by Kimberly Shires
Dave Nachmanoff is an internationally touring singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso. Dave currently resides in Davis, California with his family, but planted his musical roots in the DMV at a young age. Dave Nachmanoff is currently touring on his eighth studio album, Cerulean Sky, released this year.
Alchemical Records had the opportunity to catch up with this successful Northern Virginia native over brunch. Dave was passing through the DMV performing at a number of venues and house concerts. While in the DMV, he also laid down guitar tracks at Innovation Station Music in Northern Virginia for the local acclaimed singer/songwriter and Vice President of the Washington Songwriter Association, Steve Coffee.
Some of his first influences came from the local folk program, “Traditions,” hosted by Mary Cliff on public radio. He reflected, “There is a lot of great music here.” Once Dave became a recording artist, Mary Cliff sometimes featured his work on her show.
Dave Nachmanoff’s performing career also began around the DMV. As a teenager, he daydreamed about playing with Scottish Singer/Songwriter Al Stewart one day. As a young man, Dave’s dream came true when he met Stewart. Thereafter, he started regularly touring with Al Stewart as an acoustic duo, which really launched his career.
Dave also nearly became a child star after a series of events led to him performing on the National Mall with folk and blues artist Elizabeth Cotten. He was approached by an agent, however his mother shot down the offer in favor of prioritizing his education. Even at this young age, Dave always knew that his life would be spent on stage.
After graduating high school, Dave launched straight into his music career, however, his parents gave him an ultimatum. He had one year to get a record deal. If the deal did not come to fruition, he was going to college. The record deal did not happen, so he pursued a degree in philosophy with a minor in music composition. Dave still had his eyes set on being a rock star however. After graduation from Columbia University, he stayed on in New York City to pursue a record deal, however disillusionment with the industry quickly followed. Dave decided to apply to grad school, leave the music industry and become a professor of philosophy, only to realize that similar politics also existed in the academia world.
While Dave was working on his Doctorate in Philosophy, he discovered the saving grace of the independent music scene while attending a music festival. He realized, “I don’t have to be in the commercial music industry. I can still play music.” He found his niche among this community and has flourished ever since.
Dave Nachmanoff is a prolific songwriter. He wrote his first song at around eight years old. Young love was his inspiration to put pen to paper. Dave was crushing on a girl who was crushing on David Cassidy of the Partridge Family. He figured, if he could just be like Cassidy, she would love him back. Ultimately, this school yard crush never went anywhere, however it started Dave on a trajectory to become a songwriter.
During Dave’s high school years, he took a short break from songwriting to develop as a multi-instrumentalist. He already had the guitar under his belt was playing lead guitar in a rock band. He began to study the violin and viola, jazz piano and bass.
Dave picked up songwriting again in college after suffering a few heartbreaks. He laughed, “You fall in love, you write a song. You get your heart broken, you write a song. That’s how it is.”
Today, Dave finds great fulfillment in helping others write songs. He teaches an annual songwriting workshop at Capon Springs, WV, just an hour and a half outside of DC. He is also a songwriting instructor at guitar camps in both California and Alaska. Dave reminisced about the best advice he has received about songwriting. A few nuggets that come to mind are, “Write a lot of songs and finish a lot of songs. Good writing is rewriting. Separate the creator from the editor and learn a lot of songs by great songwriters”. Dave believes that all song ideas are worth developing. He said, “It’s almost like a hunt. It’s detective work. You’re on a trail and you are seeking something.”
Dave is particularly fulfilled by the songwriting workshops he conducts in schools, nursing homes, rehab facilities or with people with disabilities. He said, “Songwriting can be a way for people to express their creativity and to communicate to the world how they cope with their challenges.” Dave produced an entire album out of the material created by the nursing home residents. The album was coined Holy Smokes! Ice Cream for Breakfast! by a 95 year old Alzheimer’s patient. He said, “The stories were so great. We had to make an album”.
The Adler Aphasia Center also brought Dave on board to conduct a songwriting workshop with people who had lost their ability to speak after having a stroke. He asked himself, “How are we going to do this with people who can’t speak?” After working with the participants, he found they could communicate, it just took longer. The group wrote a song titled “Tip of My Tongue,” which captured their experiences struggling to communicate. Dave recorded the song as a single, which the Center sold as a fundraiser. He said, “Give me a couple of hours with anybody who is somewhat verbal, and we will write a song.”
One of Dave’s most meaningful experiences was a songwriting series with a family who adopts kids with disabilities. He recalled, “It was heartbreaking to hear their stories, but we were able to turn them into songs about how their lives had changed since being adopted.” Dave ultimately recorded three albums worth of material from this family.
Going forward, Dave would love to tap into songwriting with veterans, and with children living in conflict zones as some other songwriters have been doing, because songwriting can be a productive outlet to process emotions surrounding difficult experiences.
Dave has a few projects up his sleeve and is particularly drawn to the idea of using his gift as a musician to raise awareness for various causes by teaming up with sponsors for charitable events and concerts. We will all stay tuned to see what’s next for Dave Nachmanoff. In the meantime, checkout his new album, Cerulean Sky, at davenach.com/cerulean-sky.
Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.