Stream of Country

Absurdist folk-rocker Todd Snider is easier to follow once you don’t care where he takes you

After 19 years on the road and almost as many albums filled with humorous and heartfelt material, alt-country singer-songwriter Todd Snider resembles a Texas troubadour along the lines of his hero and mentor Jerry Jeff Walker. In conversation, Snider offers the same meandering, beer-soaked and bong water-stained perspective that he performs for his audiences. The 46-year-old East Nashville, Tennessee, veteran has carved out a niche as an authentic storytelling voice, a folk guitarist writing about society’s lovable knuckleheads, fuckups and outliers. He is one of the stars of the catchall genre known as Americana (an amalgam of country, rock ’n’ roll, folk and the pioneer spirit). Let’s just say Snider is way left of mainstream country, with satirical songs such as “Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males.” This Friday, he’s bringing his brand of hippie honky-tonk to the Orleans, playing a show for hockey fans after the Las Vegas Wranglers game. … Because, why not?

You have a hockey game as your opening act. Any weirdness in sharing a gig with athletes?

For years, we opened for hockey games, but then our last album went and sold seven billion. [Editor’s Note: Snider’s 2012 release, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables, is No. 80 on the Billboard folk chart.] And man, that’s just fucking everybody, so now the script is flipped, which can be awkward. But we’re all old friends. It’s not really a competitive thing, and for the most part everybody on the tour stays pretty heavily medicated. So nobody really feels, or does, or seems to notice anything.

What does the term Americana mean to you?

As a listener, I love both Americana and jam shit. I see myself as a hippie folk singer who sometimes brings a band that’ll shroom out and rock balls, which is what we will quite likely do … on ice, of course.

Among your peers, who is your favorite musician? And what are some of your influences that might surprise people?

I wouldn’t dare to call [the Black Crowes’ singer] Chris Robinson my peer, but technically we earn our keep the same way. He is my favorite songwriter. I think he is the truest artist of my generation. I like Ozzy, and metal in general. Also rap, classical, ’40s-era stuff, Krishna Das.

Many artists experience self-doubt. Was there a moment when you were at a career crossroads, not sure if you were going to make it? What got you through it?

Nope. …well, drugs. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

Does being such a liberal guy in the country-music business ever rub people the wrong way?

Toby Keith once attacked me, and then molested me. It’s still hard to talk about. I kinda liked it.

Any resolutions for 2013?

Nah, but I am resolving to up my vices by at least two.

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