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Sonoma songwriter honored at Grammy awards

Sonoma musician and songwriter Cliff Goldmacher estimates that he has written well over 1,000 songs, most of which never made it out of the recording studio and onto an actual album or Spotify playlist.

But a song he co-wrote five years ago made it onto blues artist Keb’ Mo’s new album, “Oklahoma.” Last Sunday, the album won the 2020 Grammy for Americana Album of the Year. And Goldmacher and his new wife, Sarah Hanna, were in the audience.

Keb’ Mo’ – born Kevin Moore – and Goldmacher met at the renowned blues guitarist’s home-studio in Nashville in January of 2015 and the two spent three hours together writing a song. “I was over the moon because I’d been a fan of his music for almost 20 years by then,” said Goldmacher. “It was a ‘pinch me’ moment.”

But the years went by and Keb’ Mo’ released his next album, 2017’s “TajMo,” without the song on it.

“I resigned myself to the reality of songwriting which is that 95 percent of the songs you write never see the light of day,” said Goldmacher. “The career requires gigantic amounts of patience.”

But finally, last spring, Keb’ Mo’s team called to ask for Goldmacher’s publishing information which meant that the artist might be recording the song for an upcoming album.

“Learning the song was going to be on his newest album was another ‘pinch me’ moment and, that would have been more than enough,” said Goldmacher.

But on Sunday, in a ceremony that proceeded the televised awards, Keb’ Mo beat out four other artists for his fifth Grammy win.

“One of the most moving parts for me was that in his acceptance speech, he took the time to thank his songwriting collaborators – not a common or even expected thing – so Sarah got to hear my name from the Grammy podium,” said Goldmacher. “It’s still a bit surreal and I’m floating today.”

Goldmacher works and records out of two studios, one in Nashville, where he once worked as a staff songwriter for a publishing company, and the other in Sonoma. He writes, records and performs six days a week, and trains for triathalons in his spare time.

“Sonoma is where I usually end up doing most of my recording work,” he said, explaining that when he does session work as an instrumentalist, he will often record his part of the track solo, and then send it to the producers to integrate with the other musicians’ tracks.

Goldmacher credits his fondness for musical collaboration as having largely propelled his 25-year professional career since graduating from Stanford University, encompassing a vast array of musical styles and genres, from country, classical crossover and folk tunes, all the way to rock, pop and various forms of jazz.

Goldmacher has written songs for Ke$ha, Lisa Loeb, Spencer Day and Mickey Hart and collaborated with such performers as Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit and Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors. In 2018, he appeared on the legendary stage of the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, singing a song he co-wrote with country artist Mindy Smith.

Always busy, his career has picked up even further since the Grammy nominations were first announced.

“As I like to only-halfway-joking say,” added Goldmacher, “the first 30 years of a music career are the hardest.”

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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