March 27, 2015
Band's drummer talks hand care with The Beat
March 17, 2015
A few things about our interview with neil Diamond via-a-vis talking about songs.
We felt it was appropriate to spend a good deal of time talking about his new record, Melody Road, and his ongoing inspirations for writing new songs. But he acknowledged that he's got a host of songs that 1) he knows people want to hear and 2) that he still wants to play.
He specifically mentioned, just off the top of his head, I Am I Said, Holly Holy and Sweet Caroline. (If your favorite isn't among those three, don't worry, he's still probably going to play it tomorrow night.)
Of course, through the quirks of popular culture, the third of those is one that remains engrained, and which most people associate with the singer. You read a little about that song's story in our print piece - and if you didn't, go read it here, now, and then come back here for more.
Here's the full story both of the back story and how it came to be part of the culture, in Diamond's words:
It kind of grew. First of all, it grew from the song itself. The song itself has some very, very, I don’t know if you’d call it attractive or seductive things in it and, despite its simplicity, it’s the kind of thing that’s almost undeniable. Also, I believe, there was something very mystical about that song.
It came about and was written in a very odd way. It came out of a necessity of the moment; it came out at a point in my career when I desperately needed to have a song become a big, pop hit. I had changed labels and, in making that change, I wasn’t able to continue that string of huge hits that I had when I was with my first label, on Bang. There was an album or a year and a half or two years, when it was a little scary because I thought my career was over, then, up popped “Sweet Caroline”.
I was down recording in Memphis, it was the night before our final session there, and I needed something wonderful, and it came to me. It just fell into my lap, this little, simple song. It was wonderful. I thought it was wonderful, then, when I wrote it down. I got into the studio and we laid down a track in American Recording in Memphis, and I still thought it was wonderful. The producer, Tom Catalano, took the track off to New York and had some horns put on it, and they’re memorable. I still thought it was wonderful.
The record company put it out and worked it and it went to top, I think, maybe it was a number one record and maybe it was platinum record; it didn’t matter. It inserted itself into the consciousness, again. I was back, my career was back, and I had only to follow it and following it came “Holly Holy” and “Brother Love” and “Cracklin Rosie” and “Song Sung Blue” and a bunch of the new generation of hits. I owe it to that song.
I think that song was handed to me by some being or, I don’t want to sound a little screwy, but some spiritual thing came and said, do this and make this chord change here, even though you’ve never, ever played that chord before and you don’t even know what that chord is called, make that chord change and that’s the chord change on the section “with the hands touching hands”. It was an A6 chord, I remember writing it, I remember playing it. It’s stuck in my consciousness and it changed my professional life.
You have to love a song like that and then, to present it to an audience, and they liked it a lot, and each time I came through that town, they liked it more and, before you know it, they were singing it. I never asked them to sing it, they did it all by themselves, and they were adding their own melody lines and their own counter lines. It took on its own life and it changed my life.
Nowadays, it’s like a whole thing and everybody knows it and everybody knows the parts. Well, guess what, that came from the audience and I taught them a lot of that stuff when I realized they were doing it, but that’s a collaboration between me and my audience and I love it for that reason.
Why it happened, I don’t know, but I know it happened and, by the way, the song was released first 40 years ago and it’s still around. It’s become a good luck song for a lot of people and I know it was a good luck song for me; I kind of knew it from the beginning. There you go, I didn’t plan it, that’s just the way it unfolded and I was there to nurture it because it took a little piece of my heart and gave me courage when I first wrote it. That’s one of the most important songs I’ve ever written.
It’s not an artsy fartsy song; it’s a very simple, direct, straight ahead kind of song. It’s been sung by presidents of the United States, it’s sung in China at cricket games, it’s the unofficial closing song of Oktoberfest in Germany, and guess what, I had nothing to do with any of that.
