Golightly brings heart to songwriting

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Francie Johnson

American poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote “The Head and the Heart” in the mid-1800s, describing the constant internal battle of logic versus passion. Almost two centuries later, Wright Gatewood and Lena Dice of Tuscaloosa band Golightly touched on the same idea, but in this case, they were talking about songwriting.

“I guess kind of how Wright phrased it one time is that he actually allowed himself to write from his heart rather than from his head,” Dice said. “When you’re writing from the heart, it’s completely different because it’s almost like you don’t really even have to think about it.”

The bandmates both agree that writing should be a heartfelt and enjoyable act.

“It’s the difference between writing for purpose and writing for pleasure,” Gatewood said. “Writing for purpose is from the head, and writing for pleasure is from the heart.”

Practically friends since birth, Dice and Gatewood grew up in Tuscaloosa, performing in several productions at the Bama Theatre as children. Thursday, they’ll return to the Bama as folk-pop duo Golightly, where they will play Acoustic Night and release their debut self-titled EP.

Gatewood, a senior majoring in venue management and arts production through New College, and Dice, a would-be senior taking time off and working at First Presbyterian Preschool, formed Golightly last year. The two said they have always enjoyed singing together, so the band’s formation happened organically.

Dice and Gatewood interchangeably sing and play guitar, with some piano, drums and other instruments occasionally thrown into the mix.

Dice said the duo’s lifelong friendship creates the perfect dynamic for songwriting.

“We know each other so well, and it’s really easy to be open and honest with each other,” Dice said. “I’m not gonna be offended, and neither would he if it’s like ‘OK, no, that sounds terrible.’ Nothing gets taken too personally. It’s just fun. We laugh a lot.”

While Dice and Gatewood have both written songs separately, they said they prefer working together.

“I feel like Wright’s more of the person who kinda has the outline of the song,” Dice said. “He’ll have an idea, and that’s usually where I come in like ‘OK, this needs to happen here.’ We’ll bounce ideas off each other, and eventually we’ll meet at some point and be on the exact same brain wave.”

Their producer, John Kline, labels them as new-age, but Dice and Gatewood said they don’t intentionally cater to any particular genre.

“We don’t try to make it sound like anything,” Dice said. “I mean, some of our songs sound completely different from our others. It’s just whatever comes out.”

Gatewood said the mix of influences they have at times shows in their sound.

“I do feel like we are influenced by the artists we listen to, but we listen to a lot of different kind of artists,” Gatewood said, citing Regina Spektor, Patty Griffin and the Avett Brothers as examples. “I think that’s kinda what has happened, is that it’s just created a mess of songs.”

When it comes to lyrics, the two band members said people, situations and experiences appear as thematic elements in many of their songs.

“I would say that since I am in college and I write in a situational pretense, then a lot of it is about college right now,” Gatewood said. “But at the same time, there is reflective stuff. And then songs that are about nothing, and they’re just words that are catchy.”

Balancing the band with work and school is no simple feat; Dice spends about 10 hours a day working with children, and Gatewood, in addition to school, has an internship at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

“There have been instances where we both have kinda had to step away [from the band],” Gatewood said.

The two said they are learning to work with one another’s schedules.

“We’ve had to grow up, and still we’ll have to grow up forever,” Dice said. “We’re always gonna be kids. It has been difficult adjusting but we’ve kind of found a common ground the more we’ve worked together.”

As for the band’s future, Dice and Gatewood are taking everything one day at a time.

“We didn’t set out to become musicians,” Dice said. “It’s really just something that we love doing, and it’s really cool that other people enjoy it too. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, and if something comes of all this, awesome.”

Golightly will perform at Bama Theatre’s Acoustic Night Thursday. The band will release its debut, self-titled EP at the show. Tickets are $5. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.