Arlin Godwin is an electronic music artist from Washington D.C. who has composed more music that he can keep track of. Godwin’s newest single “When You Make Love to Me” is his most recent track release and it’s a powerful yet soothing number that shows off his polished sound and soulful songwriting. Godwin spoke with ETV today about his first live performance (in front of 225,000 people), his methods for creating songs in the digital work space, and goes in depth about one of his earliest tracks “Boy Seventeen.”
Born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, Godwin began his musical journey by playing piano at age 4, and since the beginning he was all about playing by ear rather than taking lessons. He was influenced by a classically trained mother and was surrounded at a young age by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mozart. Later on his influences would go on to include Brian Wilson, Miles Davis, Lindsey Buckingham, Prince and Trent Reznor. Over the years, he has made a lot of music — lots and lots of music. Godwin has written and produced four albums of electronic music and has released it on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play and another 700 or so online stores and also has many more demos that have yet to see the light of day. He has also been nominated more than 20 times for the Washington Area Music Association’s WAMMIE Award and won twice in the Electronic category.
In 2003, he was signed to San Francisco record label INgrooves, which has worked with Tina Turner, Thievery Corporation, The Crystal Method, Jimmy Buffet, Jody Whatley, Paul Oakenfold and Dolly Parton, to name a few. In addition to making music, Godwin could also be considered an inspiring writer. Godwin’s website features interesting blog posts from a DIY electronic musician’s perspective. For example, one is titled “How to Record an Album in Your Bedroom” and another is “Mastering Your Own Mixes: It’s Not That Hard.” These informative posts will surely inspire musicians who have wondered if they can produce an album without having access to expensive equipment or a high-end studio.
When it comes to making music, Godwin mostly dabbles in computers and synths, making the distinction that he much prefers creating music rather than playing it. He focuses more on what the finished recording sounds like rather than how the performance of it live would sound like. He said he likes to spend time in cold rooms slaving away on a computer to get the sound right.
“I record on a very supped-up HP Laptop using SONAR X2 as my sequencer,” Godwin said. “I used to mix to DAT tape but these days I mix over to another computer, my iMac 27″ using Apple’s Soundtrack Pro, which is great because I can then go in and master the track using all the tools they give you.”
The resulting music created in the lab is not easy to categorize. Not that Godwin would want his music to be put into genres in the first place.
“I love all music, it doesn’t really matter,” Godwin said. “I tend not to think in terms of ‘genres’ and I have absolutely no real knowledge of how to tell techno from house from trance and I don’t care even though the electronica world seems endlessly hung up on categories and labels.”
Part of why Godwin likes making electronic music is because it can be done just as one person in a room all day and he can make all the decisions to it he wants, from the mix to the arrangements and more. It’s a method for complete artistic freedom and expression.
“It’s easier if I just do it all,” Godwin said. “So while I love all kinds of music from rock to opera to country to classical—when it comes to making music I very much stick to electronics because it’s something I can do alone and because I think you can do things with electronics that can’t be done any other way.”
In addition to cranking out tons of tunes from his computer, he has also performed live shows and has opened for artists including Crystal Waters and Ultra Nate and has performed on stage with Ari Gold, Sophie B. Hawkins and more. His first live show was in Washington D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival in 2004 in front of a crowd of 225,000 people who were supporting LGBT pride. Godwin performed six tracks and said it was “scary as hell” and said most of the people who showed up came out because it was an unusually cool day for June.
One of the six tracks that Godwin played during his opening show at the Capital Pride Festival was the song “Boy Seventeen,” a song that Godwin said was written in fiction. At the time, he wanted to write and produce a coherent first album and said a lot of the times he would form rough ideas by accident and then magic would happen.
“I’m just messing around at the keyboard and usually have a drum track going to keep time and I’m just trying different progressions,” Godwin said. “A lot of times I would record those sessions and listen to them later to see if anything stuck out. And that one did. The music for ‘Boy Seventeen’ came first and there were a bunch of different versions. Later I thought the music was cool enough to warrant all the work it would take to come up with a catchy lyric. So I worked on the lyric for a few weeks off and on until I had it.”
The lyrics tell a story that people can relate to. Godwin said the words “boy seventeen” went together simply because “seventeen” rhymed with “mean.”
“People always want to believe that song lyrics are literal but they rarely are and I think that goes for all songwriters,” Godwin said. “We basically just like to write music and lyrics.”
The track was written and recorded on SONAR software and the only thing that he really was concerned about was a five note hook that plays at various times throughout the song. Godwin had several five note melodies that he tried against the rest of the track and he settled on the one that is in the final recording.
Godwin recalls that at the time of the recording, he was living in an apartment that was bigger than he needed and decided to put all his studio gear in his bedroom. He did this because he used to dream music a lot and wanted a way to easily record his half-awake, half-asleep concoctions. Godwin would wake up in the middle of the night and walk over to the computers to put down a demo and go back to bed, almost without being completely awake. The easy access to recording equipment within reach at a moment’s notice has allowed him to be able to record many ideas that came spur-of-the-moment.
These inspirational musical visions will surely continue to flood through Godwin’s mind for many years to come. We don’t know where the next stop on his musical journey will be, but we do know that he will continue slaving away at the computer writing and recording music for many nights to come.