Richard Snow – I’m On My Way

Richard Snow is a singer songwriter born and brought up in Nottingham in England. He used to be a member in the band Enellen, and a couple of other bands, in the 1990’s. He now makes music by himself and has made two solo albums so far. On these albums Richard plays guitars, keyboards, clarinet, violin, harmonica and all kinds of percussion.

Having also been working in a studio in the 1990’s he has been able to experiment with tracking his voice and layering it. His harmonies and gift for melodies makes his latest album Tuesday Music a very special and great CD. Certainly one of my favourites from 2005 and it has that timeless quality that makes you know that this is an album you will return to many times in the future.

In the press release he says his influences are The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, The Byrds, The Beatles, REM. Simon and Garfunkel, The Four Seasons, The Who, Cosmic Rough Riders, The Smiths, Del Shannon, ELO, The Monkees, Tom Petty, Sonny Bono. You really can’t go wrong with these influences can you? Well, of course you can but Richard is blessed with a really good voice and, as said, his gift for melodies/harmonies. How he twists them and keeping your attention, never knowing what to expect next. Snow is taking his influences making them into a style of his own.

There are also baroque pop influences, like in the opening And Then (think Pet Sounds meets Mark Wirtz Teenage Opera) and You’re My Number 1. I could go on mentioning all the songs but it is just really the more “rock” Expectations I think is a bit misplaced and predictable on the album. It’s not a bad song (the part from 1.30 is just beautiful!) but it interrupts the general impression of the album in my opinion. The album finishes of beautifully with a nice cover of Dennis Wilson’s Slip On Through from Beach Boys underrated Sunflower album.

OK, enough said. Just [click here] and his Myspace site will open from which you can listen to some songs included on Tuesday Music. As your soundtrack while reading the following interview with Richard!

Tell us about your musical background.

– I started playing guitar when I was about 8. Played in a few bands at school etc. My background is more in recording though. I got a portastudio when I was 15 and when I left college I worked in a recording studio as an engineer for about 3 years.

At what point did you begin to compose songs?

– Me and my best friend wrote one when we were 6 called Bees Like Honey. I tried many times after that, but didn’t really start doing anything worthwhile till I was about 18.

Do you remember the first time you heard your music on the radio, and your feelings at that time?

– Yep, I was 21. A real buzz, butterflies in the stomach and all that. The thing I liked most was the way it sounded. You know how radio compresses the entire output; it makes everything sound a bit more punchy.

Can you describe your method of composing songs?

– Sometimes I get kick started by playing around on the guitar. Sometimes a keyboard. These days I find I’m mostly getting ideas when I’m driving or in the shower. I very rarely demo the idea, just log it in my head. Lyrics come last, I used to do them after I’d cut the track even, but on this last album I’d got them written before except for a few alterations.

Can you envisage how the songs would sound beforehand or do you work out the arrangements while recording?

– Yes, I nearly always have all aspects of the recording planned in my head before recording. Even down to where instruments will be placed in the stereo picture.

This probably comes from recording on 4 track so much where you have to know what you want before you start or you run out of space on the tape. I still use my old reel to reel 4 track sometimes.

What part of the creative process do you enjoy the most, coming up with a song or listening to the final result?

– I enjoy the recording the most I think. Playing all the music. Drumming I find hard as I’m not a great drummer, but I love to play bass. Most of all I like doing the vocal harmonies. Layering them up, one part at a time is great fun. Listening to the final result is great too, but I’m not keen on listening to them when other people are present. For some reason, that’s when I start to hear all the bits I don’t like.

Does songwriting come easier to you now?

– Compared to when I first started yes. As I get older I find the music easier and lyrics harder. When you’re young your lyrics are more honest and naive. I think I’m better at writing tunes now though.

Do you ever recycle your song writing ideas?

– Definitely. In that I’ll write 1/2 a song and maybe even record it, then scrap it but steal a bit of it for a new song. A good example is the song Expectations. I had a verse, chorus, 2nd verse chorus, but nothing else.

Then I remembered I’d recorded 2 unusual short pieces of music back in 1995/96 that might fit in bizarrely but nicely. So I stuck them in to finish it off. So the main part of Expectations was cut in 2005 but some of it is from 10 years ago. Also When You Smile is an old song that I rewrote the lyrics to.

Who would you say influenced your songwriting and sound?

– The ones obvious to a listener are Brian Wilson and The Byrds. But Phil Spector is just as strong an influence as Brian for production. Then there’s REM, The Beatles, The Who, Del Shannon, The Four Seasons, The Monkees, Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty, The Smiths. I’m mostly a 60’s music nut, that’s what resonates with me the most. And yet this week I’ve mostly been listening to New Order.

Where does the title “Tuesday Music” originate from? And Richard Snow isn’t your real name is it?

– I was going to call it Music For Squares but I found out it had been done. Tuesday Music comes from the fact that most of it was recorded on Tuesday’s. Reason being, I look after my 2 young sons all week except for Tuesday when they go to visit their Gran.

