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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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Todd Snider Honors Jerry Jeff Walker

Click to pre-order 'Time As We Know It' on Amazon

On April 24, Todd Snider will release Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker, a tribute to his original musical hero. “I’ve always hoped I’d stay around long enough to get to make a record of Jerry Jeff Walker songs,” Snider says. “He’s the guy I saw at 19 and decided to try to be like. His are the first songs I learned.” See full track list below.
Produced by Don Was (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones), the 14 celebratory tracks feature friends and admirers like Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, Elizabeth Cook, and Amy LaVere. “We just went into a studio and played about 30 of Jerry Jeff’s songs and let the performances dictate what songs would make it,” Snider says, adding, “I could’ve done 30 more.”
The release follows Snider’s acclaimed new album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless Records). Released this month, the album debuted in the Top 20 of four separate Billboard charts, including the Indie Label Chart, the Folk Chart, the Internet Chart, and the Independent Core Store Report. The New York Times hailed it as “among his best” and Rolling Stone called it “the sharpest musical response yet to the excesses of the one percent.”
Track Listing:
1. Vince Triple-O Martin
2. Jaded Lover
3. Moon Child
4. Takin’ It As It Comes
5. Derby Day
6. Sangria Wine
7. Continuous Saga of the Bummer Or Is This My One Way Bus Ticket to Cleveland
8. Little Bird
9. Hill Country Rain
10. Railroad Lady
11. Laying My Life on the Line
12. Pissin’ in the Wind
13. Mr. Bojangles
14. Will There Be Any

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Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables fill the air! Can I get an amen?

As expected, Todd Snider‘s latest album – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless Records) – is full of surprises. I know that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but for years Todd Snider followers (lovingly referred to as Shitheads) have come to eagerly anticipate previously untouched subjects and style with each new release, and Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is no exception. Snider’s peerless perspective of the world and it’s cast of characters is his alter, and his songs carry his slightly skewed sermons.

What better place to begin our services than with “In The Beginning,” a tale that takes us back to the kickoff of the race we call human, where it’s suggested that the pedestals the rich so proudly plant their asses on were already taking shape. When the poor considered rising up in solidarity to even the score (possibly by murder), the rich offered up a distraction – a hint to the mystical secrets of religion, the possibility of reward in their (after)life – all a gift from a supreme being named God (who oddly only seemed to speak to the rich). And as the rich man told them all about how good people could go to Heaven, but the insolent would spend eternity in the fiery pits of Hell, the people believed him (since no one could prove him wrong) as he smiled and said, “Who are you going to trust if you can’t trust me?” He told them all they needed to do was humbly serve him and they would be rewarded… but not by the rich man, as he put it, – “Of course, I could pay you a little bit of money / but… more importantly God would see / And if he sees you working humbly / someday he may give you what he’s given me.” So began the empty promises from “The Haves” to “The Soon-to-Haves” that the prosperity of the rich shall blaze the trail for the plenteous of the poor. Not much has changed, has it?

Snider effortlessly ties this timeless tale into our present day setting – high unemployment, uncertainty, fear, the rise of the 99%, and the Don’t get the people all worked up with the notion of class warfare attitude of “The Haves” – where we watch a bunch of rich politicians proudly wave their faith flags as they promise, “Support me and I will lead you to a land filled with good fortune! After all, who are you going to trust if you can’t trust me?”

If that first song didn’t piss you off, then maybe you’re not paying attention. That’s alright though, maybe your blood will hit the boiling point as Snider keeps the heat on it with a story told by a southern teacher who was set to retire only to find out that their pension fund was unwisely invested by a “New York Banker” who promised, “This kind of thing was even safer than gold.” You know how this is going to end, and that should piss you off.

A couple of years back during an interview with Todd, I said,  “When you do a cover song, you really make it your own.” At the time we were talking about his haunting cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay.” Now he has taken on Jimmy Buffett’s “West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown.” This tale about a girl escaping her former life and family was originally released by Buffett 38 years ago. Snider’s choices of instrumentation, dynamics, and phrasing have surpassingly rendered it into a composition with the texture and flavor of an Appalachian Folk classic; he made it his own.

