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The Sound

Being Todd Snider

4/15/2015

It can be easy to take Todd Snider the wrong way. Last month, the 48-year-old songwriter had a Kansas City Star reporter convinced that he was close to shelving his entire catalog. The month before, he had a writer in Cleveland worrying for Snider’s personal safety. It comes from the dichotomy inherent in Being Todd Snider: There’s the troubadour on stage who sings songs like “Tillamook County Jail” and “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues,” and then there is the mind behind it all. The two can be difficult to reconcile, if you are not ready for them.

Todd Snider plays at Wooly's on Saturday, April 18 at 9 p.m.

Todd Snider plays at Wooly’s on Saturday, April 18 at 9 p.m.

“I think sometimes, there’s this — this is going to sound so fucking stupid — you know how they say there’s that Yin and Yang thing? Well, for a long time now I’ve been working on allowing the Yin in my life,” Snider said in a phone interview. “So sometimes, when I answer a question, it might sound like a negative answer. It gets into the idea of duality. I love the idea of failing. I love the idea of being a loser and dying and being alone and misunderstood. Shit, without all that stuff, I wouldn’t know how to feel good.”

That duality is something Snider fights with a lot in his music, life, and his own mind. Basically, everything.

“I’ve tried, but I can’t be counted on,” he said. “For anything.”

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We are talking, at this point, about his penchant for leaving shows abruptly. Looking at the habit dispassionately, it can be easy to write off as the actions of a stereotypical, tortured artiste who refuses to sacrifice his vision. Snider wishes it was that simple.

“I wish I was more — that’s always been hard to talk about,” he admitted. “The first thing in my act that I ever had, before I even had a song, was the deal where I’ll leave abruptly. I can’t even say ‘If I’m not happy,’ because it’s not about that. It started in grade school. It was why I got boxed in as crazy.

“I just did one,” he continued, talking about a show he walked out of early. “I do it even more in real life. If you think it hurts me in shows, you should see how often I leave the bank. When people ask me about it, I’m embarrassed. It went away for about six months once, when I took lithium. But I didn’t write. I had no fun. I did nothing. So I said ‘fuck it,’ I’m a natural-born train wreck.”

And that is why he had learned to embrace the Yin.

“I’m one of the best (train wrecks),” he said. “By a mile. I’ve got the Baby Shambles Trophy at the house. But when I watch the TV and see what the point of all this is supposed to be, I don’t mind being the turd in the punch bowl. There’s the idea, ‘Don’t you take anything seriously?’ Fuck no. Why should I?”

Snider knows how all of this sounds to the outside observer. He knows that people read the interviews and some of them think that it is all a case of the guy who wrote “Beer Run” trying a little too hard to show you how unique and “out there” he is. But he also knows that he can’t help that, anymore than he can stop walking out of the bank.

“As I do more and more interviews and get older, people keep coming out and saying ‘You’ve changed so much,’ ” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve changed, or just gotten to do more interviews.” CV

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