Alumni profile: Gooding

From rock chalk to rock and roll: KU was a launching pad for graduates’ band

Jesse Rich, Gooding and Billy Driver of the band Gooding got their start at KU.

The band Gooding describes itself as rock and roll from the Plains. While the band is based in LA, all three members hail from Wichita and became bandmates as students attending the University of Kansas in the 1990s. They tour frequently, playing in all the Lower 48 states. And when they’re not on the tour bus on in the studio, they have plenty of other work to keep busy. They have established a solid career in commercial work, with their music featured in numerous soundtracks and television ads.

They were back in Lawrence recently to play a show at the Jackpot, 943 Massachusetts St., and to talk to students about building a career in the entertainment industry. Here’s a Q and A with two members, Gooding and Billy Driver, who both completed studies in theatre and film in 1998. Their third bandmate, Jesse Rich, is an alumnus of the School of Business.

Q: What’s it like being back in town? 

A: Driver – I just think coming back on campus is awesome. It’s the first time I’ve been back since I graduated. It still looks the same a little bit, but then you notice little things that are different. I remember hanging out at Oldfather Studios a lot, just editing late nights. And of course going down to Mass. Street will be fun to see what that looks like.

Q: How did KU give you your start?

A: Gooding – You have this great opportunity in college to have time to read and experience. The things I learned at KU versus the crowd I was with in Wichita, just those first two years I was a completely different person.

Driver – One of my first introductions to music promotion was working for SUA, doing a lot of Day on the Hill stuff and shows that came through here.

Gooding – We are loud and proud Jayhawks, I’ll tell you that. We get in trouble. (On the radio), I’ll say “We’re all Jayhawks,” and Billy says, “Dude, we’re in Mizzou country.”

Q: Bands often dream of overnight success and fame and fortune. Your journey took longer. What have you learned in the process?

A: Gooding – I thought we were going to get signed, get a record deal, buy my mama a mansion and live happily ever after. A lot of the things that I thought would happen immediately are just happening now. We’re getting bigger shows, we have a song on the radio, we’re doing commercials. It took a lot longer than I thought, but the entire time has been fulfilling. I feel like I know myself a lot better because it didn’t come easy.

Driver – I think that’s a good thing, that it’s coming a lot later and not happening in our 20s. We can tell you the whole process and how we’ve gotten to where we’re going.

Gooding – One thing about having it take some time, is you’ll learn everything. You hear stories about someone saying I worked in the mailroom and I worked my way up. There may be less of that now, but it is the same logic. By the time you’re running the company, you’ve done every job and you have respect for people who have been at that position. We had to start a record label, we had to learn about publishing to keep our rights, we had to eventually record, mix, master our own stuff, book our own tours, sell our own merch, get the patents to have a merchandise company. So you learn all those things and then when someone else is helping you with it, I know how hard it is to figure that problem out by 5 o’clock. I think that’s important. I don’t think any company can move on if people don’t have respect for the other side of the job.

Q: What has helped you maintain balance and patience?

A: Gooding – You have to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. There are so many possibilities on this campus. Change majors early if you need to. Do what you have to do to get on a path that moves you. If you love it, then even when you’re saying I can’t believe this hasn’t happened, you’re in the moment more. Take the niche position and become really good at that thing. One of my best buddies is an accountant and he loves numbers. He does not want to play guitar on a stage at the end of the night or drive a bus all day from here to Chicago. He thinks we’re stupid. So everything you hate, somebody loves, and vice versa. There’s room for everybody if we’re being honest with what it is that gets us up in the morning.

Driver – You’ve got to stay focused and stay the course. And make sure it’s something you really want to do. I’ve known people that have been in a position for five years before they’re promoted, even 10. You’ve just got to know it takes time.

And if someone tells you they can make you famous overnight, but it costs $5,000, don’t do it. If your patience is running thin, don’t do it.

Gooding – That time where nobody’s paying attention is where you’re going to figure out how to write, how to play, how to keep playing if a string breaks in a song. That time in the trenches is part of it. By having to play the long game, you’re going to figure out how to build something that you can keep.

Q: What would you tell others who might want to make the leap to LA to keep in mind about their experiences at KU and living in Kansas?

A: Gooding – Midwest work ethic. That thing of doing what you say you’re going to do. I really do feel like that idea of slow and steady is a little bit more prevalent here in the Midwest. I’m not trying to knock on Hollywood, but the whole reality TV, media oversaturation, no delayed gratification, everything is very consumer, very “keep up with the Joneses.” Cherish the fact that you’re not in the belly of the beast in some ways. If you can’t get out to LA or New York right now, really enjoy the fact that there is time to create here. I think there’s a certain kind of art that comes out of people who have had a little bigger landscape and not as much concrete. Embrace where it is where you come from. If everyone was from LA or New York, that would be a boring country.

To learn more about Gooding, visit their website,