Songwriter reflects on return to Cheatham Street

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Todd Snider often corners his liveliest stories in the margins. Makes sense, then, that “Peace, Love and Anarchy” — his early 2007 outtakes collection — is, in fact, essential to Snider’s catalog. The former San Marcos resident sends the album screaming toward sunrise with the riotous “Cheatham Street Warehouse.” He’s scheduled to return to the venerable venue tonight.

Brian T. Atkinson FOR AMERICAN-STATESMANTodd Snider takes his musical influences from many Texas songwriters.

Songwriters reunion
Todd Snider will join James McMurtry, Bruce Robison and others for the ‘Songwriters Class of ’87 Reunion’ at Cheatham Street Warehouse, 119 Cheatham St. in San Marcos.
The show begins at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. Advance tickets are $40. 353-3777.

XL: How important were Cheatham Street Warehouse and (owner) Kent Finlay in your development as a songwriter? Snider: Cheatham was the first place to hire me, and Kent was the first person to tell me I was good enough at songwriting to go for a living at it. Kent played me my first Prine, Kristofferson, Bobby Bare and Dylan records.How is playing there different today than it was 20 years ago?

It’s a nice reminder of how far I haven’t come, but also there’s more really pretty girls there now. Back in those days almost everybody wore a beret and played blues on a Stratocaster. This was pre-Robert Earl (Keen) boom, and way before Pat Green koozies.

Do you ever wish you still lived around here (Snider lives in Nashville these days)?

Sometimes I do. I miss Oregon, too. I’ve lived a lot of places and hope to live in more. But I still cherish Austin and San Marcos and also look back on those towns with enormous gratitude.

Other than Jerry Jeff (Walker) and Townes (Van Zandt), which Texas songwriters influenced you the most? Kris (Kristofferson), Guy (Clark), Robert Earl (Keen), Willis Alan Ramsay, James McMurtry, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Billy Joe (Shaver), Delbert (McClinton), (Fabulous) T-birds, Al Barlow, Aaron Allan and, of course, Kent (Finlay). Speaking of Texas artists, what do you think of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s cover of your “I Believe You”? It’s their new single. I love (them). I was honored. I talk to Cody (Canada) a lot, and I like the lyrics he writes. We went to different schools together.Do you have a favorite of those who have covered your songs?

Having Jerry Jeff Walker do “Alright Guy” was my favorite cut because I had dreamed of hearing him sing a song of mine since I was 18.

Politics and religion have been particularly present in your past couple of albums. What do you hope to accomplish? I love to tour and arrange songs. I know that every time I’m honest about how I feel about something in a way that rhymes enough to be a song, I get to arrange it and record it and go play it live. That’s my motivation. It only really works when you open your heart, which is sometimes fun and sometimes not.When writing a song, how important to you is maintaining a sense of humor — both when dealing with serious topics and more lighthearted material?

I try to maintain a sense of humor always, but it’s harder to do when it’s important. So, I hope to laugh, but don’t expect to. My motto in life is “crank it, we’re doomed.” I think that may be the name of my new album, too.

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