When you grow up in a tiny town like Chickamauga, Georgia, if you happen to be a singer-songwriter, you don't decide to move to Nashville just for kicks. There's a dream that comes with that, and you know going in, you'll be one of countless others who are converging in the same place at the same time, reaching for the same thing.
Nashville wasn't the first place Angel Snow headed to give it a go. First, she moved to California. She spent some time in Philadelphia. But, ultimately, it was Nashville where the sparks started to fly. Like just about everyone else in town, she had been doing the singer-songwriter thing long enough that she was starting to wonder if she shouldn't just give it all up and go teach English in Korea. Then her aunt - with whom she was very close - died. She was grieving and confused, looking for some hint as to what was next, when she happened to meet Alison Krauss. For a singer-songwriter struggling her way through the tide of Nashville artists, meeting Krauss - who recommended Snow team up with Krauss' brother Viktor - was a game-changer.
Snow and Viktor Krauss sat down to see what could come of a collaboration and, by the end of one day, they had written a song which would wind up on Alison's next Grammy-winning album, Paper Airplane. In fact, the collaboration with Viktor was so successful, he signed on to produce her self-titled sophomore album (now earning considerable praise throughout the blogosphere).
Now, touring in support of that disc for the rest of 2012, Snow was kind enough to take a few moments to chat with me about how it feels when years of work and dreams start to come together:
The first time you sat down to write with Viktor, were you nervous?
I was kind of at the point where I didn't really care what was going to happen. The first time I sat down with Viktor, it felt right. I felt like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I didn't feel nervous. I felt like this was the first step that I was supposed to take.
We finished the song ("Lie Awake") in one day. He sent the song to Alison that day and she loved it. She played it for Union Station and said "Everybody loves this song. This is going on our next record." And I was like - wait a second. I went from this really confusing, difficult place to – oh wow, life really does have some things to offer here. When you’re in Nashville and you’re in that ocean of songwriters, you’re writing songs, going out every night and playing shows, recording, doing the thing, and wondering – is this what I’m supposed to be doing?
I would imagine, being in that big pool of songwriters who are trying to accomplish the same thing at the same time, getting a track on an Alison Krauss album must feel like being crowned Miss America.
Yeah, I guess so. That’s really what it felt like…it was definitely a nice musician moment for me. I knew that music is what I wanted to do for sure. I always knew this is what I wanted to do, but I was like – howam I going to do this? I’m not the most self-promoting type. I’m much more introverted, but I know I love to sing and write and play songs for people. If I can relate to people on a personal level, then I know I’m doing my job…this is what I want to do.
I had to meet Alison to really get my stuff together as a writer. I never moved to Nashville to be a songwriter, to write for somebody else. That was completely [surprising]. Somebody else wants to sing my songs. But who else other than Alison Krauss do you want to sing your songs? That’s how I felt about it. That's when I realized this is what I need to do.
After working on it for a while, now your record’s out. Are you over it? Are you on to the next batch of songs, or are you still excited about playing these songs live? Some people work on a record so long, once it’s released they’re ready to move on...
Actually, yes, I’m ready for the next batch of songs. But, I love these songs. They’re very close to my heart. I’m definitely ready. I already have five songs for the next record – an EP that we need to start recording...
I’m really trying to enjoy this thing. I want to ride the wave. I’m trying to just take it day by day. I’m on tour right now and I’m trying to take this one day at a time too, see how people react to the songs and get the music out there. We’ll see what comes next.
In a way, you’re a songwriter with a guitar, but there’s also all this atmospheric stuff around the song that’s really interesting. How do you dream that stuff up? Or do you just leave it to the other instrumentalists and let them follow their bliss?
I’ve always loved the atmospheric sound. I love Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel’s records. I loved that record So when I was in middle school. What he added to make the music really full is what I wanted to hear in music.
[Multi-instrumentalist and atmospheric master] Jason Goforth and I met when I first moved to Nashville and have been playing together ever since. Viktor, as an instrumentalist, that’s something he felt really passionate about – that sound…I love that stuff. I feel like It definitely sets a mood and takes you on a journey. It definitely does for me. I wanted it to have a personality, a feeling...when you hear a song, you always remember it.
I was surprised in your bio you list among your influences Trent Reznor, which surprised me. But now hearing you talk about atmospheric stuff, it kind of makes sense.
Yeah, I love Trent Reznor. My brother introduced me to him. As a young girl, I remember him saying “You wanna listen to this song?” I was seven or eight maybe. He played the Doors and that metal band Anthrax and the Cure – the Cure is great – but he was into this punk, alternative thing. My other brother was into stuff like Sarah McLachlan. You know what I’m saying? I got to just pick and choose [what to listen to]. I had quite the variety of music going on around me.
You wrote your first song when you were nine. Do you still remember it?
Yeah, I was in third grade and it was called “Spring.” My teacher wanted us to write a poem, so I did, then I turned it into a song that afternoon. I was really proud of myself. I couldn't believe it. I remember feeling this distinct feeling that I think I could actually do this. This is something I’m going to be good at. That was a defining moment.
Angel Snow's self-titled album is out now. She's on tour through the end of the year. Check her website for more info.