My name is Richard but my second name isn’t Snow. The story is, my other job is playing covers in bars etc, and the agent asked my name which is Richard Hattersley. He said that was too long and to think of something with one syllable.

So I just said “How about Snow” because it’s my wife’s maiden name. For some reason I used that name on my first album. In retrospect I wish I’d invented an imaginary band name, so that when I play live we can be that band rather than Richard Snow and some Musicians. I don’t suppose it matters that much.

How long did it take to record the album?

– Well the recording dates are all very spread out. I guess if you add them all together it took a couple of months. However the bulk of And Then was recorded in 1995. Ditto the track Tuesday Music. The track for When You Smile was recorded around 1997. Slip On Though was done in 2002. The rest (the bulk) of the album was recorded between 2003 and 2005.

Why did you decide to record most of it by yourself?

– Lots of reasons. Firstly I like to play all the instruments, I enjoy it. Secondly, I know exactly what I want, if I get some one else to play it, I have to communicate my wishes to them. Thirdly, just because it’s easier to organise.

Getting other people to play on it means fitting in times with each other’s schedule. When it’s just me I can get the urge to record and go straight to the studio without making phone calls. Having said all that, I would have like to have used Justin on the drums a bit more. He plays on Lonesome Cowboy and plays drums 100 times better than me.

What do you remember most about the recording of the album?

– Staying up till 3.30 to mix and compile the final master. Also almost damaging the multi track tape for Hard To Be Happy I did some of that on reel to reel 4 track. The machine is 30 years old and when I ran the tape back, one spool stopped but the other didn’t. 1/4 inch tape went everywhere and tangled around the capstan. Luckily the damaged section was just before the count in! My attempts at playing the violin were quite memorable too. Not for good reasons!

How would you compare “Tuesday Music” to your debut?

– I think its better alround. I think the songs are stronger, the production is better and also it has more of a cohesive feel. Even though there are lots of different styles on it. The first album sounds more like a compilation which is what it was really.

You’ve got some great supportive reviews and obtained proper distribution for the album in the U.K. Are you satisfied with the reception so far?

– I’m very happy with the reviews. I’ve not seen a bad one for it so far. That’s really heart warming. However I’m a little disappointed with the sales so far. With me putting it out on my own label, the budget for promotion is obviously tiny. Despite quite a lot of ad’s in mags here in the UK, It hasn’t sold greatly in the UK. That saddens me a bit.

Strangely, 90% of sales have been in the USA. It’s also damn near impossible to get this kind of music on the radio anymore.

Do you prefer being in a studio to playing live?

I prefer being in the studio. That’s where the creativity happens and you have total control over the delivered sound. Having said that I like playing live with other musicians. As I harmonise with myself on the album, it’s a real buzz to do the songs live on stage with other people. However I did a couple of gigs totally solo recently playing songs from the album and i found that pretty stressful.

You play out a lot in pubs and restaurants. Is this your regular job?

– Yes. I don’t make enough from my own music to just do that.

Is the repertoire just cover songs then or do you also play some own compositions?

– It depends on the place. Some crowds you can see will be responsive to something new that they don’t know. The majority though just want to hear hits that they have been spoonfed by the radio. I prefer to keep my cover gigs and original material gigs separate.

There is new CD-single out now – “Expectations”? Is this just for promotion, radio? Any exclusive song(s) included on the single?

– It’s mainly a promotional single, it’s not for sale anyway. But I have made up 100 copies to give away to people who are on or join my mailing list on the website and requested a copy. I’ve got about 20 left if any one wants a copy.

Expectations is the same version that is on the album Tuesday Music. The other 3 tracks are only on that single.There is a vocals only mix of Slip On Through, an alternate take of Lonesome Cowboy and a song called Over You. The last one is a Del Shannon song. I recorded it for a Del tribute album that was happening but it seems to have fizzled out.

Are these high expectations something you can feel now after the praise for the album? Have you already started writing and recording for a new album?

– Hopefully something will kick start Tuesday Music into being more than a critical success. Maybe I could get a Mike Oldfield style break and someone will use And Then for a big horror movie!

I’ve written a lot of songs and 1/2 songs for the next album. I’ve haven’t recorded anything yet though.

When can we expect a new album?

– I reckon it will be around the end of 2006/early 2007

Finally, top ten albums of all time?!!

– This is always hard to do, I usually limit myself to one per artist to avoid it being full of Beatles albums!

Not sure what order I’d put them in but today I’ll go for:

Revolver – THE BEATLES
Pet Sounds – THE BEACH BOYS
Notorious Byrd Brothers – THE BYRDS
Genuine Imitation Life Gazette – THE FOUR SEASONS
Odessey And Oracle – THE ZOMBIES
Monster – REM
Strangeways Here We Come – THE SMITHS
Ram – PAUL & LINDA McCARTNEY
Sell Out – THE WHO
Spike – ELVIS COSTELLO

Of course, it will be different next week!

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