In December 2020, nonbinary singer/songwriter Tiger Goods felt changed. They decided to write about it, and, well, the rest is history. They decided to give up alcohol after booking their first performance ever, a show at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and the opportunity not only helped the songwriter pen stream-of-conscious lyrics for the disco-inspired single in roughly 20 minutes, but also to move forward doing music.
“When I made ‘Reborn,’ I made that the day I got sober,” Goods recalls. “And I sat there and wrote that song and was like, ‘OK, we’re done with this. We’re transitioning into a new phase in our life.’ ”
As the lead track from the self-improvement themed 2021 release Most Improved Award, Goods says “Reborn” is now a fan favorite.
The 27-year-old took advantage of pandemic isolation early last year by reaching out to hundreds of media outlets with press releases promoting the EP. As a result, it snagged attention from mainstream LGBTQ+ media outlets like Advocate—which named Goods as one of its “50+ Champions of Pride from around the U.S. for 2022”—and Out, which wrote, “If you like Dua Lipa, Carly Rae Jepson, and Kacey Musgraves doing disco, why not listen to a Black gay artist who’s doing similar things?”
Ultimately, it was the catchy earworm “Mean Girls” that boosted Goods’s following. Musing about struggle love with aloof pretty girls (much like Mean Girls antagonist Regina George), the melodic trap pop song slid its way onto streaming playlists and into TikTok videos. One of Goods’s own TikToks jokes about the irony of the song’s success and the reality of the underground scene: “Mean Girls” sitting at 560K+ [streams] and my bank account sitting at $3.”
“I feel like my shyness kind of worked in my favor,” says the self-managed artist. “It gave me time to build my streaming numbers, develop marketing strategies, and actually have a brand awareness, so that by the time the bar owners and the people booking events could look me up, everything was kind of already well put together.”
The East Walnut Hills resident, whose name derived as a play on the famous golfer’s name and their propensity for wearing preppy Vineyard Vines gear, also created an online presence with several music videos shot locally by Oussmane Fall of Noir Media. One of them is a new video, “Busy,” which depicts the day-in-the-life commute for the musician, who also works through organizations like Kennedy Heights Arts Center teaching arts to children with disabilities and serves with grassroots organizations like Transform Cincy and Triiibe.
Locally, hip hop artivist Siri Imani (of Triiibe) is who Goods looks to as a mentor when it comes to having a stage presence.
“They’re the first person that’s seen me out and said, ‘This person’s got potential, I just gotta teach them how to perform,” recalls Goods, who didn’t perform live in Cincinnati until July 2021, after “Mean Girls” had already gone viral. “I’d been doing this out of my bedroom. And so, thanks to Siri, she brought me out to some of the Triiibe events and open mics where I got comfortable performing, and within a year, I’m here.”
Goods, whose real name is Donai Long, grew up in Delhi, drawn to a gamut of genres and influences. An old soul who says Babyface wrote the soundtrack of their childhood, and R&B/pop artists like Destiny’s Child, Brandy, and Whitney Houston sang it, they loved the gospel-inflected disco of Sylvester and the songwriting of Dolly Parton.
Today, Gospel music influences the way Goods invokes repetition and call-and-response into writing hooks, and knowing theory helps with using programs like Autotune.
“I was an orchestra kid and church kid, so I played percussion and trumpet, trombone, euphonium, baritone piano—a little bit of everything,” they say. “It’s really helpful to know how to read music. I tell people, ‘Theory goes a long way.’ Or I’ll say, ‘The black church, that was also a learning ground for me.’ I feel like a lot of creatives learn so much there. There’s things I learned in church that I was never taught in a private lesson. Natural harmonies based on feelings. Or being able to catch pitch and tone quickly, because you’re in a big crowd and everybody has to be on one accord. And when you’re doing classical, they teach you, ‘Here’s your scales and you guys can do three-part harmony,’ but there’s a certain type of feeling from Gospel that you can’t teach theoretically on paper.”
According to the lunar New Year calendar, 2022 is the year of the tiger, which also happens to be the name of Goods’s upcoming release.
“I’ve got some pop/punk, I’ve got a little bit of rock, a little bit of rap, a little bit of R&B, still doing pop and house,” they say. “I kind of do everything, so it’s just showing what I’ve done, how I’ve lived and how I’ve grown since the last one and the evolution of it all.”
You can catch Tiger Goods opening for Grammy-nominated hip hop artist Rapsody on Friday, September 23, at the In Her Voice Festival at Washington Park hosted by Queens Village and Cradle Cincinnati.