Snider trying to break the songwriting habit

Songwriter Todd Snider is one of those musicians whose work habits are similar to the life of a junkie.

His songwriting is a love-hate relationship, a monkey on his back that’s often more than he’s bargained for and constantly trying to quit. Snider coexists with his output of work, which is hundreds of songs that he can’t remember and more than a dozen records with more on the way.

Last month he released “Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables,” and last week he released a tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker, produced in Nashville, Tenn., by Don Was and featuring loads of guests, including Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman.

Snider will return to the Henry Strater Theatre on Saturday night. Opening the show will be Eric Brace and Pete Cooper.

Snider remains charming and funny, even when he’s criticizing his own work ethic.

“I make up more songs than I probably should. I am one of them people that sort of compulsively makes up songs, and I’m actually trying to quit. I think I might have shook it; I’d like to stop,” Snider said.

“I’ve got so many, and I don’t know them all, so I’d like to spend some time learning some of the older ones,” he said. “It seems like there’s always a new record out. I told everyone on our team we’re going to put out these two and go on an eight-year tour.”

Colorado remains a favorite place for Snider to play. He often plays with The Yonder Mountain String Band but he’s not necessarily a jam-band guy, favoring funny tales and between-song banter to musical improvisation.

“Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables” is a departure from his last several records, called “dark” by some critics, although he doesn’t see it that way.

“I think it’s kind of a delightful record, or pleasant,” he said. “Some of my friends say it sounds dark. I think there are songs in minor keys – that may be a part of it. I mostly just try to open my little heart up, and then whatever is in there I try not to be a wimp about letting out.”

Snider’s songwriting can be autobiographical, drunken stories from his youth or sharp criticisms of those in public office. And though some of his songs may be political and he gets lumped into the category of “protest singer,” he doesn’t see himself as a protest musician. He sees himself as a dude on the road honestly expressing himself, and he doesn’t care if you like it or not.

“I’m a storyteller with a guitar or a stoner folk singer,” he said. “The thing I like is to have that gig where every night is a Saturday and every day is a Sunday and I get to be part of that Saturday night all the time and sing songs. I like that part, and it seems like the best way to keep that job is to be honest and share your opinion.”

“But if the best way to keep that job is to be dishonest and not share my opinion, I would probably do that,” Snider said. “I like touring, and that’s the reason I share my opinions, not because I think they’re smart or because people need to know them. It’s because they rhyme and I know three chords.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.