Somehow Snider managed to tap into the vein of Rudy Vallée when he came up with the slow sweet jazz ballad “Precious Little Miracles,” a song that seemingly comes from the viewpoint of a well-to-do old-timer as he questions today’s youth. Why do they feel so entitled to luxuries that they didn’t earn or were born into? Why can’t they be satisfied being poor? There are so many other things they could be focused on – like entertaining the rich! And, in true Snider style, he delivers one of the most apropos questions – “Kids… their pants around their hipbones / Who wears their pants like that? / Come here kid, let me hitch up your britches / And while we’re at it, let’s fix that hat”. Kids… they’re a handful.

Remember back in 2006 when “Carla” left that guy that sang about her on The Devil You Know? Well, apparently the stupid shit took her back and she’s still kicking him square in the ol’ ball sack in “The Very Last Time” (co-written with Todd’s longtime friend Will Kimbrough). Come on pal, snap out of it! You obviously know what a bitch she is when you say, “I had a dream that you came to see me / You asked if I was okay / That’s how I knew that I was dreaming / You asked if I was okay.” That’s golden.

And speaking of sequels (were we?) the foreboding atmosphere of contempt and resentment that envelopes “In Between Jobs” (co-written with Todd’s loyal sidekick Elvis Hixx) along with its echoes of murderous thoughts (as contemplated in the opening track) are in stark contrast to the arrogant optimism of the ex-con narrator and his nothing-to-lose attitude in “Looking For a Job” from The Devil You Know. But six years ago Americans were more optimistic; time has changed all that. The abrasive structure and threatening tone of “In Between Jobs” rips at your skin, maybe in a desire to replicate the pain, desperation, and lack of self-worth felt by scores of  jobless and hopeless that cover our country.

There are reviews out there spouting Snider’s upbeat love-song  “Brenda” – about an unlikely couple who “met on a train going somewhere fast” and hit it off right away. She was driven, him not so much. But together they built an empire that conquered the world with each new endeavor. Their tumultuous relationship eventually scarred and they went their separate ways, only to return to their destiny… each other – as being all about the musical duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Seriously? What makes you think that? I hope it’s not just because of those lines Todd threw in near the end of the song – “Mick Jagger was born on a Monday morning / Keith Richards was born on a Saturday night / It was true love.” Isn’t it possible he may have tossed those lines in just to fuck with us? I mean, shit, we’re talking about Todd “The Grand Imagineer” Snider here! He loves to play with the lyrics and mess with our heads!

Listen to “Brenda”

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Okay, after listening to it again… I’ll admit, there are some vague similarities between Jagger and Richards and this couple. Mick and Keith were childhood friends back in the early 1950s until their families moved apart. They didn’t cross paths again until 1960 at a Dartford, Kent train station… just a coincidence. Mick had some Muddy Waters records on him that day which revealed their shared taste in music, and they formed a band. From there on, they shook up the world. You couldn’t stop the flow of songs that poured out of them. Okay, but their relationship was good, right? Wrong. They were more brothers-of-different-mothers than friends. Eventually, they got away from each other – Mick into the jet-setter’s life; Keith fell deeper into drugs. They found their way back to each other. Have you read Keith’s book – Life? Turns out one of Keith’s nicknames for Jagger was Brenda. I’ll be damned. See, what did I tell you? Snider likes to mess with our heads.

Sometimes a man can only take so much of deceit and lies. They’re pushed to the edge of a cliff where all that’s within their grasp – to keep them from falling off – is revenge. This is where we find the narrator of the jaggedly driven song “Too Soon to Tell.” A dark cloud hangs over him and he’s headed to a place he doesn’t really want to go, but knows he has no choice. His disconnected thoughts, desires, and regrets seem to fly past us like so many pages ripped from the spine of a book and fed to the wind.

Digger Dave and Todd Snider

Todd & Digger Dave back in the day

If you’ve been to a Todd Snider concert lately then you’ve probably heard some of Todd’s damn-near-unbelievable stories about his old Alaskan pal, Digger Dave. If you haven’t been to one of his shows… what the hell are you waiting for? Anyway, “Digger Dave’s Crazy Woman Blues” tells one of those tales about, well… the title pretty much says it all. If there’s trouble, there’s a woman somewhere close by watching the shit she stirred up hit the fan. And Todd swears that this is the truest story he’s ever told, and we know that almost all of the stories he tells are true.

