by Angel Haggar
I first met singer-songwriter Eniid Goodman four years ago at the “Writing a Song That Matters with Dar Williams” songwriter’s retreat in Garrison, NY. I was instantly drawn to her kind personality and blown away by her musical talent.
As our friendship blossomed and she revealed more about her life, her story of resilience in the face of a series of tremendous trials was one that I knew would inspire hope for so many people. Likewise, her music has the ability to touch and transform. She wrote a musical show about Joni Mitchell featuring songs by and about Joni and her life, which in some ways parallels Eniid’s life.
Recently, Eniid agreed to an hour-long international phone interview with me. The following interview began after we exchanged our greetings and pleasantries. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you start by introducing yourself?
I’m a musician and an artist and I live on a farm in Wakefield, Quebec. I have two kids and three stepsons.
Tell me a little bit about why you love Joni Mitchell so much? I’ve been a big fan my whole life, but what drew you to her music?
I had a pretty tumultuous teenage life. My Swedish grandmother, Enid, from whom I take my (stage) name, got sick. She had Alzheimer’s-and my mom would have to go back and look after her a lot while she was still working full-time as a teacher and my dad started drinking a lot and things went bad very quickly. And basically, my home became a place that wasn’t safe. And Children’s Aid got involved and they forced us to go to a psychiatrist and then the psychiatrist started doing things like saying he was having sexual fantasies about me and he forced me to move out of my house, so I basically had a rough teenage life. Everywhere that I was supposed to be safe and being taken care of, the opposite was happening. I discovered Joni Mitchell when I was in a sort of foster care situation. It was with a friend of mine’s parents after going to Toronto for the summer. I was safe there, but I felt very alone. I went to a record store and bought the cassette Blue from a bargain bin for $5.00 or something and I came home and played it and it brought me so much joy and everything shifted. I went from being really depressed and suicidal to just feeling my whole spirit kind of vibrating.
I grew up listening to my mom’s album of Miles of Aisles, but you didn’t really know Joni’s music well until you were a teen. Did you go out and buy all her music once you fell in love with Blue?
I didn’t really get into all of her music right away because I couldn’t afford to buy all the albums and I kind of like to savor them, but I really got into Blue before I got into her earlier music-and I actually haven’t listened to all of her albums yet, because I like to save them up like treats for the rest of my life.
When did you start playing Joni’s music?
When I was 19, I was accepted to University for fine arts, and I wanted to go, but I had a pretty difficult disagreement with my parents. They had said that they would pay for my university but when it came time for it, they denied ever saying that. And they had a lot of money-so I couldn’t qualify for student aid. I wasn’t eligible for grants, so I decided to go traveling and I carried Joni’s songbook in my backpack with me and I hitchhiked all across Europe. I was singing her music a lot but I also wanted to learn to play it on the guitar. I played her music on the piano but I didn’t have access to a piano.
Then, I got married at the age of 20 to a Native American who is the father of my two kids and he was very jealous of any of the things I would do for myself and at one point he actually ripped my Joni Mitchell book in half-but I taped it back together and have it still.
I should have prefaced that story…in Canada we have these things called Residential Schools—the Canadian government would take the Native children away from their families when they were 7 or 8 years old and in these sort of boarding schools, they were often abused. He had a lot of things that he was battling with—but we did a lot of beautiful things together, like we traveled, and had a jewelry business together, and we had our kids…but it was an extremely abusive relationship too.
When I was 27, I escaped with my life and my children only and I was really sick with ulcers for a year and couldn’t work and so basically, I started learning Joni’s music. I started learning guitar and began performing publicly. I played for the next three years and then when I was 30, I met my (current) husband.
We moved in together after a year of dating and just three weeks later, his kids were in a really bad car accident—and I gave up music for the next ten years to look after them. The youngest had broken his neck and had a bad brain injury. So I stayed with them-I looked after our 5 kids.
Then, when I was 39 or 40, I picked my music back up and I started playing her music much more seriously and started performing and touring.
My husband had strongly encouraged me to go to a yoga teacher training because I was really depressed and I was in a job that I hated—I’d had to give up my jewelry business after the car accident and I wasn’t doing any visual art or any music. So…I was in this yoga teacher training and we were in meditation and the teacher asked us if there was anything we would regret if we were to die suddenly, and the first thing that came to me was this Joni Mitchell show that I had always wanted to create. So, after the class, I kind of realized, “Wow, I’m turning 40. I had really better get on this-I’m not getting any younger, so I booked a show at this venue by where I live—it’s actually quite a famous venue in Canada- and the owner was very enthusiastic about it and so I gave myself a date that I had to work towards and I started researching her life and I just created this show about her and the rest is kind of history.
