Everyone already knows Lady Goodman. He’s the guy who hauled ass through the high school parking lot in his lifted, oversized pickup truck hounding the premises despite receiving his GED the year prior. He’s got all of David Wooderson’s creepiness without a sniff of Matthew McConaughey’s coolness.
Despite all there is to loath about Lady, he has a saving grace… He’s not a real person. Lady Goodman is a character created by musician Jake Schoonmaker, a seasoned contributor to SLO’s music scene.
No stranger to creating eccentric characters, Schoonmaker last performed in 2020 as the facade of a despairing spirit trapped in a whale’s belly with local apparition wave, psych-rock band Depressed Specter,
Schoonmaker wore a large white patio umbrella with bedsheets and a giant ghost face covered on it to remain unseen. He monologed to the crowd between songs, telling secrets and laughing in the face of depression and suicidal thoughts as a sort of therapy.
When COVID-19 struck, the band canceled their 2020 spring tour and locked down in a crowded household. Quickly after, Schoonmaker’s drummer-roommate suffered a spinal hernia, further aggravating the already hectic living situation. A wasted and bewildered Schoonmaker doubted his future of performing live music.
He quickly squashed these doubts by binging old-fashioned outlaw country music and guzzling the tunes of artists like Merle Haggard and Townes Van Zandt. A far cry from the pop-friendly bro-country fantasies of a fella ridin’ around in his pickup truck, pickin’ up smokin’ hot girls while sippin’ an ice-cold beer.
Schoonmaker connected with the outlaw themes of anguish and turmoil, seeing these were worthy matters to base a character. Lady Goodman was born, and the gang cranked out the album “I Might Be Named Lady But I Ain’t No Good Man,” in a few days.
The character’s heart comes from Schoonmaker’s struggles and reflections,
But not have too much fun with it like Kentucky’s over-the-top satirical country performer Wheeler Walker Jr. who certainly made a statement with notable hits including “Fuck You Bitch” and “Drop Em’ Out.” Lady Goodman is a tongue-in-cheek expression, an inside joke, “I wanted it to sound good and for listeners to have fun. It’s not a parody,” said Schoonmaker.
Lady ensures listeners that he “ain’t no good man” on the album’s title track which is the most tongue-in-cheek of all the songs on the LP. Rambunctious drums and guitar kickstart the music, to which Lady then chronicles his delinquency from not tipping waiters “because they do what [he] can” to only parking in handicap zones.
The track ends where most of Lady’s adventures end. In the jailhouse. Once he’s out of the can, his employer fires him, and the woman he loves dumps him.
The tracks “In the Dirt Again” and “Mary Lou Katie Margaret Stan and Myself” follow the unwillingly unemployed bachelor imbibe in cocaine and women, unable to cope with his personal and professional failures that stem back to his flunking out of dental school.
Lady unsurprisingly is caught breaking the law and ends up in jail again. The countless days confined in a cell catch up to Lady, and he emotionally collapses on the track, “What’s Going On?”
Lady ponders where his life and country went wrong. He realizes everything “has been fucked all along” because he, like society, has wasted time pursuing and quarreling over materialistic nonsense instead of valuing individuals and meaningful relations.
The pandemic has intensified Lady’s fear of squandering life, and he can’t comprehend who he is in the modern American wasteland. At this moment, one can’t help but pity a tactless criminal.
It’s Jake Schoonmaker’s sincerity that captures peak lockdown dread and allows listeners to connect with the character, “[Lady’s] saying things that are more in line with what I believe as a person… there’s a meld of myself there,” said Schoonmaker.
Schoonmaker manifests this broken and wasted feeling on “I’m Starting to Think I’m the Only Human I Know.” Lady comes to terms with being “a liar, a drunk, and a piece of shit. People care about him, but he tells them they shouldn’t because he will use them,” said Schoonmaker.
If not for the pedal steel guitar, you’d think you would be listening to an unreleased introspective Depressed Specter track.
Lady Goodman is Schoonmaker’s therapist, just like how the ghost trapped in a whale’s belly was before, “I did not feel worthy of the people that I cared about and their care. I think Lady gives me a good outlet to get that crap out,” said Schoonmaker.
“I’m bothered it’s a coping mechanism. I’m a fragile man [laughs].”
There are a few essential distinctions between the actual Schoonmaker ends and his creation. First, he can admit he’s fragile, which Lady is too bigheaded to confess.
Second, he’s not a criminal coke fiend like Lady, although they both love jack and cokes. Schoonmaker has been arrested for “normal college crimes” like being drunk.
Most importantly, though, whereas Lady bitterly spreads the misery he endures until he’s lost everything and breaks down, Schoonmaker is empathetic and attempts to spread good vibes despite his troubles, “I love everybody. I believe that 80% of Americans feel similar in wanting happiness, privacy, and healthcare. They’re as embarrassed about the state of the country as anyone else,” said Schoonmaker.
Lady Goodman, the personality, is not a scornful gesture towards southern conservative white dudes who talk and look like him but, he is a critical examination of the people who believe they are all-knowing.
“I Might Be Named Lady But I Ain’t No Good Man” is an outlaw Americana shooter waiting to be knocked back, “It’s the most American of any project I’ve made,” said Schoonmaker.
Come see Lady Goodman perform with Max MacLaury and Kelli Rose at the Siren in Morro Bay on April 2nd. Music starts at 2:00pm.
Evan Gattuso writes for .WAV’s Content Team. He wrote the article. Ally Mantara is on .WAV’s art team. She made the art.