That brings us to – one of my favorites – the final track “Big Finish” (How does he come up with these catchy song titles?), a churning bluesy number that has reflective lines like “If I could do all this all over / I wouldn’t do nothin’ the same” and “I try to remember / It helps me forget.” The soulful instrumentation of “Big Finish” has Amanda Shire’s violin, along with Chad Staehly’s B3, weaving their way around Todd’s grinding guitar, and over the solid rhythm of Paul Griffith’s drums and Eric McConnell’s bass. My favorite moment in this tune is one of ponder – “The older I get, the more I worry that the more I worry, the older I’ll get… and yet I still worry. Ain’t that about a son-of-a-bitch, I tell ya.”

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The Lost Snider Tapes – Part 1.2

This interview with Todd Snider took place the morning of May 9th, 2009. Todd’s upcoming record, The Excitement Plan, was due to be released a month later. In this second part of the interview, we cover everything from pot to Dock Ellis to being lucky in life.

OKOM: The last time you were in Eugene, we were talking on your bus, and you mentioned that you and Dave had gotten popped for possession. Now, I’m assuming that’s the backstory for “Greencastle Blues.”

Todd: Yeah, it is.

OKOM: Yeah, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between “Greencastle Blues” and “Tillamook County Jail.” But, “Greencastle Blues” has a serious and somewhat dark, more mature tone to it. There is even a hint of regret in there. What were your – if this isn’t too personal – what are your thoughts about what you went through that ended up being the inspiration for a very personal song.

Todd: Yeah, I was feeling more ashamed about getting caught smoking marijuana than about smoking marijuana. At the age of 42, I think it was my seventh little trip to jail, and they are starting to get old. I would like to shake that side of my life but the thing that sticks with me is that I still smoke weed and I assume that I probably will for the rest of my life. So, that means that I always have to be real careful and try not to be disrespectful to the people that don’t want me to do it.

OKOM: What also came across in the song – besides being so personal – was that last line that spoke like a little act of defiance – “less than an ounce of possession, shit, I can do that kind of time standing up.”

Todd: Yeah, I feel like I was trying to show the cycle of how somebody stays a person like me. And most of the cats in my neighborhood are like that too. You find yourself – well I guess I shouldn’t say you, I should say I – you know how someone says, “You find yourself.” I’m like, no, you find yourself. Don’t tell me what I should do. So anyway, I find myself – damn, after that I forgot what I was going to say. But I liked the other point. [laughs]

OKOM: [laughs] A little side thing, last night I read that the New York Times had dubbed Jackie Greene as the Prince of Americana. I couldn’t believe that when I read it but… So, what would that make you?

Todd: Ummm, The Grand Imagineer!

OKOM: [laughs] That sounds much better than Prince.

Todd: [laughs] Yeah!

OKOM: Okay, onto the next one. “America’s Favorite Pastime” – the title alone can be taken two ways – is our favorite pastime baseball or hallucinogenic drugs?

Todd: Yeah! [Laughs] Wow, I love you, man! You really appreciate the lyrics. I like to hear that you listen to it because it makes me feel understood. I always try to put in little things like that, you know?

OKOM: [Laughs] Man, you’ve got a lot of stuff like that. Now, when did you first hear about that game? I mean, you were only about four years old when that game was played.

Todd: Oh yeah, sure, I know. Maybe it was about two or three years ago. Maybe it was from one of the guys in Yonder Mountain String Band. I know it was backstage at a hippie festival, and the conversation went to – because a lot of the hippie bands take acid before they play – and the conversation turned to Dock Ellis having thrown a no-hitter that way. And I was just very fascinated by that.

OKOM: So did you have to do some research about Dock Ellis and that game?

Todd: I did. I had my friend Peter Cooper show me how to get on the computer and get the box score. Wait a minute – was it him? Anyway, somebody showed me how to get the box score. That was all I needed.

OKOM: You give a rundown of the whole game and a lot of the stats in the song.

Todd: Yeah, I did. My innings and my scores… I believe are correct, and the coach’s name – Murtaugh. I used the box score pretty much for all that. And I had heard of this one part, that I couldn’t quite get in because I couldn’t get it to rhyme. It was a part about somebody hitting a dribbler at him and he hit the dirt like it was a line drive. I had heard that supposedly happened.

