It’s been a period of considerable loss for Todd Snider. The veteran singer-songwriter has lost bandmates, mentors and close friends during the past three years.
“I can’t believe it,” Snider said while calling from Bend, Oregon. “It’s been horrible lately. First off, the guys who gave me such guidance over recent years are gone. John Prine, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver all passed away recently. It’s like the mob. They’re all gone just like that. Those guys were very parental in my life, John Prine in particular. I remember getting feedback from John Prine after I recorded my third album. I gave him 14 songs and I asked what he thought and he said he liked one of the songs. I loved John. I would always share what I was working on with those guys and now I can’t.”
Snider, 55, who combines folk, rock, country, blues and funk, fronts the jam band the Hard Working Americans, who lost guitarist Neal Casal to suicide in 2019. “We were really tight and that was really hard,” Snider said. “I miss Neal and I miss Jeff Austin from the Yonder Mountain String Band. He was part of the Hard Working Americans early on. It’s been a very tough time for this troubadour.”
Snider has written a song he has yet to record but will perform it when he plays Sunday at the Bing Crosby Theater. Snider isn’t crazy about the title of the tune, “You Got to Live a Little.”
“The song is much better than what it’s called,” Snider said. However, perhaps the track is inspired by Snider’s shrinking circle of friends and his desire to continue on in the only profession he’s ever known.
“I do like living life,” Snider said. “I can’t see why anyone would want to opt out of this game. I don’t ever want to take myself out of it. I enjoy it too much. I love being a musician for many reasons. I get to stay in a state of suspended adolescence. I wanted to get into music because you don’t have to work on your mental health. I don’t have to deal with the stress of everyday life and I get to create songs.”
It helps that Snider, who was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in 2021, has been successful. A number of singer-songwriters have covered Snider’s material, such as Corb Lund and Tom Jones.
Snider is a terrific storyteller in song and on the stage. Expect Snider to engage the crowd at the Bing and just riff between songs.
“That’s something that started when I played an open mic for the first time way back when,” Snider said. “I got really nervous and I just started rambling. I talked to the guy hosting and he said, ‘Just keep doing it.’ I saw Jerry Jeff Walker do it and then I saw Ramblin’ Jack Elliott do it and he practically invented the art form of rambling onstage. I was 22 at the time and I studied Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He’s been talking like he does at shows since the ’50s.”
Elliott, who is 91, is one of the lone mentors Snider has left. “I was just talking with Jack a couple of weeks ago,” Snider said. “I was talking about the tradition of what we do. Writing songs and communicating with the audience is sacred. I’m glad Jack is still around. I miss John. I wish he could hear ‘You Got to Live a Little.’ I would love to know what he would say.”