Wow, one of my interview questions was “Tell me about some of the obstacles you’ve faced,” but I think we just covered a lot of that. When we first met, I was simply in love with the way you played the dulcimer and I remember that you told me something about Joni not always being able to play guitar and that she had played the dulcimer too.
So, it’s funny but-and I don’t know if it’s part of being an artist, but Joni also has been through a lot of physical challenges. She contracted polio when she was 8. She was actually shipped away from her family in Saskatoon, it was a really small town where she lived in Canada, so for treatment she had to be taken several hours away from where she lived. Her mom was only able to come visit her once when she was in hospital and it was around Christmastime and when she came in she bought her this little Christmas tree-this little plastic Christmas tree-and Joni used to sing to it endlessly. She made a pact with the tree that if the tree would help her get better, she would make something out of her life. So, when she started performing, in her late teens, she started performing publicly, but because of the polio, her hands were kind of unable to make certain chord shapes on the guitar-well, she actually played the ukulele back then-so she started experimenting with open tunings. And for anyone who’s a guitar player out there, even though open tuning may seem really fancy and sort of unattainable, if you can actually wrap your mind around doing it and retuning the strings, it’s actually a lot easier to play in open tuning because the chord shapes are very simple for the most part, so the same is true with the dulcimer because the dulcimer only has four strings and the chord shapes are very, very simple compared to the guitar so it was an easy instrument for her to play, I imagine. And the dulcimer- well, Joni and I have a lot of serendipitous, strange things in common. One is that we are both Norwegian. My grandmother is Swedish and her father was from a little town in Norway right near Sweden. So we kind of have that in common and actually the dulcimer is- Joni said in an interview- that the dulcimer is originally from Sweden, even though it’s played mostly in Appalachian music now.
I am so excited to see your show, tell me about it.
So I created a show on Joni’s life and I performed it in its entirety with a band in November 2014 around Joni’s birthday, and the show was sold out and we got a standing ovation, which was really magical. The show was basically a combination of her songs that tell her life’s story. For example, she has a song called “Little Green” about the daughter she gave up for adoption.
And she has a song called, “I Had a King” which is about her first husband whom she got the last name Mitchell from.
Her maiden name was Robertson. And so anyway, the show is a combination of her songs and in between the songs are the stories about her life. In addition to her own songs, there are songs written about her by other artists. Neil Young wrote a little song called “Sweet Joni.
James Taylor wrote a song called “Close Your Eyes”.
Led Zeppelin wrote “Going to California” about Joni.
And of course, Graham Nash wrote “Our House”.
So, I performed the show, and it was very well-received and I wanted to share the show with more people, but I didn’t know how to get the show out there and I decided that I would do a recording of the show. So, I put together a kick-starter campaign. I think I was aiming to raise about $5000 but I ended up raising around $8000- [unintelligible] was so generous. So I recorded my album and had an album release the next year and began touring, but I had a hard time doing the show in its entirety because I couldn’t bring my band with me. And I didn’t really know how to perform all the songs myself-so that’s something I’m working on-or something I was working on before I got sick…but
How can people purchase your album?
You can go to http://www.bandcamp.com, or you can go directly to my website, https://www.eniidgoodman.com, where you can also see upcoming tour dates and more.
In your show, do you do any original songs?
I do. I tend to pepper them in. There’s one in particular called, “There for You” that I wrote. It’s actually on the album that I recorded. It’s a song I wrote for my stepson who broke his neck and has a brain injury and a friend of mine who was in a car accident.
At the very end of the album is a bonus track which is called “Lost and Found” which is the first song I wrote after not performing or writing or playing music for ten years. It’s a song about missing and murdered indigenous women.
(The backstory on this is,) I had an aunt—who is not a blood relation-but I grew up with her as an aunt because all of my blood relations lived overseas. Her husband and my father were best friends and had gone to University together in England. And we would spend all of our Christmases, Easters and summer vacations together. I was very close to her. She was murdered by a serial killer in Montreal when I was 25.
