In a move that Jeff Bridges’ character The Dude would be proud of, Bridges and his band, The Abiders, have recorded “My Welcome Mat,” a song of tolerance and togetherness written by a trio of Nashville songwriters. The tune was created by rising country singer Jenny Tolman, producer Dave Brainard (Brandy Clark, Jerrod Neimann), and John Goodwin, Bridges’ childhood friend who has written (and with) for the likes of Brad Paisley and Michael McDonald.
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He isn’t one of Nashville’s best-known writers, but Goodwin’s been a familiar name to Jeff Bridges fans for a long time. “Jeff’s done about nine or 10 of my songs on previous albums he’s done, and I’m so happy about that,” Goodwin said by phone. “I love the way he performs and records them.”
Goodwin and Bridges have known each other since growing up in the same area of Southern California. “It was just one of those neighborhood kid things like, so many people have stories about the kid who grew up down the street that they still know today,” Goodwin said. “That’s the story I have about Jeff, even though his circumstances [of being in a famous Hollywood family] were quite a bit different than most peoples’.”
Goodwin, Tolman and Brainard wrote “My Welcome Mat” the old-school way, with all three of them in the same room at once. “Dave had heard some of my songs and really loved my writing,” Goodwin said, “and started inviting me to write with people he was producing. When he met Jenny a few years ago he asked if I’d write with her. The three of us got together in various combinations, and we got together one day at my house and wrote ‘My Welcome Mat,’ and that was one of three co-writes Jenny has on her own first album. I eventually sent it to Jeff and he loved it, and he started performing it with his band.”
When it comes to remembering who had the original idea for the song, Goodwin draws a blank. “I don’t really remember,” he said. “It could have been any one of us. I couldn’t tell you. When the song’s over it’s got two parent or three parents, and I never sit around trying to figure out who wrote which line, because it’s all one thing, which is the cool thing about it, that synergy.”
Chris Pelonis is the lead guitarist and musical director for Bridges’ band The Abiders, and is also a noted studio and speaker designer, engineer, and guitar dealer on the California coast. Pelonis produced, engineered and mastered “My Welcome Mat,” which includes background vocals from the Doobie Brothers’ McDonald, roots singer/songwriter Johnny Irion, and others.
“Jeff and I have been playing together since the ‘90s,” Pelonis said, “and we’ve done a bunch of Johnny’s songs. This one came about because of the sentiment of it, it’s about just appreciating other people, regardless of whether you agree with them or don’t agree with them. After 25 years or so together, you get to know a person, and I think [Jeff loved] the idea of the song, the idea that we’re all in this together, and it’s not about what you think politically or spiritually or religiously, or whatever. I also think we came up with a pretty nice arrangement, I think it’s dynamic and it sort of crosses quite a few different genres. It’s really well-suited for Jeff’s voice.”
Bridges, as one might imagine, is busy with various projects, but he took a minute to send American Songwriter an email about recording the song. “My dear friend John Goodwin was one of the writers for the song. I listen to everything he writes. When I heard it, I thought it was a good one, especially for these times. The Abiders have a special affinity for John Goodwin tunes. Most of our sets include about half a dozen of them. We should be celebrating our diversity to create a more beautiful world for all. We are all in this together!”