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Todd Snider talks about some Hard Working Americans – Interview

Hard-Working-Americans-main

It’s no big secret that we here at “Our Kind Of Music” are HUGE fans of Todd Snider and just about anything he does. I’m so glad I got a chance to ask Todd a few questions about his latest project, a jam-band super-group called – Hard Working Americans. These five veteran players – TODD SNIDER on Vocals; DAVE SCHOOLS of  Widespread Panic on Bass Guitar; NEAL CASAL of  The Cardinals and Chris Robinson Brotherhood on Guitars and Vocals; CHAD STAEHLY of Great American Taxi on Keys; and DUANE TRUCKS of Col. Bruce Hampton’s school of music on Drums  – are putting in the hours and keeping at the grind for music lovers everywhere. The band is proud to introduce their self-titled debut album, scheduled for release January 21st on Melvin Records and Thirty Tigers. In the sidebar to the right, you can listen to the Hard Working Americans performing “Down to the Well” (written by Kevin Gordon).

Here’s how the Q&A went…

TS:  Its good to hear from you again, Blake. Thanks for helping us…

OKOM:  The last time we spoke you’d mentioned how much you’d love to be in a jam band. Now you’ve formed Hard Working Americans. How long have you been planning this type of project?

TS:  I have loitered back stage around the jam scene for a while… I dig that kind of music and that kind of crowd. When someone comes up and say they like me, I like it, but I really really like it if they have on like a (Grateful) Dead, Black Crowes, Widespread (Panic), Phish, or Moe t-shirt on. I don’t know why that is, or how it even relates to the question really. I am always trying to do different things with music or writing, or anything artsy fartsy I just like to do it, and to make a short answer long… it started when me and David Schools jammed together in San Francisco. I like the way he approaches my songs a lot… and just music in general. So we decided to form a hard rock band. If we keep going it’ll get even more rock. I want to be like Black Sabbath. It took a year or so to put this all together but it wasn’t planning as much as it was letting it happen.

OKOM:  Hard Working Americans brings together some extremely talented guys from different spots along the fringe of the musical spectrum. Was this by accident or design?

TS:  A lot of people were almost in this band – namely Jeff Austin.. eventually it came to Chad and me and David deciding to try calling Neal and talking him into it. We all love CRB (as key and peele say… that’s my shit). And then we wanted david to decide who to play drums with, and he said this kid Duane was peaking and I agree. He’s kinda the star of the album..  David Schools produced it all though and is our leader. All four of them produced really. It was fascinating to watch them work. I don’t play guitar in this.

The Hard Working Americans – “Stomp and Holler” Video

 

OKOM:  You’ve told me before you’re a huge fan of Chris Robinson. How did you manage to pull Neal Casel from Chris’s band into Hard Working Americans?

TS:  Oh, we did not do that nor would we want to. We have to just plan it all right… or someone does. He is still playing with Chris. They have a new record coming out soon.

OKOM:  You’ve worked with Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi a lot in the past. Have you worked with any of the other members of Hard Working Americans before this project?

TS:  I’ve sat in with (Widespread) Panic a few times when we opened for them, but the other guys – I had never played with until we got to the studio.

OKOM:  All of the songs on the new album are covers of songs written by some very talented people. How did the final choice of songs come about?

TS:  I have always kept a pile of songs that I really loved with this vague hope that I would get to produce a singer who needed songs some day. Jason D. Williams was going to do some of these, but then just started making up his own. So I suppose there’s about thirty of them. I sent them all to David with an outline of how it could be culled to hint at a story line and/or theme if not just outright have them. And from there I followed the band.

OKOM:  Most of my stoner friends don’t get shit done… But in the last year, you’ve managed to: put out two albums; write a book; star in a movie; form a new band and record an album with them; PLUS tour extensively. What do you do in all your spare time?

TS:  I play in the (Eastside) Bulldogs. We’re about two days from done with an album of Tim Carroll songs, and have some gigs coming up, and also I do reverend stuff… now that I am one. I smoke dope, play guitar, work on my songs, watch the old lady paint, make out, and walk the dogs… We watch a lot of tv too.

OKOM:  Thanks much for your time, Todd!

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Todd Snider’s Overdue Return To Las Vegas

Think back to a time before Facebook or Twitter… I know it might be hard to imagine, but that’s how the worldwide web was way back in 2002 – tweet-less and barren of cute kitten pictures. 2002 was also the last time stoner-folk, free-spirited troubadour Todd Snider played in Las Vegas, and now he’s finally returned! What does that tell you? Maybe the acoustic music scene in Vegas needs a swift kick in the ass.

Todd Snider, Acoustic Routes, Las Vegas, 2002

Todd Snider, Acoustic Routes, Las Vegas, 2002

A lot has changed in all those years, including Todd’s hairstyle (see photo at left), his body of work has swelled by eleven albums (twelve if you count Shit Sandwich by Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs); his musical style has found its way into a fresh groove with each release; while his ability to thread words and thoughts into witty, engaging, sometimes political, and ofttimes poignant lyrical tapestries, has evolved to a flawless edge.  If you’ve never heard those albums, then get your ass on Spotify and catch up. (That’s something else you couldn’t do eleven years ago).