When I was researching Joni’s show, I learned that she was really into the philosopher, Nietzsche. (Leonard Cohen had actually recommended his books to her.) But one of the things Nietzsche did was encourage poets to “write in their own blood” which was a way of saying that if you have tragedy, you should use that hurt and anxiety to write about it and that gave me the idea to try to write “Lost and Found” about what happened with my aunt. And my daughter is half Aboriginal so at the time when I was starting to write again, she had just moved away from home and I was feeling a lot of anxiety because she is very beautiful and she looks native and there was a lot in the news about missing and murdered indigenous women. The statistics were that there was a three to four times greater chance of indigenous women being murdered or going missing and so anyway I sort of used that as fodder for this song, “Lost and Found”. There’s a video of it on YouTube that a friend recorded for free.
I don’t sing it often because it’s a very bad song—but even so, I think there’s some medicine in it, too. (Another reason) I wanted to write this song was because when I was at a friend’s house in Toronto-a friend from high school- and she had this daughter who was five years old, a beautiful Caucasian, blonde haired little princess and we were sitting at the dinner table talking and I was talking about this subject and my friend said, “You know, I think we’ve done enough.” It was like an arrow to my heart. I wondered what was going on. I had to find a way to make people wake up. Clearly, we haven’t ‘done enough’ as a culture because this is still happening. I had to know how could I get people to care about indigenous women so that we can move toward action to make this not be a reality anymore and that’s where I was coming from with this song. I thought that if I could write a song that helps people get into the perspective of the mother who is waiting for her child who is not coming home, then maybe I can inspire some compassion in people to make a change.
It’s cathartic somehow to take a tragedy and turn it into something helpful.
Yes. When you and I met at the Writing a Song that Matters retreat with Dar Williams, I remember singing that song. It was the first song I shared there and I was so nervous and at that time. When I had first started performing again, I had major struggles with stage fright- and that was a partial reason why I had stopped performing for 10 years because it was so uncomfortable to perform—I’d had enough of it. It meant a lot to me to share that song with you all. I remember Dar Williams shared on Facebook that she had talked about it at another songwriting class she was teaching and I was like, “Wow, if Dar Williams is talking about my song, I must really be onto something.
I remember you performing that song and it was very powerful. Tell me a little bit-however much you want to share with our audience-how you have dealt with and overcome your stage fright.
Well, I was asked to perform a song, one song—this was before I took the yoga teacher training—at this festival where I live. It’s a very artsy town, Wakefield, and we used to have a festival called Wakefest. They asked me to sing, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper. It’s a really small festival in this dinky little bar, singing a song, dressed up like Cindy Lauper. But when I got up on stage, I got really shaky. My voice wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t seem to project. So, when I got off stage, my stepson asked, “Mom, what is wrong with you?”
I said, “Oh, honey, that’s just stage fright”.
And when I got off stage, my neighbor came up to me and said that she could help me with that because she’s a musician too. She was performing as well. She had just taken a training called “Voice Movement Therapy” and she actually needed to have a case study with five different people and I got to be one of them. We met once a week for a year and she helped me find my voice again and I’ve continued to work with her over the years and I’ve met with her here and there if I’ve hit a snag or if I have questions. She has become a mentor to me. So, if anyone is having issues with stage fright, I highly recommend Voice Movement Therapy because you know, sometimes you need help. For me, my voice had been somewhat stamped out with different relationships I’d had. As a child, I didn’t feel that I could speak up when I didn’t feel safe and then when I was in my first marriage-it was a very violent marriage-I had no friends. I was very isolated. So for me to jump from being vulnerable onstage to sharing my heart with people onstage, I really needed a lot of help to get to that place. And I still do. I still work with different therapists and things to help me to perform.
I’m so glad that you do because your music is so powerful and the world needs it to be out there. You’ve been struggling with some health problems as well. Is that something you’re comfortable talking about or do you prefer to keep that private?
No, I can talk about it. I’ve been working on this big Joni Mitchell project for probably a year and a half- and a few years ago, I had an idea that it would make a cool radio show. And a friend of mine’s mom worked up at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) and I wrote to her and she wrote me back saying they’d be very interested in the show if I could get some top Canadian talent to perform the songs. Well, I didn’t know anyone like that at the time, so I just let the idea go. But then, about a year and a half ago, I realized that November 2018 was going to be Joni’s 75 birthday and I thought it would be cool to do the show then. I had gone to a networking event for the JUNOs here in Canada—it’s kind of like the Grammys but much smaller, obviously—and I met this entertainment lawyer named Byron Pascoe and he gave me his card and I just kind of had a feeling about contacting him about my idea, so I did. He said, “Well, I love the idea, I’d love to help you make it happen. Why don’t we look into the idea of getting it televised?”
