Todd Snider tends to portray himself as a lovable loser, a guy who bumbles along through life without a plan but who somehow manages, for better or worse, to get from point A to point B. Usually.
His latest release, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, has more songs full of pointed social commentary than ever—although he says he didn't plan it that way.
"I don't even know what my intention was," he claims in a phone interview. "I didn't do anything on purpose. It was happenstance."
Trying to get linear answers out of the guy who's perfected stream-of-consciousness lyric writing can be tricky. When asked whom he's referencing in "The Very Last Time," a song clearly conveying the hurt of a busted relationship, he hems and haws.
"Oh, man, I don't know if I could tell you that," he stammers. "It's about more than one person, it's about a specific group of people, but it's embarrassing. I didn't think anyone was gonna ask me that. It's funny, I've never had a question I didn't want to answer. It's the first time I've ever said, 'I kinda don't know if I wanna answer that.'"
With his typical stoner demeanor very much in evidence, Snider adds, "It's so funny. I'm just listening to the record now, too. I might have said too much."
On Agnostic Hymns, Snider doesn't couch his criticisms in quite as much humor as his previous output. Instead, he lets his irritation with the state of our nation's affairs—mainly the economy and the increasing divide between the haves and have-nots—permeate his lyrics. Songs such as "New York Banker," "In the Beginning," "In Between Jobs" and "Precious Little Moments" deal directly with the hardships induced by economic disparity.
And yet, refreshingly, the East Nashville resident doesn't preach or pontificate; he doesn't even throw in the word "occupy," much less write about the movement.
"I didn't deliberately leave them out or anything like that, but I don't feel a part of anything," he said. "I don't want to be part of nothin'."
Snider's next project is an album of Jerry Jeff Walker songs he's releasing in April, just in time for Walker's 75th birthday. Maybe after that he'll do an album dedicated to two more of his heroes, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Their relationship—and Richards' recently published memoir—inspired the new album's "Brenda."
Snider says he even still has his "Keith Richards for President" T-shirt. Maybe someone will ask to borrow it for a Todd Snider birthday tribute one of these days. There's no question he deserves one.
Todd Snider plays Sunday, March 25, at the Mystic Theatre. 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8pm. $26. 707.765.2121.