For singer/songwriter Todd Snider, it comes naturally to fill his songs with equal amounts of cleverness and soulfulness. Catchy licks such as “B Double-E Double-R U N, Beer Run” may stick with us long into the night, and are easily followed by the affecting tale, “I Spoke as a Child,” or the ballad, “Tillamock County Jail.” In an ironic combination, Snider has the voice of a fellow wearing his overalls telling stories from way-back-when but with the wit of a socially conscious college professor.
His songs are always very human at their core as he narrates his own personal history. In a small, though valuable, way, the message of the song is also important to Snider.
“I don’t ever want to be preachy, but if I can tell stories about my friends and my family, and have people leave the show thinking it would be better to be nice than mean, then that’s a pretty good thing,” he said.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Snider discovered the music of Jerry Jeff Walker in his early 20s and hasn’t been able to put a guitar down since. The simplicity of a guy onstage with his instrument and some stories was alluring enough to keep Snider working at it for a couple of decades and counting. With influences such as Neil Young, John Prine, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, Snider said, “I never really wanted to do anything else if I could make up songs and sing them for people.”
Snider writes many songs that never make it to albums or live shows. He likens it to doing crossword puzzles or other mind games. “I write most of the songs just to stay in practice, waiting for something exciting to happen,” he said. “It’s the ones that I keep that end up being the most true. It’s a way of singing yourself out of a hole.”
His own songwriting is influenced, even today, by his old-time hero, Walker. He felt that Jerry Jeff would go to a particular place and “write postcards from it” with his songs. “Often when I’m working on songs, it’s about where I am at the time,” he said.
Todd Snider will perform at the Southgate House, 24 E. Third St. in Newport, Kentucky, on Tuesday, December 27. For more information, call (859) 431-2201. Also, look for Todd Snider on January 28-29 at Canal Street Tavern.