And that wasn’t even on my radar, but I am somebody who likes to dream big. So, I started working on that. I started putting together my “dream artist list” of people like Sarah McLachlan could sing “River” and Neil Young could sing “Sweet Joni.” And wouldn’t it be cool if James Taylor could actually sing “Close your Eyes”? And so on and so forth. So, I was working away on that and by weird serendipity—because of my son having the brain injury—we have this thing in our little town called the Emergency Fund and people have fundraisers throughout the year—and people who are in need can get help from this fund and one of the women who is in charge of it came to my show in 2014 and afterwards, she said, “You HAVE to meet my brother, Jean Grande-Maitre! He just finished doing a ballet that he created with Joni Mitchell in Alberta called The Fiddle and the Drum.”
Of course, I said, “Oh my gosh, I’d love to meet him.” Well, we ended up bumping into each other around Christmastime not long after and became friends over Facebook and I told him about my idea and he offered to help in anyway that he could. So, the JUNOs were in April and in the Fall—this is last Fall, I went to another networking thing in Toronto and I bumped into this lawyer and he asked me how my show was going and I said, “Well, to be honest, I’m at a bit of a standstill” but I didn’t tell him that it was because over the summer, I had begun to realize that I had PTSD from my first marriage and I was dealing with that with insomnia and flashbacks and really difficult things but I had literally dragged myself to this networking event because I knew I just had to get out of the house. I had to do something positive toward my dreams.
And he said, “Well, I have this friend that I went to university with, he’s a top Canadian producer. Why don’t I reach out to him and see if he might have some ideas for the project?”
So I’m like, sure, hey, you know, at this point anything’s better than nothing. So he did, and basically, you know David Massar, right?
Yeah, wonderful guy.
Yeah, so I had talked to him about my project, because we’re good friends, and he said to me, “Eniid, you have to start visualizing and contacting people who have already been doing what you want to do,” because he thought I was thinking too small.
I believe in creative visualization, it’s something that I do regularly, when I wake up and when I go to bed. So I visualize things that I want to manifest in my life. In Canada, there was the second-most watched TV thing ever last summer, and it was a musician, a band that’s very popular in Canada that you guys probably don’t know, called The Tragically Hip.
And the lead singer ironically got a brain tumor, and he was given a certain amount of time to live, and basically, they did a last tour. And the live performance of that last tour was in his hometown not far from here. And it was recorded, and it was the second-most watched thing in Canadian television history.
I didn’t know who it was who had worked on that project, but I decided I needed to work with those people, that’s the level at of people I needed to get on my team, you know? Well, I met John Brunton, a producer who had already worked with Joni Mitchell several times, and he worked on a documentary with her once that was also a live recording called Painting With Words and Music. And his production company filmed that live performance, so I was incredulous, I’m like, “Wow, what are the chances of that happening?” He’s super enthusiastic about this show, he’s like, “Anything that will honor Joni Mitchell, I am really excited about and I want to be a part of it.” So then Byron and I started working on getting permission from her team. She has a lawyer and she has a best friend who sort of handles her affairs because she had a stroke a few years ago. And you know, she’s a top-level musician, all of them have these people, right?
But since she had the stroke she put her best friend in charge of all of the affairs, and then in the meantime, I was on Facebook around Joni’s birthday, and Jean Grand-Maitre sent me picture of him and Joni at her 74th birthday party, and I think he was with K.D. Lang, who’s one of my other dream artists in my show.
And he’s like, “I told her all about your show.” So I was like, “Ohh, my God, I can’t believe all this is happening!”
Yeah, so there just seemed to be a lot of forward movement with this project, and then we were having a back-and-forth with the entertainment lawyer and Joni’s friend Leslie, and then I found out I had cancer.
So, I feel like I’ve been hit by the bus.
Yeah. It’s just like, I feel like I was on this road, and this bus just came and plowed me over.
I found a lump in my neck. And everybody kept saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, it’s gonna be nothing.” And I just kind of knew that it wasn’t just nothing, because of the size of it and the way sometimes you just know.
