Todd Snider: A Ghost in the Catalogue

Article by Sean Neumann

If Snider’s addictions have nearly killed him, the place where he stands now, that stage in Grand Rapids, gives him life. And being hooked on the art of words and music, an art that helps make his pain vanish and helps others forget their own pain—that kind of addiction’s all right, if not always easy. 

When Snider talks to me about that quest song, one he’s shaped into at least ten versions and tried to cowrite with other top songwriters, including Kix Brooks and the late Susanna Clark, he says it means something different to him now. 

“It’s about what am I going to do when I don’t sing anymore,” he says, looking down at a Sharpie pen he’s twisting back and forth in his hands. “I get why Willie [Nelson] plays every night. I didn’t used to, but now I do. I don’t want to finish my songs. I don’t want my show to get over. I’m not going to freak out about dying, but I enjoy being here.”

Up on the stage, Snider sings, “They said maybe you’ve been chasing a song too long/ It’s turned into a song about a song you’re working on/ I mean it’s gone, man, come on, let it go/ But you know, giving up a dream is just like making one come true/ It’s easy to sit around talking about, it’s harder to go out and do.”

The 52-year-old performer slows down on the guitar, then strums his final chords. The theater lights fade. Showered in the adoration of a standing ovation, Snider sets down his guitar, slides his hands into his pockets, nods “thanks,” and walks off the stage. 

Sean Neumann is a Chicago-based journalist and musician who spends much of the year touring with his bands. His writing on politics, sports, and television has appeared in Rolling Stone, ESPN, VICE, and more. Follow him on Twitter @neumannthehuman

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