Q&A WITH ANDY GOLDMARK ’69
Behind the Music
The chart-topping songwriter opens up about leaving Yale to take a chance on the music business, and why Carly Simon is one of his favorite musicians to work with.
On August 14, 1965, The Beatles made their fourth and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Standing in the mezzanine that night, just a stone's throw from John, Paul, George, and Ringo, was a thirteen-year-old named Andy Goldmark. "When they took the stage," recalls Goldmark, "I remember pointing and just barely getting out the words — I want to do that." This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you know you wanted to work in the music industry?
I always had a pure passion for music and I loved songwriting from early on in life. I came of age in the 60s, an era that was so rich with pop music’s great tunes exploding everywhere. When I was like fifteen years old, I began writing songs, then making the rounds and playing them for a number of music publishers and record labels at the famous 1650 Broadway building in New York. I eventually got signed to a songwriter staff deal at April Blackwood Music by Tony Orlando, of all people, and was writing for them into my freshman year at Yale. I was hooked. From that experience, I was ultimately offered a deal by Warner Brothers Records to record an album as a singer-songwriter. That's when the rubber began to meet the road and my career began to take shape. I knew music was all I wanted to do. I left Yale and it was onward from there.
I read somewhere that you were in the audience when The Fab Four filmed their fourth performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. What was that like?
It was late summer 1965 and I was thirteen years old. My sister and I were up in the mezzanine. When Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles and they took the stage, amidst the hysteria, I remember pointing and just barely getting out the words, “I want to do that.” The energy and the charisma they brought was unlike anything I had seen, and don't think I've really seen since. They were amazing, with so much joy mixed with incredible energy, style, and subversiveness. That was a defining moment, no doubt about it.
Andy up in the mezzanine during The Beatles fourth performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965.
Did success come easily? Or was there a period when you struggled?
The easy part was going from Yale to making a record for Warner Brothers. That didn't take a whole lot of struggling. The struggle really began after that, when I was twenty-one years old and the deal with Warner brothers fell away, and I was driving a cab in New York City to make ends meet. That's when all of a sudden it was like — "Okay, so here we are. This is the real world barking at you." And that's when I had to make a decision. "Am I going to hold on? Keep going?" I struggled for about ten years. I went through more publishing deals and made another album with a group I put together on A&M Records, so I always had enough happening to stay motivated, but I wasn’t breaking through. Then, when I turned thirty and I was neither here nor there, I signed myself to my own company with a one year option. I said, "Well, if it's not working by the time I'm thirty-one, I'll go back and get a degree." A year later, I still hadn't had enough success to justify a career in music, but I had had enough success to not quit. So I optioned myself for one more year and in that time things started to click.
When would you say you got your “big break?”
I had a number of incremental micro breaks between the ages of twenty and thirty. But when I was thirty-two, I got a big break when I went out to Los Angeles and wound up working with a great record producer named Richard Perry. For years, he was the biggest record producer in the world and I revered his work. I played a new song for his assistant who loved it and sent it on. I was told, “come on in and let’s record it,” and it was for a group called the Pointer Sisters. That began a multi-year run working with Richard as an associate producer and songwriter making many records with him. More doors kept opening as a result of that.
A headshot from Andy's album with Warner Brothers.
You’ve worked with a broad range of artists. Who did you enjoy working with the most?
That’s tough to answer because everyone I’ve worked with has something no one else has and that’s part of what makes them special. I’ve loved working with Carly Simon, a class act all the way. She has this wonderful sophisticated and sexy wit, mixed with confidence that comes from her vulnerability and strength. Writing with and producing her was a joy. Roberta Flack has always been a pure genius vocalist and would sing ten different interpretations of a song I had written that I didn’t know were there to be sung. Producing artists like Elton John and Al Green was like riding in the back of an autonomous Rolls Royce that needed no directions, and was always going to arrive at the perfect destination right on time. Michael Bolton and I worked very long and hard on the songs we wrote together, but it all paid off when they became some of his biggest hits. When I played Jeffrey Osborne “The Woo Woo Song” I had co-written for him, his smile was the endorsement that makes it all worthwhile. Huey Lewis — there’s a reason why Huey has always been called America’s best friend. True blue, talent to the max, dry humor, and scratch golfer.
As I understand it, you discovered Jennifer Paige. Is that right?
Yes, I discovered Jennifer when she sang some demos for me and blew me away. She was new in town and I was at a point when I wanted to broaden my career beyond writing and producing for major label artists. I wanted to be more entrepreneurial with my own label, where I could find and develop talent and be my own boss with the ensuing risk and reward. Jennifer had a voice with that sultry southern soulfulness that reminded me of Dusty Springfield, and a look that went along with it. After two years of working with her and releasing a cover version of “Chain Of Fools,” I wrote and produced “Crush,” which I personally took to KIIS FM in L.A. One of those right-place, right-time Cinderella stories, where it took off on its own. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Andy with Jennifer Paige.
Is there someone you'd really love to work with?
There a few people I'd love to work with. Someone like Olivia Rodrigo or Shawn Mendes, a contemporary artist with unique expression. But sometimes what draws me to an artist is the vacuum, the void which needs filling — "Oh, I really like this person; they haven't had something in a while, where’s the comeback?” or — "I see this person and they're just taking off, but they haven't quite hit their stride." And the artist who isn’t around, but could be in the modern form of an Astrid Gilberto. Those kinds of situations get my attention.
Is there a particular genre you prefer?
I love straight up pop, but I also love R&B, jazz, country ... I guess I’ve been all over the place, but it’s
been fun having had the opportunity to work in different genres, keeps things interesting. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Nashville, working with artists and writers and producers down there. I have a jazz artist on my label now. I’ve had hits with the Commodores and Patti LaBelle in the R&B field. And Alice Cooper came out of left field. Never saw that one coming.
Andy with Michael Bolton.
Who at Pomfret had the greatest influence on you?
Hinchman. When I got to Pomfret as a sophomore, I was a chubby somewhat naive kid coming from a privileged and sheltered environment. In my junior year, I began to hit my stride and became a better student. I lost forty pounds running extra laps on the soccer field. And Walter Hinchman was encouraging me all the way with the kind of support I’d never had in my life. There were others who influenced me as well. Bob Sloat, Don Hinman, Hagop Merjian. They were really forthright, kind, and advocated for all of us. Great cast of mentors.
Was there something you learned at Pomfret that has helped you in your career?
Everything I learned at Pomfret has helped me in my career in one way or the other. But one particular thing I learned then, and have appreciated since, was how to be self-reliant and never take anything for granted. Our Class of 1969 was in the middle of a very tumultuous moment in American history and Pomfret was not afraid to let us go through it. In our small, secluded microcosm, we were still in the middle of everything, soaking it up and struggling with it. In that sense, we were in the trenches together and found camaraderie and independence making it up as we went along. That experience helped greatly and I took it with me. The music business is in a constant state of change, where it always comes back to finding your own way home. I graduated with a tool box for that.
Andy in the studio with Jeffrey Osborne.
Do you have any advice for a young person looking to break into the music industry?
At one point, I studied acting with Sandy Meisner, the great acting teacher. He taught me more about music than he did about acting. He said to the class one day, “You should not act unless you have to, and if you don't have to, you should leave.” So that's really what I would say about trying to break into the music industry. Don't do it unless you have to. Don't do it unless you can't live without it. The music business is a giant crapshoot and so unforgiving. But if it’s your dream, and your only dream, then go for it. Just remember, real dreams have no Plan B.