On February 1, 2013, Todd Snider and the Burnouts heated up the ice-covered Orleans Arena with a rocking set that was book-ended with covers of tunes from two of Snider’s idols – Billy Joe Shaver’s “Good News Blues” and Chuck Berry’s classic “School Days.” Breaking from his acoustic roots, Snider armed himself with his most recent axe-of-choice – an electric guitar – for the whole night, giving way to a smoking, rocket-fueled sound, solidly driven by Paul Griffith’s incomparable drum chops and Dan Baird’s stalwart bass, and skillfully punctuated by Kevin Gordon on guitar.  The eleven song set included “Too Soon To Tell” and “Big Finish” from Snider’s latest release Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables.  There were two songs in the set – “Easy Money” and “D. B. Cooper” – Snider had performed back in 2002 when he stood solo on the stage of the long-gone-and-often-missed Las Vegas music venue Acoustic Routes. This time around, Todd and the Burnouts deftly treated those fan-favorites with new texture and dynamic colors, giving them a whole new shine. Hail, hail rock and roll!

After the show, I got the chance to sit down with Todd (above the noise of workers clearing the stage his bare feet had danced on less than half an hour earlier). We discussed his influences, the Burnouts, his latest song character, guitar lessons, and also some of the side gigs he’s got lined up… Would you believe he’s going to be in a movie and become a minister? Oh yeah… just call him “Pastor Todd.” You can view a video of the interview below.
(Todd… about that invite to East Nashville… Do you have a couch I can stay on?)

Post Concert Interview with Todd Snider in Las Vegas

I sincerely want to thank – Dave “Elvis” Hixx and Kymm Britton for making this interview happen; Matthew Bown and Rebecca Holmstrom of the Orleans Arena for their hospitality; Kevin Phillips for the steady camera work and good eye; and mostly, thanks to Todd Snider for the pleasure of getting to sit down and talk with him.

 

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Keith Sykes Interview – A Songwriting Icon

Keith Sykes

Keith Sykes is a songwriter’s songwriter. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. From the early stages of his career up to the present, well more than 100 of his songs have been recorded by well-known artists such as The Gentrys, Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, George Thorogood, and Jimmy Buffett – just to name a few. Although reluctant to admit it, he is admired and his work is highly praised by peers such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, and countless others.

Keith first broke into the singer/songwriter scene back in 1969 with the self-titled album Keith Sykes, and quickly followed that up the next year with 1-2-3. He toured quite a bit, working the Coffee House Circuit, forging friendships with other prolific songwriters, many of them remaining good friends to this day.

Almost seven years passed before his next release, The Way That I Feel,  hit the shelves. There were two songs on that album that threw Keith into a whole new direction. If you’re a liner-note-reading, old-timer Parrot Head like me, you know what I’m talking about. Keith’s songs “The Coast Of Marseilles” and “The Last Line” were recorded by Jimmy Buffett, and moored on his highly successful 1978 album Son of a Son of a Sailor.

Keith Sykes in Montserrat - 1979 - Photo by Tom Corcoran

From there, Keith went on to tour with Jimmy as one of the Coral Reefers. In 1979 he went to the island of Montserrat with Buffett, James Taylor, Russ Kunkel, and all the Coral Reefers to record Buffett’s tenth studio album. While on Montserrat – inspired by the then-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island – Buffett, Sykes, and Harry Dailey co-wrote what was to become the title cut of the new album (and one of Buffett’s biggest hits) – “Volcano.”

That’s enough typing for now. Kick back, grab a beer (unless it’s morning… in that case, grab a scotch), relax, click the video below to watch and listen to the legendary Keith Sykes tell us all about his fascinating career. (He’ll also sing a couple of songs for us).

Interview with Keith Sykes

Keith Sykes performing B.I.G.T.I.M.E. on Saturday Night Live

On December 6th,1980, Keith Sykes appeared on Saturday Night Live (his first time on national television) and performed “B.I.G.T.I.M.E.” to promote his latest album I’m Not Strange, I’m Just Like You. B.I.G.T.I.M.E.” would later be recorded by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Keith Sykes – “Gray Beard and Whiskers”

This song is absolutely beautiful, and I dare you not to cry when you listen to it. “Gray Beard and Whiskers” can only be found on Keith Sykes – 20 Most Requested CD. Click here to purchase it in Keith’s online store.

Click here to see all of Keith Sykes releases available on Amazon.

Keith Sykes – Hot Springs Weekend – June 1st & 2nd, 2012

Like he mentioned in the interview – (You did watch the interview, didn’t you? If not, get your mouse back up there and click on it!) – Each year in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Keith hosts a weekend of music in the lovely Arlington Hotel. Shows are on Friday and Saturday nights and feature some of the best songwriters performing today. On Saturday afternoon Keith interviews one of the songwriters and afterwards the guests are encouraged to ask questions on the craft of songwriting and the creative process. After the evening shows there are impromptu jams where the guests can mingle with the pros and even have a chance to play a tune or two. Click here or on the poster to the left to go to Keith’s website and purchase your wristband to an unforgettable weekend!

