Richard Snow Interview (4-2-05)
By Ronnie

A few years ago EAR CANDY first became aware of the pop brilliance of Richard Snow via a CD that he sent for review. While his first CD was great power-pop, his new CD, TUESDAY MUSIC is a superb effort which borders on being a masterpiece. I recently talked to Richard about the differences between CDs, his influences and his songwriting.

E.C.: First, give me a little background on your musical history. You used to play with a band, correct? And Richard Snow is not your real name is it?

Richard Snow: Between 1992-97 I was in a band called Enellen. A couple of the songs on my first album "RICHARD SNOW" are actually by that band (Girls On The Tube and Spiral). We recorded a lot, I was a studio engineer at the time, but we were a little lazy on the live performance side so nothing happened for us.

Richard Snow is not my real name, It's Richard Hattersley. In 1999 an agent I was working for said I should shorten my name. Snow was my wife's name so I just stole that.

E.C.: The production on TUESDAY MUSIC really blew me away, especially compared to your previous CD. I'm not knocking your other CD, it still has great songs - but you have made leaps and bounds on the new one. It sounds more polished and fully developed than your previous. What was different about recording TUESDAY MUSIC?

Richard Snow: Thank You. I guess it's because I had better recording gear this time around. The first one was recorded 99% on an old reel-to-reel 4 track. As I play almost all the instruments, it meant a lot of planning and bouncing. This time I had a 12 track digital machine to play with. I Still used the analogue 4 track for basic tracks because I like the sound and to do the backwards guitar on "You're My Number One", but when doing the vocals, it saved a lot of time.

E.C.: The whole CD just feels "confident". Were you more confident this go around?

Richard Snow: Certainly. The first album was like a compilation really. Those songs were recorded between 1994 and 2001. But other than my friends hearing them, I had no audience and no feedback. Between 1997 and 2000 I'd given up making music. But the internet has been great for me. Since I put my stuff on line, I've found people who like my kind of music. Then I put out the first CD and people like yourself gave it great reviews and people started buying it. That really gave me confidence in my music again. TUESDAY MUSIC" was made knowing that people like what I do and will listen.

E.C.: The harmonies seem more evolved this go around - did you make more of a conscious effort to make these more elaborate? Or was it just a natural progression?

Richard Snow: I suppose that comes from having more tracks to overdub on. I've used more major 7th chords and diminished chords in the vocals too.

E.C.: You did all the vocal work yourself, correct? I hear the obvious Brian Wilson influences, but also hear some Badfinger on tunes like "Days Of Simplicity". What influences you vocal/harmony wise?

Richard Snow: Yep, all the vocals are me. I did have a battered copy of "Come and Get It" when I was 4 years old so there could well be some subconscious Badfinger influence! On "Day's Of Simplicity" I was trying for a Crosby, Stills and Nash kind of feel. I'm influenced by anyone who does good harmonies. Brian Wilson mostly but also The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, The Four Seasons, The Who and The Beatles. More recently I like what Mike Mills does with REM. Then there is Daniel Wylie. He used to be the leader of Cosmic Rough Riders but is now solo, he's like a Scottish Brian Wilson! "Silent Girlfriend" was definitely influenced by his work. Del Shannon was an influence for the lead vocal on "Hard To Be Happy"; I feel that he is very under rated.

Then there is Elvis Costello. Lots of people say I sound like him. Strangely until about 2 years ago I only owned 2 Elvis Costello albums. But I've got in to him because of people saying I sound like him. When I was very young, I did listen to his "New Amsterdam" single a lot though. Maybe the influence came through that record, I love that song.

E.C.: I also love the way your songs shift from guitar-based songs to piano-based ones. It gives a great diversity to your CD. What instrument do you mainly use to write songs - piano or guitar?

Richard Snow: I'm a guitar player first so that's what I use the most. But I do write on piano too. "And Then" and "When You Smile" are piano songs. On the first album, "Coming Soon" and "The Sweetest" are piano songs. I do like to have different sounding songs next to each other. That's what I like about The Beatles White Album, it's really varied.

E.C.: Two songs on this CD still send chills down my spine when I hear them: "You're My Number 1" (really dig that backwards guitar work) and "Slip On Through" (The Dennis Wilson song). "Number 1" has all the earmarks to me of a "hit" - how important is having a "hit" to you? Or is it more important to just have your music (and talent) recognized?

Richard Snow: The biggest thrill for me is having somebody tell me that they really like the music. So I guess it's the recognition that's more important to me. Having said that, who wouldn't love to have a "hit", I'd love that of course, but Id hate to have a hit with something I didn't like. I wouldn't start making dance music for the sake of a hit.

E.C.: The liner notes on the CD said that it was recorded "mostly at home on Tuesdays". Is that where the title of the CD came from? Any special meaning?

Richard Snow: I have 2 young children. Tuesday is my day off from looking after them, so that's when most of the album was recorded.

E.C.: I imagine that you have a "regular" job? Or do you pursue music full-time? What are your aspirations when it comes to music?