March 13, 2015
So in truth, while we greatly enjoyed our chat with burnout singer-songwriter Todd Snider, and while we continue to believe he’s not only a crazy talented songwriter but probably a pretty cool hang…
We were a little afraid of the idea of doing a phone interview with him. Snider is, well, blasé (putting it politely) as regards the trappings of the industry parts of the music industry. Snider likes to make up songs and sing them for people. The other stuff? He’d probably prefer to watch baseball on TV.
Then there’s this video, which speaks for itself, and in NSFW fasghion, we might add.
But, with help from ThisWeek Staff Writer Nate Ellis, a longtime Snider fan, we undertook what ended up being a cool, if disjointed and sometimes confusing phoner. Confusing in the subject matter, yes, but more confusing in the “is he trolling me or is he just really whack or what?” sort of confusing.
So we were actually pretty pleased with the narrative in our print piece (you read that, right?), so we’re not going to attempt another clean narrative for the blog. Herein, we’ll attempt to just share some of what Snider had to say and, when appropriate, some of our takeaway. Some of these anecdotes may not be genuine, but we didn’t ask and he didn’t offer.
- Snider is recently divorced. He moved from his longtime home in East Nashville, where he was a member of that community’s thriving arty culture, to a home in the burbs. “I needed a place to stay,” he said. Anyway, he talked a bit about watching the geese land on the pond out back of the house.
- He waxed plaintively about the itinerant nature of the musician. We asked him if he thought he and opener Kevin Gordon would play stuff together during the show. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” he started, then, “I’m a huge fan and we’re good friends, but we don’t get to see each other much. There’s this circle of people that make up songs and drive around and we’ve only hung out like 10 times in 20 years. I’ve loved Drive-By Truckers for 20 years but I never got to hang out with Mike Coody before. But I consider him an old friend.”
- More on making your way in the music biz. “The reward… you’re sitting in a (crappy) room eating pizza and throwing (expletive) celery, if that’s not what you want, you’re doing the wrong thing.”
- “I had this Andy Kaufman thing once when I was living in Memphis, I would book myself at this place in Jackson, Tenn., with the intent of seeing how bad it would get. It got fun. I’d see how long it would take to get fired or punched. It’s as fun as having a connection. When it’s feral, it’s rockin’.”
- “The thing I do now is I make signs. I’ve made like four signs. The first one was a sign for my sign company, but it was my first one, so it’s the worst one. I made a sign that said ‘Warning: This sign might not mean anything.’ I’m learning all about color and letter sizes.”
- Of his memoir, written with fellow Nashville musician and journalist Peter Cooper: “Having a book makes me sound like an author, which I love. The book felt less like art, but when I read it back I was touched. I come off as a better person that I am. Of course, I was offered money to do it.”
- After a brief discussion of how working with his latest band, the Hard working Americans, is different than his solo work, he talked about a larger mission. “I decided to save the (expletive) world. It can’t be done, but then there’s no decent reason to come up with a song. I want to be massive, you know? Why Not? Posters in the dorm room. Go for glory. So Bono-y, you know? He’s got to be close (to saving the world). He should be the manager for our band. I’ll make signs for pre-show protests, to protest nothing and celebrate everything. Use the natural laws of absurdity to put them in their rightful place.” When we (in the spirit of things) offered that, since he was protesting nothing, it wouldn’t matter if the signs were any good, which was good for him, he thought that was a great idea and was willing to give us five percent of his business if things every worked out.
- He said he might do another book, and he would continue to investigate a couple side musical projects, but he doubted he would do another “folk” album. “I do want to rest on my laurels.”
- He did offer that he has been fortunate to turn his hobby and passion into a job, although he admitted that “the stage kinda got under me rather than I got up on the stage.”
- He referenced dying on a couple of occasions, and we were never quite sure if it was all philosophical, or he was anticipating something more imminent. We’re guessing it was sadness from knowing his friend and mentor Kent Findlay was, when we spoke to him, battling multiple myeloma for a second time. Findlay passed away March 2.
- Product endorsement with The Gaslight Anthem
- Neil Diamond's lucky song (bah bah baaahhh)
- Snider's stories