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Within every gesture is contained one's entire life story. --Jacob Snider
Tracing Thoughts and Asking Questions
A few things made me take notice of this creative and gifted composer, pianist and storyteller, including the fact that he was named best new artist by legendary on-air talent Helen Leicht from the equally legendary NPR affiliate WXPN in my hometown of Philadelphia. Helen and I have known each other for a long time. Her ear for talent is impeccable. When Helen says "best" it means something. Add to that the fact that Snider, who is just finishing his years at Columbia University, has already shared the stage with The Civil Wars, Matisyahu, Bobby Long, Parachute, Livingston Taylor and Shawn Colvin and you get the picture'
In my initial conversation with Snider it seemed that I was speaking with an artist who was older and wiser than the average 22 year old music star I've interviewed over the years. It wasn't the sound of his voice but his introspection and self-awareness when describing his creative process, influences and basically what makes him tick.
I invited him to share a free download of one of his songs to our readers and he graciously provided "Shake it Off." You're going to like it. I'll share Jacob's thoughts about the song and the artists performing with him on the track a little later in the article, so get reading and get ready to like what you hear, too.
I mentioned Jacob is about to graduate from Columbia University. He also has his new album (www.jacobsnider.com) and a much anticipated tour to support the new releases. Like an elite athlete who is still in school I assume an elite musician has to find a balance between his life passion/ career and daily course study. For Snider, "They've always co-existed in a fluid way. I keep a journal always - it is a 'catch-all.' This year, notes for my classes may be on one page, and lyrics for a new song on the other. I should say that compositions mostly arise from moments when I am sitting at a piano, which is often."
A pianist since age five, I asked Jacob if he could recall the first music he remembers hearing in his home. He said he remembers "vividly'Joni Mitchell's 'The Circle Game' in the backseat of my mom's car, one summer day." Jacob uses his jazz background to create thoughtful, soul-driven songs that stand apart from the familiar. About his instrument of choice Snider simply says "There is nothing like a real piano." You can hear the symbiotic relationship Snider has with a piano on his tune called "Real Life". "It's a special song to me because it was recorded at Eric Bazilian's (founder of 80' multi-platinum band The Hooters, opened Live Aid from Philly's Veteran stadium to a global audience, Grammy nominated songwriter, brilliant solo artist and recording studio owner) on a 1905 Steinway baby grand. To play a beautiful piano like this is rare." Another aspect of Snider's approach to music is his interest in making his performances and recordings as real and live as possible. For "Real Life" Snider is proud that "it was performed and recorded all in one take - you can hear how live - and alive! -- it sounds, I think." I guarantee you will not find wall of multi-tracks, edited note by note in pro tools to perfection, or an Autotune used on a Jacob Snider track. "This is one important goal of my new recorded music: to capture something live, as it is happening. Almost everything was approached with this in mind." Snider went on to share that "music, or generally, art (I have been watching a lot of films) that feels most alive to me, makes me feel 'in good hands.'
On the subject of school and his music career, I gave Snider the chance to give a nod to educators that played a part in his growth as an artist. He identified "Carl Bradley, who taught me about passion and joy; Ben Waltzer, who taught me about touch and leaving space -- especially in micro-moments between sections -- to allow for a song to breathe." The appreciation and understanding of the impact of the silence between the notes is something that true composers, from Debussy to Snider to Miles Davis, use to artfully convey the personal feelings they hope their songs and music convey.
So what triggers Snyder to open that journal he carries with him and enter the thoughts that could make their way into the lyrics of a future song? "I am deeply interested in tracing thoughts, and asking questions about them".
