Perhaps you know someone who’s a living, breathing font of great tales about fiery crashes and celebrity encounters, someone with an ace storytelling sense and wicked comic timing—someone to whom everyone, including you, has exclaimed, “You should totally write a book.” Only problem is that this natural-born raconteur can’t seem to write all that priceless stuff in quite the same charming way. It’s a familiar story; few among us can do both.
Enter acclaimed country-folk singer-songwriter Todd Snider—Oregonian by birth, East Nashvillian by choice, a man of the road, of the van, of a different stage every night. With more than a dozen records and hundreds of thousands of miles under his belt, Snider has learned from and partied with some of the sharpest talents, biggest acts, and shrewdest performers in American music: John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, and a host of blue-chip industry professionals and behind-the-scenes heroes. During two decades of touring and songwriting—and, he admits, a robust tally of off-the-rails incidents—he’s become known for spinning the yarns of his well-lived life between songs at performances. Many of those stories are gathered into his new memoir, I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like, a sort of freewheeling musician’s Künstlerroman.
Snider is plainspoken and profane, possessed of a searing, self-deprecating wit and a gimlet eye that he turns on both the sometimes absurd, sometimes cruel grind of the music business and his own lesser moments. “I’d just made a record that was supposed to be all about Memphis,” he writes at one point, “but it sounded a lot more like somebody who might sound enough like Tom Petty to land a song on the radio.” When not poking fun at his misadventures, he draws from a seemingly endless trove of funny anecdotes. Chapter Seven—“Who Wears a Waistlet?”—is one of the book’s finest comic moments: a three-page account in which Snider goes to Los Angeles for a routine industry meeting—the kind of thing musicians attend “if we want to travel and drink free and be applauded for our pointless observations and chord progressions”—and ends up drinking at the same hotel bar at 10:30 a.m. as Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses. Slash is clad in nothing but the kind of “silky, revealing shorts that Richard Simmons wore so well,” sunglasses, and a formidable array of necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and, yes, “more than a dozen waistlets.”
But Snider has a serious agenda for these pages, too. This is his opportunity to pay homage to his heroes, to state for the record just how much these folks have helped him. The book reads almost like a colorful extended-track of acknowledgements, with Snider honoring his mentors’ talent and invaluable assistance where honor is due. Effusive praise can make for tedious prose, but Snider proves himself master of the task, sandwiching the serious, very gracious stuff between funny stories in which he’s more often than not the butt of the joke. Of Kris Kristofferson, he writes, “When you’re with him and he encourages you, it doesn’t inspire you to want to be known like him, it inspires you to want to be a freeborn human being, to sing what you want to sing about, to wear what you want to wear (even if he makes fun of what you wear), to be an individual, and to allow yourself your eccentricities without fear of repercussions.”
Snider is, by his own account, too stubborn to be anyone but himself, and it’s a trait that’s worked some real charm at least as many times as it has gotten him in a pickle. Over the years, he has honed that authenticity into a persona. Praising his tour manager, Elvis Hicks, he writes, “When I feel like leaving, I leave, and then my free-spirit buddy Elvis has to turn his free-spirit vibe off and go back and get the guitars. I sometimes really kick it into the trees, and then Elvis takes me to the hotel, and I go to my room to watch Piers Morgan, and he goes back and collects everything. I create some emotional mess under the guise of being true to myself, and Elvis goes back and cleans it up.”
Snider writes candidly, matter-of-factly, about getting fired from his record label, getting kicked off a plane, going to rehab twice, behaving obnoxiously toward his idols. If he sounds insufferable, he’s somehow not at all. He’s affably aware of who he is and who he owes, and a gratitude for his life is evident on every page. Well-known in his field, comfortable in the company of the greats, but just shy of the point where fame sours into daily burden, Snider knows he’s hit the sweet spot. He’s built a ramshackle but somehow airtight life out of doing what he loves.
Todd Snider’s fans will adore I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like, and the book is sure to add to their ranks. Newcomers, welcome to Snider’s world. You may forget you had to be anywhere else. Snider has a story or three, and you’re almost guaranteed to get broke out in belly laughs over one of them. Start a tab and sit the hell down.