Todd Snider – Empathy For Assholes


Todd Snider at home in East Nashville

As an unexpected bonus, after Todd’s show in Eugene, Oregon, I was invited onto his tour bus, where he treated me to some beer and an early listen to some of his (then yet to be released) CD “The Excitement Plan.” I can’t begin to tell you how jazzed I was to get that surprise! (Thanks, Todd.)

I also interviewed Todd in May, 2009. We discussed “The Excitement Plan” and some of the stories behind the songs. (We also talked about wine, dogs, and pot; it seems that we both easily get sidetracked). The (unpublished) article from that interview will be posted here later this month.

(At the bottom of this post there is a link to the published version of this post).

Empathy For Assholes —

The guy in the car in front of you at the drive through window is brutally chewing out the blameless pimply faced kid working it. You watch this unfold and probably don’t give it much thought other than that jerk just wasted some of your precious time. When Portland-born singer/songwriter Todd Snider witnessed a similar incident, he thought “What would make a guy act like that?” Todd then took his thoughts, along with his food, home and digested them. “By the time I got back to my house” He said by phone from his home in East Nashville,  “I thought, if I could try to just find some empathy for this guy that acted like a total asshole… how could I write that down?” He then proceeded to piece together the possible aspects of this nameless man’s life that seemed to be pushing him off the edge of sanity: His unfulfilling, dead-end career chosen by his parents because they thought it would be practical; his brown-nosing, thankless, slave driver of a boss; his ingrate daughter that he keeps trying to please; his wife, who spends his money faster than he can make it; and his impenitent, slacker son (that he secretly admires for his shameless qualities). All of these pressures lead to the explosive assault on the innocent teenager working the window. The resultant track “Stuck on the Corner (prelude to a heart attack)” appears on Todd’s latest offering “Peace Queer” on Aimless Records. The song drives hard and fast, conveying all of the central character’s tension and anxiety.

This is just one of the extremely witty and perceptive songs that Todd will be performing when he hits the WOW Hall stage on Tuesday, February 17th armed with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, a wry humor and a unique style that firmly places him in the company of some of America’s greatest songwriters. Todd admits that, in his early years, he idolized as well as stalked some of those very same songwriters to whom he is now compared. One of those targets of stalking back then was Keith Sykes. “I’ve got maybe ten guys on my Mount Rushmore” Todd said “And he’s always been one of them.” Todd showed up at Keith’s front door with just a demo tape and a guitar. Keith was so impressed that he introduced Todd to Jimmy Buffett in 1993.  That led to Todd opening for Buffet at a couple of west coast dates. “One day I was playing a little coffee-house in front of like ten people.” Todd said “Then I flew out to LA and played the Hollywood Bowl with him (Buffett) and then I did Portland, where I grew up, with him. Then I flew out on a red-eye… to Memphis where I played for another twenty people. It was pretty surreal.” Todd’s first two CD’s came out on Buffett’s Margaritaville Records label.

Todd Snider has gotten to a point in his life and career where he has connections, friendships and a history with those that he once and still idolizes. He doesn’t seem to take that lightly. He sincerely appreciates all life has brought. Todd is very proud to be having Keith open for him on his current tour. He also produced Keith Sykes latest CD “Country Morning Music”.

Todd’s songs can have you laughing one minute and choking up with tears the next. He stirs your emotions, beliefs and thoughts cleverly and carefully without ever being over the top or in your face. As he tells his audience at every performance “…I don’t share my opinions with you because I think they are smart or because I think you should share them. I share them with you because they rhyme. I do not do this to change your mind about anything. I do this to ease my own mind about everything…”

Click here to see the edited version that was published in the Eugene Weekly February 12th, 2009

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