Interview: Songwriter Cliff Goldmacher on the fine art of musical collaboration

about_cliff“It’s never final,” the saying goes, “until it’s vinyl.”

Sonoma songwriter and instrumentalist Cliff Goldmacher is certainly not the first working musician to utter those words, though his long career as a successful crafter of songs has definitely convinced him of its truth. Goldmacher estimates that, to date, he has written over 1,000 songs, some of which never made it out of the recording studio and onto an actual CD or Pandora playlist.

Still, he’s had a remarkable run of songs that have been performed and recorded, including – just to name a few – Ke$ha’s “Good to be Queen,” Lisa Loeb’s Hanukkah-themed “Light,” country-singer Templeton Thompson’s “I Remember You,” and Mickey Hart’s “Cut the Deck,” the latter co-written with Hart and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

Goldmacher has also collaborated with such performers as Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit, Grammy-winning blues performer Keb’ Mo’, and Chris Barron of the ‘90s rock band the Spin Doctors.

If all of this makes Goldmacher sound busy, it’s because he is. He happily reports that he writes, records and performs six days a week, and trains for triathalons in his spare time.

“I like being busy, and I like working with lots of different people,” he says. “And this past year was no exception.”

unknownJust before Christmas, he appeared on the storied stage of the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee, singing a song he co-wrote with Nashville’s Mindy Smith. Considered the “Carnegie Hall of Country Western music,” the Opry invited Goldmacher and Smith to appear as part of a special showcase of Christmas-themed songs, to sing “The Snow and Three Thousand Miles,” a bittersweet charmer of a song about being separated from loved ones on Christmas Eve.

“That was a huge gift and a nice surprise, getting to accompany Mindy on the Grand Ole Opry’s big, beautiful grand piano, as Mindy sang,” says Goldmacher. “The fact that they asked me to accompany her was gracious on their part. The Opry has a great house band. They could have had them do it.”

Of the song itself, one of many Christmas songs he’s written over years, Goldmacher says it was a pleasure to compose, with its simple piano line, and heartfelt, sneaks-up-on-you storytelling.

“We wrote the song in about an hour,” he recalls. “We’ve collaborated on several songs, Mindy and I. In any collaboration, the chemistry is either there or it’s not. When it’s good, the songwriting happens quickly and smoothly.”

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