Todd Snider has grown to be one of the more beloved touring musicians zig-zagging across the country.
This peace-lovin,’ pot-smoking, Widespead Panic-diggin’ hippy has played in po-dunk bars, curbside concerts, theaters and major festivals like Bonnaroo and High Sierra with a cutting sense of wit and a penchant for rambling stories of his gypsy high jinks. His nonchalant attitude and storytelling draws dedicated crowds to his shows that feel more like hanging out with your stoned buddy from out of town instead of an actual concert.
For the last two years, Snider has been happy to perform with a couple more people on the stage with him in the form of Hard Working Americans, the band he is a part of that also includes Dave Schools (bass) of Widespread Panic, Neal Casal (guitar) of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chad Staehly (keyboards) of Great American Taxi and drummer Duane Trucks, brother of guitarist Derek Trucks.
Snider, 48, was gracious enough to answer a couple questions over email with Tahoe Onstage in preparation for his appearance at Live From the Arch in Reno on Saturday, Sept. 19, which also includes blues great Buddy Guy and G. Love and Special Sauce. The singer/songwriter revealed the concert was going to be one of the last times you’ll be able to catch Snider on tour with just his guitar and what brings him joy outside of music.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Question: You’ve mentioned in some interviews about wanting to move on from your solo singer-songwriter sound into something else, which the Hard Working Americans seems to be satisfying at this point. Do you think Hard Working Americans is what you’re ultimately looking for or do you see yourself gravitating toward something else later?
Answer: The Hard Working American’s family is like a cult for me. Six people are on stage but lots and lots of people are in the band. Joining this was like when I became a gypsy, it’s not a small commitment. It’s an ether dive and so, you know, everything else in my life serves it. And it’s not even a full-time gig or my main gig. I see it like some people might see a church. It’s like Zambi. It can’t be undone even if we stop.
Q: The song ideas you come up with now, do you find them fitting more for yourself or for a band/group?
A: I guess both ’cause I think about them the same as I always did, I just turn them over to a band now.
Q: Why do you like telling stories about your life?
A: Actually, I always wanted to be one of those guys who never says anything and still do. I mean, I get that at the gig it’s become a bit of a positive part, but nowhere else in my life has my relentless pathetic desire to tell stories about it ever served me well. It’s a burden and I wouldn’t venture to say that I don’t like telling stories about my life, I just do. Compulsively. At home, alone, out loud, I shit you not. Send help.
Q: You’ve mentioned music is a fun endeavor for you, nothing resembling the tortured artist holing up in a cabin alone for three months. Is there anything that is as fun or more funn than making music for you?
A: Maybe like making out or getting fucked up or doing something ridiculous or daring or pointless or being in the lake or listening to Zeppelin really loud while you’re all buzzed, making out with some chick you just streaked through a Wendy’s with. Also I make signs. Mostly D do “For Sale” signs but also I do “Warning” signs. I was just going to do “For Sale” signs but then on my first try I used yellow marker on yellow paper and so then I thought I should make a sign that said “Warning: This Is Only My Second Sign.”And so that’s how I got into that. Also I just made up a game and that was a lot of fun and then as soon as the game is totally finished I suppose I’ll play it sometimes, maybe even a lot. Right now I am working on the spinner thing that tells you how many spaces to move.
Q: You tour around the country telling stories for beer, weed, liquor, admiration and cash, a way of life you have seemed to enjoy immensely. Is that lifestyle still fulfilling for you?
A: Very much so, I think. In all the ways I was warned it would not be.
Q: Do you picture life changing its course/pace soon?
A: This is my last tour. I have nine more shows to go and then that’s it. My back and hands can’t do it anymore. I told everybody I wanted to push it too far and we did and I am glad we did, but on the very first night of this tour I knew it was over. But it’s time anyway. I did this longer than I could and I will never forget and I will always be grateful to it.
Q: You said in an interview with Epiphone: “When I started, I had these delusions of being a John Lennon type or a Bob Marley type and I had massive delusions of what they were and what they had done. They made it seem as if music was important instead of just being another distraction from our doom, which is what it is.” What else do you like to do to pass the time till the doom?
A: I like to listen to a guy named Alan Watts talk.
Q: What are great distractions for you?
A: All the stuff I said earlier mostly. I also kinda like my house and making things to put in it. Or sometimes I have a friend over or something.
Q: Is there something you enjoy doing that might surprise people?
A: I always look forward to meetings with my manager and don’t even mind when we have to actually talk about work, the guy is my hero.
Q: What is something that has really brought you buckets of joy recently, musically speaking?
A: Taylor Swift and not just the songs but the person. And, of course, Jason Isbell.
Q: Is there a music artist you can’t seem to get enough of these days?
A: Leon Redbone
Q: This Saturday you’re going to be playing in Reno with two other, seemingly unrelated, artists. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at a bill that is Buddy Guy, G. Love and Special Sauce and Todd Snider?
A: Two guys with wicked sweet names and a guy who shoulda spent a little more time on his.
Q: What would you think a collaborative album with the three of you would sound like?
A: Buddy Guy and stunned silence
Editor’s note: Homepage photo by Examiner.com
Related story: Buddy Guy hits Reno with No. 1 blues album. LINK
Related story: Q&A with Tahoe-bound Jackie Greene. LINK
- Live from the Arch
Buddy Guy, G. Love & Special Sauce, Todd Snider
Where: Reno ReTRAC East at the Whitney Peak Hotel
When: Todd Snider at 6 p.m.; G. Love at 7:15 p.m.; Buddy Guy at 9 p.m.
All ages admitted
Cargo after-party: Morris Day and the Time at 11 p.m.
Tickets: General admission $55; VIP $125 (includes after-party, private viewing area and bar and VIP hospitality room inside hotel.
- Live from the Arch
Oct. 16: Airborne Toxic Event, The Joy Formidable and Sir Sly. After-party: Paper Diamond, Minnesota and PRSN
Oct. 17: Cold War Kids, Manchester Orchestra, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, the Mowgli’s and Zella Day. After-party: A-Track