So I was actually on tour, I was in New Orleans, and my oncologist that I was working with had told me not to go. But I thought to myself, “If I am really sick, I just want to live my life to the fullest while I can and I still have the energy to do it.” And so I went to New Orleans, and I arrived on a Saturday and I was just going to stay for a week [inaudible] …festival. And I was actually just doing some busking, because I knew that I couldn’t commit to any gigs or anything, so that was my solution: I’ll just busk. And basically, Wednesday I got a phone call, and the doctor just said, “You have cancer.” Over the phone. And the next day I flew home.
And then ever since then, it’s so many tests and appointments…
I was really floored by this because I never thought I would get cancer. I mean I’m healthy, I eat healthy, I don’t drink very much, and I don’t smoke. I’m actually allergic to smoke. All of the things…I exercise…it wasn’t on my radar, you know?
With cancer, of course, you’ve gotta go through your treatments …
And I’ve become more at peace with it. Like the first two weeks I just couldn’t get out of bed, I was crying all the time. I was just so depressed and devastated at first by the news, but now, like over the last three or four days, I’ve actually kind of found a new peace about it. I’ve come to terms with it, and it’s like, okay, this is happening. So I’m just gonna try to take this moment by moment and try to find the healing and the lessons that are in it and trust that God has a plan for me. At first I was really devastated about the Joni show, but then I realized that she’s gonna be 75 for a whole year. The ballet is actually coming to Ottawa in May of 2019. And just because I want the show on her birthday, on November the 7th this year, doesn’t mean it has to happen on November the 7th, it could be later.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be televised across Canada, and hopefully worldwide. It’s not over yet. There’s still time.
This has been, wow, this has been incredible, and I think people are going to be so excited to hear more about your story. So for now, the tour is on hold, while you work on your health.
Yeah, I had to cancel a lot of shows that I had, and to be honest…
You had some shows in Europe?
Yeah, I was supposed to go to England in the fall. I haven’t actually officially canceled them yet. I’m kind of waiting on my official diagnosis, which I should be getting in the next…maybe tomorrow, maybe in a week or two, I don’t know. It’s difficult to know how treatable this is at this point. The doctor said I [should respond] quite well to chemo. But I guess my fear is I don’t know what’s gonna happen to my throat, because the doctor is concerned that the cancer might be originating from my throat area. So I’m actually asking for prayers from people to pray for my full recovery of my voice as well.
Well, I will definitely be on that, and I think that the people who read this interview will be all about it too. I’d like to do a follow-up interview, and we’ll schedule that so we can hear a little bit more. I hope we have some really good news… But before we close, is there anything else that you want the readers to know?
It’s hard for me to talk about my past, because I don’t want, for example, my father to feel anything difficult. I know that he was doing the best that he could with what he had. And with my ex-husband, I felt like I needed to talk about his history, because I really believe that hurt people hurt people.
That said, I was having dinner with my daughter the other day, and she said, “You know, mom, having a shitty childhood doesn’t make an excuse for you to be a shitty human being.” So I kind of took that in, I was like, “Wow, out of the mouths of babes.”
But I guess the last thing that I want to say is, if I am able to impart anything into the world is that, I think it’s so important to choose love. And as human beings, we’re presented challenging situations throughout our lives. Some moments are more challenging than others, some people have lives that are more challenging than others. But if we can just make a conscious effort to always choose love, then I really believe that good things are gonna happen. I believe in the power of love.
Eniid’s story is one that can give us faith that the love we put out into the world will come back to us. Shortly after the interview, Eniid received her official diagnosis of stage 3 throat cancer and has been fighting it valiantly all summer. The good news is that the cancer is responding well to treatment and it has recently been upgraded to stage 2. Eniid would like to thank her friends and community who have voiced and shown their support and who have raised over $20,000 with gofundme (contribute here) and community events to help her with treatment and expenses.
David Masser (mentioned above) is a filmmaker as well as a singer-songwriter and he and some other “Darlings” (that’s what those of us who have attended the Dar Williams’ Writing a Song that Matters Retreat call each other) made a composite video of us all singing James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” for Eniid because we love her so much. For your listening pleasure, here it is:
I’ve heard Neil Young’s “Sweet Joni” twice and it hurt me both times. I think the man carelessly threw a few words together with a very lazy melody. Knowing the quality of music he’s capable of this “tribute” seems almost an insult to a musician of Joni’s calibre.
Also, I thought her maiden name was Anderson – Robertson?