Angel Snow - Snow falls in the right place at the right time
Angel Snow doesn’t have the pushy gene. The singer-songwriter from Chickamauga, Georgia may have been fascinated by the idea of being onstage from the age of fourteen and having fetched up in Nashville after falling for a guy who lived in the country music capital, she may even have done as every other performer there does and carried her latest CD with her at all times in case some world shattering meeting should take place.
When the woman who employed Snow as a child-minder, Nancy, introduced her to her friend Alison, however, it was Nancy who had to bring up Snow’s musical leanings and suggest that Alison check out her songs. Her CD and phone number handed over, Snow went off to one of the other jobs she’d taken on to pay the rent while working on the margins of Nashville’s music scene, never thinking that she’d hear from Alison again, let alone two hours later.
And that’s how Snow came to have three songs on Alison Krauss’ Paper Airplane, the bluegrass superstar’s first album since her mega-selling collaboration with Robert Plant, Raising Sand.
“I didn’t think that life could have that sort of surprise in store for me,” says Snow, who plays her first Scottish concerts this week. “The guy I went to live with in Nashville, well, that didn’t work out but I did get a lot of songs out of that relationship because I was in love with being in love, I suppose, and all these lyrics kept pouring out of me. And moving there when I did meant that for once, I was in the right place at the right time.”
Snow has never had a career plan. She grew up in Chickamauga, a small town with a population of some 3500, half an hour south of Chattanooga, with two older brothers who were music nuts.
“One was into bands like Metallica, the Cure and Anthrax, heavier rock things, and the other played classical guitar and listened to singer-songwriters, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, that kind of thing” she says. “So I had quite an eclectic musical upbringing with them plus I liked Brian Eno, who is still my biggest influence.”
She wrote her first song at the age of nine and after a couple of guitar lessons that “didn’t go well” Snow taught herself to play a few chords from a book and entered her high school talent show, which she won. She went on to acting school in Chattanooga and then take a psychology degree but first she had to escape Chickamauga’s confinements.
“I moved to Wyoming straight after high school because I craved wide open spaces after living in a small town,” she says. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, so I just followed my instincts. I worked at Yellowstone National Park for a summer and then Yosemite the following year. The psychology degree was for my parents’ benefit, just so I’d have something to fall back on, and then some friends invited me to sleep on their sofa in Philadelphia and that sounded like fun.”
From Philly, where she started singing in local dives, she could go into New York at the weekends and play open mics and coffee houses. By now she knew that she wanted to be a musician but if that meant working as child minder, a supply teacher, in the prison service or with mentally ill people to earn a living while she wrote songs and played them for buttons, then that was fine.
“I really wasn’t looking for fame,” she says. “In fact, when I met Alison Krauss I was preparing to move to South Korea to teach English and play my music there.”
Krauss, a good judge of lyrics, heard something in Snow’s songs and thought she’d be a good writing partner for her brother, Viktor. She was right and the two co-wrote Lie Awake, which Krauss covered and which became the title track of Snow’s second album, on their first writing session. A clutch of other songs followed and were recorded, and Snow has since gone on to co-write with Darrell Scott, best known in these parts for his partnership with Tim O’Brien and his contributions to Transatlantic Sessions.
“I loved writing with Viktor and Darrell but I’m working in a different style now,” says Snow. “I’ve always loved ambient music and my next record is going to have more of an Eno influence. Onstage, I’ll still be a singer with a guitar because that’s what I do. I write personal songs about things we all might go through but we don’t talk about because we’re frightened or ashamed. I think that’s what music’s for really – to heal people – and if I can get people talking about problems instead of bottling them up, then I’m doing something worthwhile.”
From The Herald, March 4, 2015.