“I decided a few years ago that I was going to try to stop making up songs because I had come to the realization that there wasn’t anything to say.” Upon further contemplation, Todd Snider realized that was exactly why he should continue to write. “As soon as I realized there was no point in doing what I was doing,” he says, “I felt like I could finally start in earnest.”
Formulating mostly humorous tales around his own government and religious inquiries, the meaning of life, and more heartfelt remembrances of those who are no longer here, First Agnostic Church Of Hope and Wonder, out April 23, and Snider’s 19th studio album, unravels some of what has been pacing in Snider’s mind throughout the past year, including “The Get Together,” a more lighthearted track questioning the human existence, while taking a jab at a year in the life during the pandemic, singing I quit my job too… and then the world shut down.
“I had been chipping away at that for awhile and had the verse,” shares Snider of the track. “It was something I felt Alan Watts would have said, that notion that if you quit your job to go sit under a tree and become enlightened, the first thing enlightenment will tell you is ‘you need a job.’”
Pieced together and co-written with friends, Mark McClendon, Daryl Sanders, and Tom Cook added various verses and the chorus remotely to “The Get Together.”
“That was a true collaboration,” says Snider.
Pulled from the Sunday livestreams Snider has been broadcasting throughout the pandemic, the songs of First Agnostic reflect more stripped back carefree notions of “a preacher who’s full of shit, and when everyone starts to realize it he asks God to help and God does, proving once and for all that God is hilarious,” says Snider.
Moving past its more lighter fare, Snider shares sincere reminisces on “Handsome John,” a tribute to his friend and mentor John Prine and “Turn Me Loose (I’ll Never Be The Same),” an homage to his late friend Jerry Jeff Walker, while “Sail On, My Friend” is dedicated to the late Jeff Austin, founder of the bluegrass group Yonder Mountain String Band, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 45 in 2019.
Now, nearly 20 albums in, for Snider songs arrive differently each time, and in various pieces. “As I get older I’ll catch any song I can get, and in any way I can get it,” he says. “For awhile, I made up songs in a way I never had before. I had a deck of index cards with a lot of phrase that meant a lot to me and would throw them in there randomly.”
Revealing more on First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder, Snider says the first seven songs may come off as preachy, then by the eight, it’s about “passing the basket” during the service, and by the ninth song finds a guy asking God to save him.
“The older I get, the less I think words work,” jokes Snider. “Grooves speak volumes. All people dance for different reason. Young people dance to show they’re ready for it. Old people dance to show they’re over it. This year, I felt like dancing.”