OKOM: Yeah, I believe it did. Okay, “Bring ‘em Home.” I love the viewpoint from the soldier’s side and it is not your typical end-the-war songs.

Todd: It was important to me, for some reason when I was working on that song, that I don’t come out and tell anybody to bring somebody home. So I felt like I wanted to tell it from the point of view of somebody else.

OKOM: Right, and why not somebody that’s out there in the middle of it? One of my favorite lines from that song is “it seems like all I’m ever almost dying to do” I mean, listening to that, it’s like you’re saying – or he’s saying – that he knows that any day he could die.

Todd: Exactly, and he’s just trying to get back. And I don’t know the answer. I know some people with some kids over there that just want to come home, man.

OKOM: I hope you don’t mind, Todd. I’m just going down the list.

Todd: No, I’m enjoying it. I appreciate you doing this for us and thank you for listening to it.

OKOM: That’s what’s always got me about your stuff. I always tell people when I turn them onto your music – listen, because you’ve got a lot to say.

Todd: Well, thanks man. That means a lot.

OKOM: It’s not superficial shit, it’s deeper than that. You work hard at it, and it shows. Next one – “Corpus Christi Bay” is one of my favorite Robert Earl Keen songs. But you didn’t just do a cover, you made it your own.

Todd: I tried to.

OKOM: I think it’s your vocal style and when that haunting fiddle of Molly’s comes in on the second chorus just sets that sad and pathetic mood.

Todd: Yeah, you got it.

OKOM: Now, was there a personal reason for the choice of that song?

Todd: Yeah, I’d heard that it was true for Robert Earl. Every time I’ve heard that song it reminded me of me and my brother. If you took the Corpus Christi Bay and replaced it with, say, the music world; and took the oil rigs and replaced it with the road and honky-tonks, you’d have our story. He [my brother] was out there with me for a while and now he’s home.

OKOM: Where does he live?

Todd: He lives across town here. He works in a booking company.

OKOM: So, you guys are still close?

Todd: Oh yeah, very much so, I talk to him every day.

OKOM: Are you far apart in age or are you very close?

Todd: I think it’s only about a year.

OKOM: That’s good to be close. My brother and I are nine years apart; we’re like two only children.

Todd: Oh wow, that’s weird.

OKOM: The years don’t matter; we love each other like brothers. And I think  – shit, I know – I was an accident. My mom told me I was.

Todd: [laughs] Hey man, that’s cool, accidents are fantastic!

OKOM: [laughs] Hey, as long as I’m here! Enough about me. Okay, a couple of songs – “Slim Chance” and “Good Fortune” – it’s obvious, well at least it seemed obvious to me that you’re talking about Melita. Does she inspire you a lot?

Todd: Yeah, oh yeah.

OKOM: Do you consider yourself lucky?

Todd: Oh yeah, very much.

There’s more to come next week. Right now, I’ve got to get ready to go to Reno for Todd’s two shows at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. See you there. It’s gonna be a blast.

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The Lost Snider Tapes – Part 1.1

This interview with Todd Snider took place the morning of May 9th, 2009. Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs were scheduled to play a Full Moon Party at The 5 Spot that evening. Todd’s upcoming record, The Excitement Plan, was due to be released a month later. In part one of this interview, we talk about “Money, Compliments and Publicity” and how Don Was came to be the producer of The Excitement Plan.

OKOM: Hey, Todd. How are you doing?

Todd: Hey man, I’m doing good. Are you calling from Eugene?

OKOM: Yeah, I am.

Todd: Right on. Good to hear from you again.

OKOM: Well, it’s always good to talk to you. What I was hoping to focus on today was the upcoming CD [The Excitement Plan].

Todd: Oh great, I’d love it.

OKOM: Yeah, I’ve been listening to it quite a bit since Courtney sent it to me a few weeks ago.

Todd: Oh man, well, thank you. We worked hard on it.

OKOM: I wanted to talk a bit about some of the songs – and well – why don’t we just get into it.

Todd: Sure. Sounds good.

OKOM: Okay, since this is an interview – and we know what comes from an interview – I thought the appropriate song to start off with would be “Money, Complements, and Publicity.”

