Interview with Mullum Festival Performer, Tim Snider

Mullum Music Festival, 15–18 Nov

When inspiration comes, Tim Snider is working

Mullum Music Festival | 15–18 Nov

When US Tim Snider takes the stage magic happens. Many know him as the man on the wild electric violin with Nahko and the Medicine People. His playing truly defies categorisation.

This time when he comes to Australia he will be playing solo. One man and his guitar, percussion, his violin and a loop pedal.

After three years on the road playing with Nahko, Tim is looking forward to playing his own gig.

‘I put a lot of my own music on hold to support him, so I am very excited to be playing my music. Music is always happening in my head wherever I am at. These songs I will be playing are what I am putting down for the EP. On the road I used to use sound check to get a little more time onstage to work material. You never know when creativity will hit you and you have to be available; I think it’s important as a creative person.’

For Snider, most of his music is about being in the flow.

‘It’s absolutely what keeps me going. It’s why I still do this thing; it’s for those moments. Music is at its best when it happens. There is a difference between writing and playing and performing. My favourite Picasso quote is “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working”. I think there are times when you work on music and nothing happens; it can feel like work and then there are those magic moments where real stuff happens. You have to try to re-create that live in front of an audience.’

Tim is classically trained and the violin is his first love, an instrument he is well aware has tremendous capacity to move people.

‘As an instrument it is the most similar to a human voice,’ says Tim, ‘so it’s relatable for people. The bow is like your breath; you can do anything a voice can do with the violin.

‘I grew up playing principal violin. I quit classical as a teenager but came back to it in my later teens. I was trying to be more creative. My last lesson was at 12 and when I found myself playing again I wanted to take a more vocal approach.’

Although growing up Tim admits that the violin can garner some unusual reactions

‘People would come up after my shows as a teenager and into my 20s and say they cried all the way through. I thought great; I guess I make people cry for a living. As I have gotten older I realise it’s healthy to cry. It’s cool.’

For artists like Tim the loop pedal has enabled him to bring all his musicality to the stage.

‘It’s great for an instrument like violin – I can compose a string section on the spot, which is what I love to do. The loop thing is just amazing and especially for me – I am dyslexic, I am not your typical linear play-by-the-line read-sheet-music person. I am more a conceptual person so when I hear something in my head I hear the parts at once, sometimes backwards, and the loop is the best way to communicate that.

‘I think a lot of musicians see things like that. Music notation was something that was contrived; music lived before people could read and write it.’

For Tim, his classical training has provided an amazing foundation that he now uses to improvise from. He believes that music, like life, is about trusting in the process and surrendering control.

‘Classical music is an amazing foundation, especially for an instrument as time consuming as the violin. To have strict training really helps you a lot but the downside is that it can stop you from being free. Most classical musicians can’t improvise; a lot of people are taught that way.

‘If your whole life you have been trained to read things and perform music exactly how it is and there is absolutely no room for error and perfection is your goal and someone says ok you are free, then it is terrifying! My first full-length solo album Let go, jump in the river was about my biggest life lesson of letting go of control. Music has helped me understand how to do this in life; now I know the best thing in my life is when I am not trying to control anything. Music is my filter, it’s how I see the world.’

Tim Snider is one of the featured performers at Mullum Music Festival this year. 15–18 Nov

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