With the release of Tace on A-F Records, Jon Snodgrass has collected his favorite feelings from the last few years. He’s getting by in a pandemic with a whole lot of help from his family. Cumulatively, this record adds family to good friends, and the sum is Armchair Martian, Drag the River, and Snodgrass magic. Each track has its own vibe, and Snodgrass explains why he gathered together such an eclectic mixture.
“I was going to make these seven-inches with four different labels, put them up for a year, each year, and let them go down, which the first one did,” he says. “And then, in 2020, I would put them all up in the digital world forever. It was just going to be kind of a special thing for a year, for each release, and for the people that bought the vinyl.”
It’s classic Snodgrass. An avid baseball fan, he interrupts every thought he has to talk about that passion. He’s a Colorado Rockies fan who doesn’t dig the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Snodgrass Baseball Club is represented on the record, too. While talking about Tace and music, Snodgrass is giving Rockies play-by-play.
“Go Baseball…” the album’s second to last track, is authenticated by Snodgrass’ every fiber. He zigs from Tace and zags to a recount of his television screen.
“Hang on a second,” he says. “We got bases loaded. Oh, and Dave Roberts seems to think something’s going to happen.” He’s referring to the Dodgers’ manager.
Traveling, wandering, and storytelling—the addictive joy of Jon Snodgrass’ folk rock point-of-view will stick to your heart. His thoughtful persona is on-record and floats around your brain like a night at the Surfside 7 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Grab a beer, and sing along to your stereo. He’s keen to treat everyone kind, and “Backstage” explains that ethos pretty well.
“The ‘Backstage’ song is about how not everyone knows your name, who you are,” he says. Snodgrass is an excellent seeker of symbiosis between venues, fans, and musicians. “It’s pretty self-explanatory, but you know, when you go to a gig, and there’s somebody there, and they don’t really treat the staff very well? Not most people, but I’ve seen some people do it, act like they’re famous and a big deal. I’m like, you know, not everyone that works at the club actually listens to your band. We’re all working this thing, you know? We’re all employees of this place tonight. Let’s be cool. No one’s any better than the other person, you know?”
With Tace, you can sing along to Joey Cape of Lagwagon on the opening track “Renaissance Man.” “Don’t Break Her Heart” features Stephen Egerton of Descendents, and “BoyzIIMen” has John Moreland. “The Sequel” features Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair. Stacey Dee of Bad Cop / Bad Cop is on “Bad Newlands.”
His kids are all over the record, and “Don’t Break Her Heart” is a song Snodgrass worked particularly hard on. It’s a loose plan to escape to Mexico, if needed. As a father, he’s protective enough of his daughter to set a future suitor on fire is they treat her poorly.
“That’s a song that I really worked on for a long time,” Snodgrass says. “I mean, the melody and stuff, you know, that was quick. And the setting someone on fire part. But, I worked on the lyrics for a while. It’s kinda long, though. And it got longer when me and Stephen [Egerton] did it, I wrote that kind of intro and outro part to it. It’s like a ‘The Who with David Bowie’ kind of thing. It’s cool. But made a long song longer. I think I only think that because I’ve been writing all these short, 30-second-to-one-minute jingles lately.”
Tace is the scene-setter and closing shot. He’s landed Major Tom safely on earth and inspires the imagination, but Snodgrass’ major songwriting ability isn’t science fiction. It’s real and relatable.
As the Wuffsman croons, you can sense a One Week Record with Joey Cape in California, to a proper country punk ditty from Colorado. Tace is a journey. Fade out and wait for the next Snodgrass live show or album to show up via smash cut.
A smash cut is the best way to explain Jon Snodgrass; he’s thinking music, and then he thinks baseball. He talks about his family, and then he talks about his friends. The thread is deep passion: he loves his life, and he uses his experience to paint musical images. It may look and sound easy, but he works hard on his craft. Back to “Don’t Break Her Heart.”
“I didn’t just crank that one out,” Snodgrass says. “I mean, I put some thought into it. Lots of times — [on] a lot of old songs, I mean, there’ll be a little bit of vagueness. I really tried to get the point across on that one. Touring and playing with Cory Branan has definitely helped me with that.”
Snodgrass dead stops to call the baseball game.
“Oh, shit, what just happened? A hit by pitch. So, we just walked in the red-face dude, their third basemen. I just had a phone notification; my phone just went blink, blink, which means somebody scored, or there’s a pitching change. And I was pretty positive someone just scored; he just stuck his arm out. Hit by pitch. Kiki Hernandez. Oh, that’s bogus.”
He concludes that “Don’t Break Her Heart” is his David Bowie moment. “That’s just like, it’s the getaway music, but it’s slow. And I just kind of picture it hovering, like a helicopter splitting.”
Snodgrass’ sense of humor permeates his every word.
“That’s outro music,” he says. “That’s the sound of me flying to Mexico. I’ll have to leave the country. If something happens, you know.” Snodgrass is working on details to safely play music from the album with friends. Follow him on social media for specifics. The details include a safe staging at a practice space in Los Angeles the weekend of October 9, New England in November, and December in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Photo by Joshua Maranhas