When I meet an artist I wonder about the origins of that talent'is it genetic or environmental? For snider, "My whole family is musical. My dad, in my childhood, would sometimes just sit at the piano and play. I am sure this was a model for me." He went on to share "I've been thinking a lot--over the past two years, I think--about personal mannerisms: what we say and do, how we say and do them; the unique quality to our every gesture, however 'mundane'; and asking the questions: What do we inherit, and what do we create? So many of our mannerisms are birthed from imitation--of our parents or parent-types, sibling or sibling-types--and then moving through life, from any other person or thing that we choose worthy of giving our attention to--which becomes more preciously selective with age--so the mannerisms become more thoughtfully self-directed, as opposed to simply inherited from adoring imitation--which means: Within every gesture is contained one's entire life story." To the question I posed asking if he recalled a flashpoint which was the moment he knew his track in life had to be music. Snider answered "I believe I am existing within that 'flashpoint' as we speak." Didn't I say this 22 year old has wisdom of a much older soul?
What are some of the things that have inspired the songs he has written and created while in New York? "Sidewalks, people, the range of human experience." Where does a 22 year old in New York discover New Music? For Snider it's though his friends. The human element and personal interaction is a constant theme that I can tell inspires and motivates Snider to create. So what does a break out artist listen to? "These days: Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, Krystle Warren, Sufjan Stevens and Dirty Projectors who I recently saw at Carnegie Hall - they performed, in its entirety, Mount Wittenberg Orca, the record they did with Bj?rk. That has been in my ears recently."
Let's talk about the new album and upcoming tour. "This album is an amalgam (an albumalgam!) of songs that have been crafted and re-crafted over the past two years, in the states of Pennsylvania, California, and New York. In Philadelphia, PA: with Cliff Hillis at Eric Bazilian's Red Door Recording, and Tim Sonnefeld at MilkBoy the Studio. In Los Angeles, CA: with Andrew Williams, and in New York City: with Armand Hirsch at Hirsch Studios. One song, 'Cautious Riot / Vibrating Marble,' I recorded on my own, outside of Philadelphia, when the house was quiet. Recently I contacted the innovative composer Karl Berger -- known for his work with Ornette Coleman and Jeff Buckley, among many others -- we have been co-authoring string arrangements for my songs." Besides writing his own music Snider has collaborated on projects including recent work with songwriter and actress Kate Ferber. They met through their mutual friend Eric Bazilian. The video of their co-written song "Love Well" is available at www.jacobsnider.com
There's a definite buzz surrounding Jacob Snider's upcoming spring/summer tour for his new album including an April 23rd show at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage Two at 196 Allen St. in New York City. Snider shared some show details'"the string arrangements Karl Berger and I co-arranged together -- for my songs 'Real Life' and 'Foreground' -- will be performed by a string quartet, which will join the band onstage. I am also performing three special duets that night -- with Kate Ferber, Shaina Taub, and Kate Davis. They are all unique songwriters, respectively. Jacob Jeffries Band will follow. I am very excited about it -- and grateful to be co-constructing this new music with such intuitive, rare musicians."
My recommendation: try and catch a Jacob Snider show this spring or summer and listen to the words he weaves through his compositions, including "Real Life", "Cautious Riot/Vibrating Marble" and "Shake it Off", the free download you can access at the end of this article. It's always great to discover an artist during their well-deserved 'flashpoint.'
Right-click and select "Save target as..." (Courtesy of www.jacobsnider.com & AND Magazine)
--- "Shake It Off" was recorded at Milkboy the Studio in Philly -- co-produced with Tim Sonnefeld. Mike Brun and Kate Ferber are singing backing vocals. I am particularly fond of the crunchy three part harmony we make together in the chorus. They are beautiful people and musicians -- great friends and collaborators -- I feel so grateful to have their intuitive energy on this song. Armand Hirsch is featured on guitar. He is now currently on tour with Bobby McFerrin. A very special multi-instrumentalist...and producer. Armand and I met each other our first year at Columbia (we were on the same floor, a few doors down), and became close when we travelled to South by Southwest together, to play as a duo at the BMI/Billboard showcase."
Ted Kelly, Senior Music Editor: Ted Kelly, an internationally recognized digital media pioneer, brings his unique interview style, commentary and proven ear for new talent to AND Magazine. Ted Kelly’s over two decades at the forefront of music and media ranges from major market, national and international morning radio personality to executive management for some of the world’s largest media companies in New York, Washington DC and globally. As Program Director of the world's first and only global pop music channel,... (more...)