It started as a wedding gift for her friends: a ballad about love persevering through thick and thin. After four years, Maggie Clifford’s song is a statement about community support and mutualistic care.
The Gaineville-based folk singer-songwriter released “Come the Rain,” her first single under Spirit House records on June 14.
The lyrics paint a picture of the wedding ceremony, which took place on a harsh, dry day softened by the arrival of rain and fractioned light sneaking into the Savannah, Georgia, venue. .
“Come the Rain” lyrics explore the themes of long-term fidelity and compassionate problem-solving in honor of the couple’s 10 years together.
Infused with celtic elements and a medieval storytelling aspect, the tune feels like a folk tale passed down from generations before; it’s a mystic demonstration of devotion to remember during difficult times.
Triangles and tambourines, harmonizing bamboo flutes, and a guitar solo producer Bob McPeek described as a “celtic tango” all blend together in a track that skillfully reflects the endless months of effort behind it.
Clifford brought a demo, which consisted only of vocals and minimal instrumentation, to McPeek's studio at Heartwood Soundstage in the summer of 2018.
Even after working on about 10,000 songs in his lifetime, McPeek said “Come the Rain” stands as his favorite. The pair worked on the track for three years while balancing Clifford’s travels between Washington D.C. and Gainesville and McPeek’s battle with throat cancer; music served as their balm to heal all.
“Music is kind of my religion, I guess,” McPeek said. “So working on music, crafting music, writing music, performing music, all of that is incredibly beneficial and healing to me. It reaches deep inside to this mystery part of our internal lives of who we are and what it all means to be alive.”
Clifford found that holy community in 2009 when she went on tour with fellow singer-songwriter Kat Wright under the folk duo Loveful Heights. The two sang together since childhood, but touring brought them even closer together.
Yet, after realizing the industry’s cycle: promote gatekeeping, reward “clout-chasing,” she struggled to rediscover that connection.The sense of genuine community she had anticipated from the craft struggled to thrive in its environment.
Clifford took a hiatus from the commercialized music world and, pregnant with her first child, began focusing on building a life. A few years later, she found herself in a silent meditation retreat in the Brazilian wilderness.
She sang intimate lullabies to other attendees, a freeing expression of community after weeks of quietly congregating with the group and months of silently navigating the foreign-speaking country.
The next morning, a woman sleeping in the bunk below hers, one of the few English speakers on the retreat, asked Clifford if she could write music for her film.
That woman turned out to be filmmaker Petra Costa, who was working on her acclaimed 2012 documentary “Elena,” based on the life of actress Elena Andrade, her older sister.
“I had no idea who she was, but she asked me so sincerely,” Clifford said. “She allowed me and encouraged me to set my own terms at every step of the way.”
Costa’s team helped upload Clifford’s music on streaming services, something she wasn’t planning to do.
“I had already said goodbye to that,” Clifford said.
Years after the film’s success, winning Best Documentary at the 45th Brasília National Film Festival, Clifford’s music found a new life.
Algorithmic compatibility revived the tracks she recorded and released years prior. Streaming platforms — as well as editorial and user-made playlists — caught on to her songs. With increased exposure, Clifford amassed nearly 44,000 monthly listeners on Spotify to date.
The keywords yoga, meditation and healing come up repeatedly in these playlists. This unexpected push made Clifford find a new face for what the music industry could look like.
Away from music, Clifford began to pursue a Ph.D. focusing on climate communications from American University in Washington, D.C. With two kids at home, she initially resisted the challenge of balancing motherhood, academia and music all at once.
“I’ve had to deeply acknowledge the mathematical impossibility of doing these three categories of things,” she said.
Despite her continued reservations about the music industry, she kept performing on Gainesville stages and cultivating her creative process.
After recording “Come the Rain,” she reached out to Spirit House Records manager and MusicGNV leader Brandon Telg to release the track under the label.
She saw how Telg helped uplift and support artists, and she said his label was a healthy and adult approach to the industry she had previously abandoned.
Kristine Villarroel is a second-year journalism student at the University of Florida and a staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, you can usually find her making playlists or talking about the full moon.