Angela: I'm sitting in the Rosendale Cafe, laughing and talking with Cliff Eberhardt who is appearing here tonight. He was just talking about getting a lot of "cuts" and one of my first questions was, "Who would you love to cover one of your tunes?"
Cliff: I've had a lot of people that I love cover my tunes, now I'd like people who sell a lot of records cover my tunes. You know.
Angela: Then you can stay home?
Cliff: Well its such an awful thing when... people...well you're not allowed to be a capitalist at this I guess. Bette Midler just cut one of my tunes and I'm happy about that.
Angela: Which tune?
Cliff: The Long Road.
Cliff: So I can get new tires for the car (he broke down last night and has rented a car) you know. Richie Havens has two or three on his new record and there's some Atlantic artist out of Europe that just recorded your face. I forget, there is a couple of "movie things" that are coming out.
Angela: I see you put "Your Face" on the new CD as well (again)
Cliff: I never really liked the production... the way that we did it on The Long Road.
Angela: That's what I was wondering.
Cliff: It was too dramatic and too electric and too...well it sounded like a foreigner, you know, doing one of my songs. I wanted to do a simpler version. I get so many requests for that song and it fit in with the whole theme of the album and so...
Angela: ...the theme of the album.. I was trying to decide... it sounded like you had someone in your life last year who was really down.
Angela: You have a lot of cuts saying "Look, cheer up..."
Cliff: I'm talking to myself.
Angela: I wondered...
Cliff: Like "Cliff, Shut up!!"
Cliff: Life isn't that hard, like driving around the country playing for people is really a tough life... (the recording mike keeps changing position) They are fighting over the mike position right now. It's making me...(he switches to a jewish accent) you'll get an ulcer, you'll get gas, you don't want to do it (laughter) Hey can we keep that on?
Angela: What so cool about this (minidisk) is that you can take part of the end of a sentence and move it...
Cliff: Yeah, you can make me say all kinds of stuff.
Angela: That's right! You do a lot of driving.
Cliff: An extreme amount.
Angela: What or who do you listen to?
Cliff: I listen to mostly talk radio. You know, on
the FM side. NPR radio. I listen to a lot of books on tape.
I make work tapes for myself. I have a studio now in my house, so
I make rough mixes of stuff I'm working on and take them in the car.
But I rarely listen to CD's in the car. Sometimes old Beatles stuff to
wake me up, where I can sing real loud, but nothing like my music
(laughing) I want to stay awake. I don't listen to much acoustic music anymore, I'm so immersed in it. I tend to listen to a lot of Cole Porter, George Gershwin stuff and a lot of Opera...
Angela: And when you are driving - talk. That would be like someone is in the car with you I guess.
Cliff: Well you get to hear all the political stuff on NPR and that way you can say funny things on stage.
Angela: Right, I find in doing my show...the tape you are taking is all Kosovo related...that I have to be topical for that week for my own benefit just to make it interesting..
Cliff: I think that it is interesting that my album is kind of Kosovo based too, it is pretty relevant to that..
Angela: Well, yeah...
Cliff: And also I was listening today, and I'll probably
say this tonight on stage, but they were talking about the "Defense Budget
and how they needed more money in the Defense Budget" because of all the wars that we are involved in and I thought, it should be called the "Offense" department. We are not defending anything, we are being offensive. So that seems funny...you know, taking defensive action? There are no other planes up there. We are not getting the true story.
Angela: Nobody is.
Cliff: It is none of our business. It is not our business. How would we like it if they came over here and told us what to do.
Angela: We wouldn't. We've never had that. I came to the US in 10th grade and cut 5 (on your CD Borders) is your "Mason-Dixon" song and I grew up in Canada.
Cliff: I didn't know that.
Angela: Explain to me why it is....
Cliff: Well most people don't know where it is.
Angela: Somewhere around Pennsylvania and..
Cliff: Pennsylvania - Maryland border. That is why West Virginia has that spike up there is because they made a mistake. They ended early. They were surveyors.
Angela: But way before the Civil War...
Cliff: Way before.
Angela: So give me a little history to place this song.
Cliff: Well the Mason Dixon Line was like in World War One the magenou line was the line that divided the troops, and the Mason Dixon line was what divided the North from the South even though Washington was South of the Mason Dixon line that was all that was south of the Mason Dixon line. The Confederate States were Maryland on down and the Union States were Pennsylvania on up. So that was the line that when you crossed it that was a hell of a line to cross.
Angela: So I had the impression it was created at the time of the war but it wasn't, it had been there.
Cliff: No, it was right after Lewis and Clark did their stuff. It was made I think in the late 1700's. 1780's I think. The whole song is about somebody who lives down there and doesn't sympathize at all with the South. But the whole point of that song is not only doesn't he sympathize with the south, but he gets caught up in what happens. The Union comes down and nobody asks questions when they go through a town like that. It is also that he is apathetic. He says he never voted, although he never kept slaves. Then what does he do he blames God for the predicament he is in. He doesn't turn to himself and say "I should have taken a stand" or "I should have left" so it is a two sided song.
Angela: It is in my head, that melody
Insert of "The wrong side of the line"
Cliff: I was trying actually to write a song about Bosnia
or Rwanda or somewhere like that. I felt that every time I tried
to do that it sounded like someone who does listen to too much NPR
and I sounded too pretentious and trying to be really hip. So I wrote about something I really knew about rather than trying to put myself in somebody's shoes who would be insulted by it.
Angela: That is what they say you gotta do. Write about what you know.
Angela: Who did the production work?
Cliff: I did. I played almost everything on it, I produced it.
Angela: So when you decide you want...an organ...you
Cliff: I just say hey! And I played a lot of the keyboards..everything but the Hammond Organ, acoustic piano, accordion and violin and drums. But I played percussion, all the bass, all the guitars, a lot of piano,
Angela: Must have been fun.
Cliff: I was the boss! Plus having a studio in your house- if I got up and didn't feel like doing a vocal that day I'd go "Oh, what the hell" I think this is a much more relaxed album because I didn't have the clock. You know when you are paying 50-60 dollars an hour plus the fee for musicians and tape, you can't take breaks, you press yourself too much. When you are doing it at home, who cares? You know, your are like, "Ah, I think I'll make a scrambled egg"
Angela: I think that former example robs all the joy of why you play this music to begin with, then it is missing, not caught in the recording.
Cliff: Well to me the less production right now the better.
Angela: Oh, I agree.
Cliff: I like to hear the frame of the song and not so much the huge production that is going on.
Angela: An awful lot of people overproduce. It is a shame, as if more noise is better.
Cliff: Well the song should be able to hand on its own. In fact,
Angela: Well you are good at that. The real scant approach.
Cliff: Well now. Before they wouldn't let me do it that way. I'm doing an album now with Nina Gerber, you know her?
Cliff: It is just going to be two acoustic guitars and my voice doing standards. We are doing that this summer.
Cliff: And then we are going to tour with it next spring.
Angela: A year from now? And you will record it at your house again?
Cliff: No, we are going to record it at Signature Sounds Studios/
Angela: Neat. Great. We can look forward to that. Thanks for talking with us. I would be great if you can do a station ID.
Cliff: All right. I'll do anything you want! Give all the money you have in your pockets to public radio.
Angela: There is a great fundie!
Cliff: His this is Cliff Eberhardt, and if you don't listen to public radio you are a bunch of ninnies! (laughter) Lets do it again. I won't say the ninnies this time.
"Hi this is Cliff Eberhardt and you are listening to WJFF Public Radio 90.5 in Jeffersonville New York and 94.5 in Monticello New York."