Todd: [laughs] You got it.

OKOM: Personally, I learned a very valuable lesson from that song. That is to never listen to one of your songs for the first time while driving my car…

Todd: [laughs]

OKOM: …because I damn near got in a wreck when you got to that line about taking care of your friends.

Todd: [laughs] Yeah!

OKOM: You know, because the song starts out as sounding so sincere and then it takes a sharp turn towards narcissism.

Todd: Yup, yup.

OKOM: Then you thank everyone including Clive Davis. Did you get your inspiration for that song from watching the Grammys?

Todd: You know what it was, I was working on the record, and I’d come up with a ton of songs but I only liked nine of them. In my head, at the time, I just needed another song. I’d never done that before; I’ve never looked at anything like that before. So, I got up one morning, and I sat down at the piano, and I thought – okay, what can I sing? And I realized, I said to myself, “You know, you’ve never done anything like this. You’re just sitting down at the piano to make up a song just to have another song. What the hell are you doing? You’ve never done this before.” I was disappointed in myself. And I thought, wow, what’s the point of singing a song if you don’t actually have something in your heart. And then I remembered this thing that I had read about this Eddie Rickenbacker, a World War II pilot. He’d said that man had reached his pinnacle of success when he ceased to care about money, compliments, and publicity. And I thought, the only reason I’m sitting here at this fucking piano – if I really wanted to be honest with myself – is because I’ve got to get a record done. And what you do a record for, right?

OKOM: [Laughs] Right.

Todd: [laughs] So, then I started just singing it like that. And I started writing that out and all, and about halfway through, I thought – Hey, I’m going to get a real therapeutic, real normal song out of this. And I don’t know if I would actually do what I said in the song, you know. Like I tell all my friends when they hear that song, “Of course I’ll call you! Just you, me and my old lady.”

OKOM: Right, don’t take it personal.

Todd: Exactly, don’t take it personal. I’m talking about everybody else, man!

OKOM: Yeah, yeah.

Todd: Man, there’s some dark, gross truth in there. I’m one of them people that can get in my own home and stay in it for months. I enjoy my friends, but they know that I can disappear for long periods of time. So, I ended up really getting something really good out of that song. I always like it, when I write a song, and end up with something like that, no matter how it comes out at the end. Even “Alright Guy” that I made up years ago, came to me when I had just been dropped from some job, they gave me a record contract, and then they told me that I couldn’t have it anymore. I was like 25 at the time. And I remember, even though I was purging, I don’t know, it was sad – it was a very sad day that I wrote “Alright Guy.”

OKOM: Yeah but you got a lot of good stuff out of those times.

Todd: Yeah, I like those types of songs.

OKOM: And this one [Money, Complements, and Publicity] is another one of those songs of yours that starts out going one direction and then doesn’t end up the way you think it’s going to end. At least to me, you had that turning point in it. It started out sounding so heartfelt, and then you hit us with that line – buy an island, run a phone line, call and tell them all to get fucked – and I thought, shit, that’s classic!

Todd: [laughs] I’m glad you liked it. I’m glad you liked that.

OKOM: Oh and by the way, I hope you guys have fun tonight. As just my little way of showing support, I’m wearing my Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs T-shirt.

Todd: Oh, kick ass! We’re going to rock tonight. We’ve got a saxophone kid that came out the other day and a piano player too. It’s cool. We actually had a practice!

OKOM: Oh, yeah?

Todd: We’d never done that before. It’s sort of changed. It used to be that we –

OKOM: Wait a minute. You said you have practiced before or you haven’t?

Todd: We haven’t ever before. It used to kind of be a practice when we played under that name. And then we started making up songs to do just as that. Now we have a bunch of songs that we play.

OKOM: I’d heard that you were planning to put out a CD under the name Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs. Is that true?

Todd: It might happen.

OKOM: That would be cool.

Todd: Yeah, we’ve been thinking about it. If we can do it, we will. We almost did it last week, but we decided to just wait.

OKOM: Were you thinking along the lines of a live CD or a studio CD?

