Know Your Neighbor
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People have said to me, ‘You’re like the Mayor of Nashville,’ but I don’t want to be the Mayor of Nashville, which means I’d have to care for bad contemporary country radio and TikTok music. A friend of mine who is a big agent said, ‘You’re so good to creative people and people in general. You’re like Pope Pius IV or V.’ I said, ‘That’s great. I’ll be the Pope of Five Points.’” — Patrick Clifford
Ask Patrick Clifford, “The Pope of Five Points,” what his favorite hangs are and get ready for a long list. “I love music, and I live in The Basement East,” he says. “The 5 Spot, The East Room, Dukes, Margot’s — I think Margot should be made a saint — Bongo Java East, I loved Tenn Sixteen when it was open, Frothy Monkey, Lockeland Table, Urban Cowboy, I love the people at East Nashville Family Medicine, Yeast Nashville, Maru, and I’m eager to see what goes in these new spaces that are being built out right now. That’s going to be exciting.”
Clifford’s liturgy of favorite haunts, his bigger-than-life personality, and his effusive love for his adopted neighborhood are the traits that earned him his honorary title. “There are people in the neighborhood that only know me as the Pope,” he says. “People honk their horns when they see me walking down the street with my dog, Enzo the Wonder the Dog, and yell out the window, ‘Hey Pope!’”
A native of the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens, Nashville was the last place Clifford ever thought he would hold a papacy. “The first time I came to Nashville was in February 1979 with Steve Forbert,” he says. “He wanted to make his second record in Nashville. I was like, ‘I know what you want to do; you want to make Nashville Skyline.’ I flew down from New York; I had never been south of the D.C. area. I got to Nashville, and I was like, ‘This place is like Mayberry!’ First place I went was the Pancake Pantry, and I fell in love with it.”
“I came back and forth a lot,” Clifford continues. “I made records in Nashville with different artists, but I never thought I’d live in Nashville. And then, around 2005, I was living in Austin. I had left a job in New York with A&M Records, and I came to Nashville to take a job with a music company on Music Row called Ten Ten Music.”
Moving with his two children to Nashville, Clifford lived the life of a single dad in the Belmont area for several years. Then, in 2013, he accepted a job as Vice President for Disney Music Publishing. At the same time, he made a switch in neighborhoods. “I purchased a house on Woodland Street and moved to East Nashville,” he says. “I was infatuated with the house, the neighborhood, and Five Points.”
The corporate job with Disney only lasted three and a half years, but his connection to the Eastside remained steadfast. “After [the Disney job] ended, I told my girlfriend, ‘If the music business is done with me, I’m cool. I’ve got plenty of stories and plenty of friends.’ She told me, ‘You ain’t done, son, get out there and just go be you.’”
Launching his own consulting company, Clifford now manages artists and is an independent A&R rep for Concord Music Group. Along the way, he’s managed to retain a boundless joy for music in a business that often seems dedicated to snuffing out that passion.
“I didn’t get into the music business because of money,” he says. “I got into the business because of the music. I was very blessed to have a great mentor for my first gig, a gentleman named Nat Weiss [a legendary figure who managed the Beatles’ business affairs for several years]. I also worked for Herb Albert and Jerry Moss at A&M Records. I’ve been blessed to work with people like that, but I’ve also had the misfortune to work with people that are just in this for the money and don’t care about artists. I love meeting talented people. My one rule is, I can’t know enough good and talented people.
“I like to say I’m from New York; my cell phone rings in L.A.; my heart’s in Austin, Texas; and I’m stuck in Nashville with the Memphis blues again. But I don’t mean stuck in Nashville in a bad sense. I love Five Points, I love my neighbors, and I feel very blessed to live here. I’ve been in Nashville for 16 years now, and I’ve never lived in any place that long except on Planet Earth.”
Find Patrick Clifford IRL at one of his haunts in Five Points, where you can be regaled with stories about his escapades in the music business.