When Rocks Off caught up with Todd Snider recently, the poster child for East Nashville's bohemian songwriter underground was driving across Nashville to get a shot in his lower spine for recurring arthritis.
"Yeah, I have to get a shot before every tour now," he says. "I just can't sit that long without getting some terrific pain in my lower back."
Snider then informed us that he quit drinking about a year ago. Well, in spite of his sobriety, the former Houston resident -- he ran away from home after his parents moved here -- hasn't lost his funny bone.
"When I was drinking, I'd crank up Black Sabbath and tell everybody in the room why they were the greatest band of all time, why they could destroy Led Zeppelin," says Snider. "I'd become like my dad and his rants about how great [former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger] Staubach was. I was an all-day whiskey drinker for 30 years, so there was a lot of that."
Snider, who comes to Tomball's intimate Main Street Crossing Monday night with a solo show, has his own label now, which has just released the new album by the Coal Men.
"It's weird, but people gave me money and wanted me to start a label," he laughs. "So I hired a few people and we're putting out some records. I didn't just make this stuff up.
"I've never done any quote/unquote 'music business,'" Snider explains. "I've never had these hardcore business types around me plotting a career, telling me what to sing, what to wear, or anything. So now I have a small label and I'm surrounded by this cool team of stoners and, hard as it may be to believe, we're all having a lot of fun with it."
But, for the most part, Snider is fine with delegating most of the responsibility for operating the label.
"Since I got old-ish, I realized I don't want to sit at a desk or study spreadsheets or make business decisions, I want to write songs and tour," he says. "I'm perfectly happy being on the road and making a decent living. I think that is what I was put here for."
Snider confesses that what he likes to do at night even when he's not on the road is "play guitars and sing."
"When it gets nighttime, I just want to grab my guitar and do some playing," he says. "That's why I'm in two other bands right now, the Hard Working Americans and the Eastside Bulldogs (also sometimes known as Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs). In the Americans, I'm like the Ronnie van Zant singer, I don't play at all. But I like to play, so in Bulldog I play electric guitar too."
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Both bands are stellar. Hard Working Americans has an all-star lineup: Neal Casals (Chris Robinson Brotherhood); Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi); Dave Schools (Widespread Panic); and Duane Trucks. They will drop an album in January, most likely on Snider's label. Snider describes them as a Southern rock band.
"These guys are all so great, and all I do is sing, so it's easier for me to brag on them than if I was playing, you know," he shrugs.
But the Bulldogs aren't exactly lacking in talent either, with country vixen Elizabeth Cook front and center sharing vocals with Snider and Bobby Bare Jr. whanging away on his guitar. The band has already released a single as part of a benefit and an album is in the works.
For his current tour, Snider is traveling solo.
"I'm really in to the Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Woody Guthrie kind of thing right now," he explains. "I'll have a guitar, mandolin, and banjo and I'll tell some stories, read some poems, sing some songs, just mix it all up and hope folks enjoy it," he explains. "There's a lot less structure involved in a show like this than when I'm out with a band. I can just let it all hang out there and be me."
Todd Snider performs at Main Street Crossing, 111 W. Main in Tomball on Monday, October 28.
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