation center and unwound. In 2007, he followed his 2002 debut with Revenge Songs via Sawtooth Recordings, another UK label. This record, too, got lost in the shuffle and Golden couldn’t release it in the United States.
“I felt like there was nothing I could do. I was in this contract and I couldn’t get out,” he says.
Not surprisingly, the whole scenario soured Golden on the music industry. But he still had songs floating around. He didn’t want to give up on music, just on labels.
“It’s almost like if you’ve been married a couple times—you’re not going to try that again. It just feels wrong,” he says, laughing. “There were so many other people’s voices to be considered that it removed me from my initial joy of making a song and singing it for people. At least with being independent, I feel like it’s all on me.”
On Friday, January 22, Golden will finally make his stateside debut with The Invisible Record. It’s a gorgeous album, full of emotional storytelling and poetic imagery. It’s also devastating. Golden’s underlying sadness—his mother died when he was a child, his father followed when he was a teenager—permeates each song. His voice soars, haunts and dominates sparse, at times quiet, instrumentation. Yet all the while, the act of recording is apparent, fluidly changing between and within each song.
That’s kind of Golden’s thing: he records in different spaces, looking for cool tones and sonic atmospheres. Sometimes, he re-records songs over and over again until he finds the one that feels right. It’s tricky, because he plays with dynamics when he performs live as well. He gets lost in his songs, never singing them the same way twice.
Still, that kind of constant tinkering can drive a person crazy. Golden plans to write his next album in public, using the social media platform Patreon to show fans what he’s creating as he’s working on it. He wants to build a community.
“People write me emails wondering if I’m even alive,” he says. “I still have a fan base out there. I just need to get out there and introduce myself again.”