Todd: I don’t know, I don’t know. We’re not quite ready yet. But we’ve been thinking about it. We sure have a lot of fun. The thing with that group is that – the rule behind it is that it has to be absolutely, positively fun. It can never not be fun. The couple of times that we hinted at making a record, man, when you start to do that, it changes everything. So, we have to find a way to just disappear someplace and do it without telling anybody so that it doesn’t turn into work. You know, my job is really, really, really fun. I love it. But when I get with these guys, and we plug in our electric guitars and we go jam – I don’t ask anybody on my team about it, you know? Like my manager, I tell him, “You can come, but you better be drunk and you better leave me alone.”

OKOM:  Well, I’ll be having a glass of wine for you and wishing I could be there.

Todd: Hell yeah.

OKOM: And I hope you’re getting some use out of that “Keep Eugene Weird” T-shirt that I gave you last time I saw you.

Todd: Oh my God, I had it on yesterday. As a matter of fact, it was for a photo thing. So maybe you’ll be seeing it come back at you.

OKOM: No shit? That’s great! Alright, let’s get back to the CD, because I easily get sidetracked. Okay, you teamed up with Don Was.

Todd: Yeah.

OKOM: He’s got a hell of a history. You also have Jim Keltner – he’s one of my favorite drummers. Anything that he plays on, I just love what he does, he makes it sound so simple but so perfect. What he did on some of your tracks was just that – perfect.

Todd: Yeah, I love his style.

OKOM: Yeah, and you’ve got Greg Leisz. They’re all legends. How did that all come about? And how jazzed were you that it did all come about?

Todd: I was really excited and shocked. It started as I was working on the album and I was seeing that I had run out of ideas as a person who was basically producing myself with my friends. At least I thought so, and so did the rest of us. We were like, “You guys, we’re doing the same thing that we had already done.” So, I was starting to get into that Kristofferson that he had just made and taking this as maybe more as where my head was at. Actually, there was one track on there – “Loaded Again” – I went in and played that for my manager. And I told him that this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to sort of go in this direction and fuck around down here for a minute and that I think I should get somebody to produce me. He called me back later and he said Don Was wants to do it maybe. And I went, “You’re fucking joking around right?”

OKOM: Wow.

Todd: Yeah, he said, “No, I know a guy who knows him. He’s the one who made the Kristofferson record and I thought to call him. They’re on the road right now, and he said to go out there and get on the bus with them for a while, see what happens.” So, I rode around with the band – there was like 13 of them. Then me and Don went to a Brewers game and talked about records, and why you make them and what they’re for and all that. He asked me if I wanted him to help me. So we went right back to his hotel and he pulled out a whole lot of equipment. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the video on YouTube.

OKOM: Yeah, I saw the one where he’s sitting in the corner recording as you’re playing.

Todd: Yeah, that’s the one. We had just got back from the Brewers game. We had recorded like 16 songs that day. And my tour manager, Elvis, was filming those. That’s what that is. And then, he said he would do it. And everything that I was telling him that I wanted or was looking for, I never had that in my life, you know? I’d say that I wanted a sound like that Ry Cooder record or that JJ Cale record. And he’d say, “Oh, that’s Jim. You want to get Jim?” And I’d be like, well sure… you can do that? You know that guy? And then I’d said something about a Joni Mitchell thing or something about steel guitar. And he’d say, “I’ll get Greg Leisz.”

OKOM: He’s played with a ton of people too.

Todd: Oh, yeah. And he [Don] knows I’m a big fan of all [Rolling] Stones. I’m a huge fan of all of Don’s Stones period stuff. And it was so exciting for me to get to be around somebody who watches them work. And then he got the engineer that did the Bigger Bang record. And it was just the five of us, and we did it in like 2 1/2 days. Live, completely, there’s no overdubs on it.

OKOM: I was wondering about the recording of this record because it has a very raw but clean sound to it. It’s not overproduced or anything. So that is the case; you just laid it down live.

Todd: Yeah, we did it real spontaneous and loose and they just recorded it real good. I even told him that one of my favorite records was Tapestry by Carol King and he just said, “Yeah, we can go there.” [laughs] I just said, “Man you’re the best!” And now he is going to come play Bonnaroo with me. I really feel like I’ve made a friend, you know.

OKOM: A friend like that is rare.

Todd: He’s been really kind to me. That was probably the most fun I ever had playing music.

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