Criminal activities shaped Todd Snider’s Devil

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      When the Straight hooks up with alt-country singer-songwriter Todd Snider, he’s on a cellphone outside the Hyatt, the Hollywood hotel famous for hosting rowdy rock bands in the ’70s. “It’s not what it used to be,” he points out. “It’s for folksingers now.”

      Still, Snider enjoys hanging out on the Sunset Strip, as it brings back childhood TV memories; he says he keeps expecting the guys from CHiPs to pull up. However, the streets of America haven’t always been fun for him. “The Highland Street Incident”, a song off his most recent studio album, The Devil You Know, was inspired by an incident in which he was mugged in Memphis.

      “These guys followed me to my car and hit me on the head with a gun,” Snider recalls. “Then it took about 10 years for the song to come out. I tried to work on it for years, and it never rhymed or felt right until I started doing it from their point of view. I’m almost certain they were on crack and were wanting to get more crack, ’cause I have cousins that do crack, and I know what it smells like.”¦so I used my imagination to try to figure out what had been going on in their minds.”

      Criminal activities also prompted the CD’s title track, which was inspired by the sound of police helicopters roaming over Snider’s East Nashville neighbourhood, responding to break-ins. Then again, maybe the cops were just thirsty and searching for his fabled rooftop bar.

      “It’s cool ’cause it feels like a little tree house,” explains Snider. “I had a deck, and then I built a bar up there, and that way I don’t have to drive drunk. I should stop talking about it in interviews, though, ’cause sometimes people think that if they go to a singer’s house they can”¦ I mean, if you just want to have a photo or something real quick and go on about your day, I don’t think anybody cares, but if your parents don’t understand you and I do, keep it movin’.”

      “The Devil You Know” is a barnstormer reminiscent of America’s great underrated boogie act, the Georgia Satellites. “Oh, man, those guys are like heroes to me,” Snider raves. “And it’s funny you mentioned that, ’cause Dan Baird, who’s their singer, he just called me yesterday, and he’s makin’ a new album, and he wants me to help him with the words. So when I get home, I’m gonna try to do that.”

      Snider has a new album scheduled for release this summer that features guest appearances by Loretta Lynn and Kris Kristofferson. It’s all originals, except for a cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay”, which Snider performs on acoustic guitar.

      “It felt like it fit the concept of the record that we’re workin’ on,” he says, before expanding on the theme of the upcoming disc. “It’s like a dramedy about one man’s ambivalence to the end of an empire, with beats Fred Sanford could dance to. I’m thinkin’ about calling it Crank It, We’re Doomed.”

      Todd Snider plays Pat’s Pub next Thursday (February 7).