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Todd Snider Interview – An Early Morning Talk of Jerry Jeff Walker and More…

I caught up with East Nashville based singer/songwriter Todd Snider on the phone as he woke up to a well-deserved day of rest somewhere in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was in the middle of a pretty heavy tour schedule (and finding out it wasn’t as easy as it used to be). I think it was a little early for both of us – there was even a little bit of confusion with the time zone difference. It’s hard to keep track of those things on the road.

As the morning’s coffee slowly burnt off the previous night’s fog, the conversation picked up. We talked a lot about his two recently released albums, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables and Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker, and a shitload more. It had been a couple of years since we last talked, and we covered a lot of ground – not too bad for so early in the morning. As is usually the case when talking with Todd, it’s a challenge to keep myself on track and try to watch the time. (I don’t want to wear out my welcome). What starts out as an interview effortlessly turns into a conversation full of intriguing and amusing tangents. It could be because I appreciate his music so much and can relate to it so well, or maybe it’s because – in spite of his laid-back persona – Todd is actually a complex man with a lot on his mind, who just wants to be understood.

So, pour a cup of coffee or pop a beer and enjoy the interview! (Caution: Contains some course language… shit, like I had to tell you that). Thanks go out to Heather and Elvis for making this happen. Next time we do a video interview!

Todd Snider Interview – Length: 44 minutes

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Be sure to catch Todd Snider this Friday and Saturday night (May 4th and 5th, 2012) at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. Also check out the rest of his tour dates.

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Todd Snider’s Songline Leads Him Back Where It All Began

The title of Todd Snider’s latest release, Time As We Know It – The Songs Of Jerry Jeff Walker, comes from “David and Me,” a 1999 Jerry Jeff Walker song about two gypsy song-men sharing some wine, reminiscing back on the long road they’ve been down, and just letting the time go by. With a grin they wonder why – They say we all changed / But I feel the same and I know that you are. / They always said we played ’em much too long. / But tell me, what’s a song / Don’t it carry on and make the time go by? / Time as we know it.

Most Todd Snider fans have heard the story about how in 1985 his old buddy, Trogg, took him to the famous Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas where he saw Jerry Jeff Walker for the first time. It was an awakening experience for the nineteen year old Snider – that night he envisioned what he was destined to do. As Snider sometimes tells it at his shows, “We went down to see Jerry Jeff, and he came out, kinda like I am tonight, with just a guitar, and sang some songs, and I thought… Shit, I could do that.” Damn if he didn’t too. Snider started writing songs the very next day and never let up… except to occasionally stalk Jerry Jeff.

In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin describes songlines as: …the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known as “Dreaming-tracks” or “Songlines”. Snider’s songline may have begun that night in Gruene Hall.

A few short years later Todd got signed by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records. You probably already know this, but just in case you didn’t – In 1971 (about a month after Todd Snider’s fifth birthday) Jerry Jeff Walker led Jimmy Buffett to the promise-land known as Key West, Florida. If he hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t have been a “Margaritaville” let alone a Margaritaville Records. Talk about synchronicity! Seriously though, isn’t it intriguing how their paths have intertwined?

On April 24, Snider will share his love of the original Gonzo Gypsy with the release of Time as We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker. Produced by Don Was (yeah, that Don Was of Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stones fame), the 14-song set was recorded last year in Nashville with the Colorado-based Americana band Great American Taxi and features guest appearances from Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, Elizabeth Cook and Amy LaVere. They recorded 30 additional tracks, so don’t be surprised if another collection is released someday.

The songs on Time as We Know It – which span most of Walker’s career – were done in that Snider stoner-gypsy fashion that has become a proudly-worn hat that his fans love so well. So well! So well! So well! (Sorry, I had to throw that in).

Anytime Todd Snider does a cover song, it’s rebuilt and painted a whole new color, and with this collection the undying impression that Walker made on Snider adds a lustrous final clear coat, giving them a gleam to rival Snider’s own infectious smile. It seems that these songs have personal meaning for Snider – evident by the subtle lyric tweaks here and there. One of the most touching is when he shows gratitude of his wife, Melita, in “Layin’ My Life on the Line.”  Even with that Snider touch, “Mr. Bojangles” still brought tears to my eyes… maybe more so.

Todd Snider’s songline has now brought him to a place of reflection and appreciation. On Time As We Know It he’s not just paying tribute to a man that inspired a 19 year old kid all those years ago; He’s honoring a man who has, over the years, become a dear close friend. A friend who holds mutual respect and admiration for him. A friend that he can share some wine with, reminisce about the old days, and just let the time go by. It doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe someday Todd will write a song called “Jerry Jeff and Me.”

 

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