» Contact Us
» Advertise With Us
» Newspaper Ads
Money Matters: Gooding band hits schools to talk finances
After making “a lot of mistakes” with his own with finances, Steven Gooding decided to help others avoid them.
Now the Ypsilanti-born singer-guitarist is using his band, Gooding, to encourage financial literacy and rock the house when it plays.
Teaming with Operation Hope and sponsored by Raymond James, Gooding — which begins a 14-stop Michigan run this week — blends its regular itinerary of concerts with shows for students, primarily in high school, during which all four band members encourage their audiences to understand personal finance.
“We obviously don’t sing about financial literacy,” Gooding explains by phone from his current home in Nashville. “You don’t want to hear a band singing about credit scores.
But the only way stuff like this works is if it comes from a place that’s organic. If you do it a few minutes after a rock ’n’ roll show, there’s a power to that. They feel like if you went through it, it’s authentic and they’ll listen. We’ve got a mic, and we want to use it.”
Gooding, 43, laughs when he says “you couldn’t have told me 10 years ago this would be part of what we’re doing.” After living in southeastern Michigan — “I saw my first Kiss concert at Cobo Arena,” he recalls — Gooding moved with his family to Wichita, Kan., when he was 12. There he met drummer Jesse Reichenberger. The two attended the University of Kansas, where they met bassist Billy Driver, and the Gooding band released its first album, “The Return” in 2010.
The group has released four more albums since then and is working on new material for release this year, while its songs have been placed in films such as “Iron Man 2,” “Walk The Line” and “Ice Age 2,” as well as a number of TV shows.
Finance, meanwhile, became a focus for Gooding himself as both a personal and political issue. “I know more about geometry than about balancing a check book,” he confesses. “We weren’t talking about credit scores in my house when I was growing up.
“And I’d already been ranting about these issues without understanding they had names, like income inequality. People will go behind your back if you don’t understand basic things. And those things aren’t taught, at least not to kids.”
Gooding acknowledges “it’s a fine line” between entertaining and educating, and over time he and his bandmates have learned how to do it more effectively. “We try to do broad strokes,” he explains, “and talk about having some kind of savings, an emergency fund, and talk about predatory lending and credit scores and credit cards and things like that.
“Basic financial things are what we’re trying to impart, but you have to do it the right way. If I get too detailed about an IRA or something I might as well take the guitar right off my back and put a suit on and put ’em to sleep.”
Gooding reports that response has been good to the concept — “There’s no way I would keep doing this if I felt like we weren’t getting through,” he says — and he hopes his group won’t be alone in this effort. “It would be great if we could get a lot of bands to do this,” he says. “I’d love to get a little bit of a grass roots thing going to where (financial education) would be a requirement in every high school. It blows my mind that it’s not.
“Kids get it. They’re really hungry just to hear something.”
Of course, Gooding and his bandmates hope there’s an appetite to hear the band’s music, too. The group offers free downloads to those who participate in the financial discussions and feedback, and there’s more music coming. Gooding recently recorded in Los Angeles with producer Matt Wallace, and it plans to release singles from those sessions before the album comes out in August.
“We’ll go hit a club and theater tour to get that going, but we do another three months of schools in September,” Gooding says. “I know it’s a lot different than your regular rock band, but it’s really rewarding, and I think we’re doing something important.
“And if it turns more kids on to our music, that’s a nice bonus.”
• Gooding will play music and talk about financial literacy during 14 Michigan stops this month. Its schedule includes:
April 10 — Boyne City High School (Boyne).
April 11 — Cadillac High School (Cadillac).
April 13 — Warren Woods Tower High School (Warren).
April 16 — John F. Kennedy High School (Taylor).
April 17 — Mt. Clemens High School.
April 18 — Groves High School (Beverly Hills) and Seaholm High School (Birmingham).
April 19 — Dexter High School.
April 20 — University Prep Academy (Detroit).
April 23 — Berkley High School.
April 24 — Communication Media Arts High School (Detroit).
April 25 — Saline High School and Groves High School (Beverly Hills).
April 27 — John Page Middle School (Madison Heights).
Send your thoughts and comments to