Richard Snow: My regular job is also music. I play cover songs in bars and restaurants at the weekends. During the week, I guess I'm a househusband, rock n roller?!! My aspirations are to be able to make a living from my own music, I think that's what all musicians want. Of course, If Warner Brothers offered a 5-album deal, I wouldn't say no! :-) I'd quite like to try producing someone else other than myself too.

E.C.: It is amazing the production sounds that you get on several songs - a truly authentic "Pet Sounds" production style. Was this intentional? Are you aware that some musicians would "kill" to be able to get this kind of sound, ha ha?

Richard Snow: Thanks very much. Yes it is intentional. Phil Spector and Brian Wilson are BIG influences. I just love that 60's sound, I was brought up with it. I've been listening to that sort of music since I was 3 years old, I have a massive collection of 60's 45s so I've studied that sound a LOT and soaked it up.

E.C.: I love the mini-suite of "Lonesome Cowboy"! Were you inspired by Brian Wilson's "Americana" for this song?

Richard Snow: Not Initially. I just had that little guitar riff and I thought, this sounds like a country song. So I made it into a tongue in cheek country rock song about a cowboy who can't pull birds, haha! But then, the Brian Wilson influence came in with the different sections. Normally when I do a sectional song I record the bits separate and splice it together, but Lonesome Cowboy was recorded as one piece. I did most of the drumming on the album but a chap called Justin Monkton plays the drums on that song brilliantly.

E.C.: Did you always intend for the mostly-instrumental (except for some harmony vocals) opening song, "And Then" to be an instrumental? Or did it ever have words?

Richard Snow: I did intend for it to have lyrics at first but I liked it as an instrumental when I'd finished the track so I didn't actually write any lyrics for it. That's one of the older tracks on the album. I recorded the bulk of it in 1996. I held it back from the first album because I wanted real string players on it. Finally I realised without that 5-album deal from Warners, I wouldn't be able to afford it ! :-) So to finish it off for TUESDAY MUSIC I sang the string parts instead, and added the drums. I guess it's a bit like when The Who had to sing "Cello Cello" on "A Quick One" because they couldn't afford a cellist, haha!

E.C.: How did you come to pick the Dennis Wilson song, "Slip On Through" for the CD? (By the way, I LOVE your vocals on the chorus, especially the high part!). Did you pick the song before the TWO STEPS FORWARD project? Speaking of which, how did you come to participate in that project?

Richard Snow: Dan Addington, who runs the Dennis Wilson Dreamer web site, was going to make a tribute compilation of other artists singing Denny's songs. I volunteered and said I'd do "Slip On Through". I'd recorded and mixed it 2 days later and sent him the master along with a vocals only mix. He loved the vocal only mix so much, he suggested I tag a bit of it onto the start, so that was his idea. I did that, but for some reason the project didn't happen. I was so pleased with it though, I decided I'd include it on the next album.

Then last year, Jerry Boyd contacted me. I think he'd already heard "Slip On Through" as I'd put it on my website and invited people on Brian Wilson's "Blueboard" to take a listen. He told me his idea, which sounded great, and I heard his excellent "Life Of Brian" discs. So I sent Jerry a master of "Slip" and he chose "Real" from my first album to represent my original stuff.

E.C.: Did you get to see Brian Wilson on the Smile tour?

Richard Snow: Yeh, it was brilliant. I think my jaw was on the floor all the way through. The album is fantastic too. I didn't think they'd pull of the record that well, but it's a knockout.

E.C.: You throw out a curve on the song "Expectations", which almost starts like early punk (when I say early punk, I mean the melodic stuff like the Buzzcocks). Some of your influences are obvious: Brian Wilson, the Byrds, etc. What are some of your other influences?

Richard Snow: I've recently got more into Elvis Costello. Maybe that's where the Punk comes from. But I also really like 2-tone music , The Specials and The Beat, which has a punky edge to it, and Blondie. Out side of the influences already mentioned I like The Smiths, Tom Petty, The Four Seasons, Cosmic Rough Riders, The Monkees, The Yardbirds, Buddy Holly, The Animals, The Searchers, The Shadows, The Kinks, Beck, The Flaming Lips, Ben Folds ,The Coral, (Syd era) Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Burt Bacharach, Joe Meek, Sonny Bono Manfred Mann, Motown, ELO , The Stones...

E.C.: You mentioned the power of the internet in music promotion now. How does live shows fit into the picture? Will we ever see a Richard Snow tour where you play songs from your albums?

Richard Snow: I'd love to do that. I've done a few gigs where I've played my own stuff along with some covers. Then it's just me and an acoustic guitar, so it's real bare bones, stripped down versions of the songs. I suppose that's okay but ideally I'd like a band with me so we could reproduce the vocal harmonies on the albums. I'd like at least a drummer and a bass player who both sing. So if any one from the UK wants to be in my band drop me a line!!

E.C.: Finally, how long do we have to wait for another album?

Richard Snow: I've already got some songs brewing, I reckon I should have one ready late next year.