Growing up near the Appalachian mountains in Southwest Virginia, singer-songwriter Beth Snapp was influenced by the gospel trio in her family, composed of her mother, aunt, and cousin, which only increased her desire to sing. Now, she has earned many accolades, one of which was being selected by The Bluebird Cafe and the Tennessee Department of Tourism as the 2020 Tennessee Songwriter’s Week Showcase Winner.
Snapp regularly performed at her church in high school, as well as at weddings and funerals, and after her graduate studies, she began to put her original compositions out into the world. Some bluegrass players then took her under their wing, and helped develop her sound, and in 2014 she released her debut album, That Girl in the Magazine, featuring Dave Eggar, Tim Stafford, Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, and bluegrass band Blue Highway.
Write Your Name Down then released in 2017, with the single “Grime and Grace” bringing her to semifinalist at the New Song Songwriting Competition. Soon she found herself opening for Jill Andrews, Iris Dement, Scott Miller, Dave Eggar, and more. 2018 then saw the freeing Don’t Apologize project, followed by the 2020 pop single, “Higher Love”.
Co-produced by Snapp, Eggar, and Phil Faconti, the sound of her newest single “Something To Prove” is an uplifting ray of light that welcomes a carefree outlook on life. Before the recording process at Classic Recording Studio in Bristol, Virginia, the song started from a question Eggar had posed to Snapp, asking who she wants to be on the other side of the pandemic.
Pondering on the thought, she shared, “So much had been stripped away — our social support systems, the musical community and a good portion of my income included — but at the same time, stripping away some of the distractions led me to see that I was also getting an opportunity for a re-do, and I really wanted to make the most of it”. She then found herself as an Occupational Therapist in the COVID units, realizing how short life is, and the importance of living to the fullest.
The song was written about how she wants to see herself grow, singing, “Oh, I don’t know what I should do, But I’m promising you, we won’t ever get out if we don’t move”. Capturing the process of change and the difficulties that come along with it through the acoustics and merry melody became her main focus for the breezy tune.
This September, listeners can find Snapp among over 100 artists performing along with Jason Isbell, Tanya Tucker, and many more at the 20th Anniversary of the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival.
We had the chance to discuss the single and much more with Snapp.
How did your family impact your love of music, and what genres did you grow up listening to?
I think it largely impacted me in that it was just always there! Mom, my aunt, and cousin sang in a gospel trio, so I remember being itty bitty and picking out harmonies. My paternal grandmother was a church pianist. I don’t think it was something I ever had to give thought about, because I was lucky to just be surrounded by it. I grew up listening to a little of everything. I remember having a Paula Abdul and Tina Turner CD (when CDs were just becoming a thing lol), but I also remember listening to Statler Brothers with my grandparents, and just about everything in between. I was never that picky about the genre, as long as it sounded good to me.
Who are some artists that have most prominently influenced your sound?
I was always drawn to the artists that successfully bent the norms of genre… Your Alison Krauss, Amos Lee, Norah Jones, John Mayer even. I liked folks that took more organic and earthy sounds of folk and Americana but gave them a groove or beat that was reminiscent of pop music, or even hit the heartstrings of a hip hop, or jazz, or blues moment.
When did you start composing your own music, and what increased that passion after college?
I started probably around 18…I’m not sure. My first songs that are in the world were written when I was 22 I think. After college, I just started going to these open mic nights, and I thought, “you know, if I had more guts, I’d sign up.” Eventually I just decided to put my money where my mouth was, and fully expected no one to even notice. But – a few people did, and I always wanted to do better than I did before, so I just kept coming back out of both passion and frustration.
Is your songwriting more structured or more sporadic, and do you largely pull inspiration from your own experiences?
I’m afraid especially as of late, it has been more sporadic. In other moments in life, I’ve made time for more structured writing, which is a great thing. This last year, I don’t know, we’re all just doing the best we can, so I’ve written when I had something to write about. Even if it’s just a moment or free paragraph or eventually a whole song. I try to capitalize on the moments when they come. I pull from my own experiences, but also others’ – stories I’ve heard, emotions we can all relate to… whatever hits the human condition feels important to talk about.
How did working as an Occupational Therapist in the COVID units change your outlook on life and give you a new perspective in songwriting?
I definitely got a first-hand look at the frailty of human life… and the temporality of living. I did develop a few tunes from those experiences, but honestly during the worst of it, I just couldn’t find words to describe the horror. I didn’t want to sing. I didn’t want to find some poetic way to talk about what we saw. There’s nothing poetic about it. Actually of the only songs I wrote about it was the fact that I just didn’t want to write or sing.
If you had to choose a favorite lyric from your latest single, “Something To Prove”, what might it be?
Hm. Well, the song goes through stages of working through the mess of the pandemic… first being burnt out and panicking, then trying to hide and ignore and forfeit living, and then emerging. So the very last line says, “And then on the other side, I’ll remember with pride I refused simply to survive.” And that’s my wish for us all… that we actually found a way to thrive amongst this huge interruption in life…that we found good things in it and from it. So maybe the sentiment of the last line is my favorite part.
What was it like working with producers Dave Eggar and Phil Faconti on the new single?
Phil and Dave are long-time friends who I would typically get to play with a few times a year. However, with their home-base being in NYC and being on different major tours (including Foreigner!), there was never time to create much together. The pandemic brought them down my way, and beyond getting to create some art together, I think I was more relieved and thankful to be safely spending time with good friends and doing something we loved together. I think the love shines through the track, too.
What’s the primary influence and inspiration behind this track?
Oh my gosh, I don’t think you’d believe me, but from ridiculous places. First, I wanted to make a banjolele track, because you hear that in a lot of roaring 20’s music, and we had entered the new, less roaring 20’s. I love how a lot of 20’s music just sounds like a sick party I want to go to. Then as we were layering the instrumentation, it went all over the place, my favorite being the cello solo, when I asked Dave if he could create a vibe like we were outside a little French café. In short, it was a mish mosh of ideas that somehow came out more cohesive than it should have!
What else might fans expect from Beth Snapp as we get further into the year?
We cut another song during the time of “Something To Prove” that I’m excited to share. I’ve written several other things I’m excited to start tinkering with. And soon, I’ll be heading in to the studio with Barry Bales (of Alison Krauss and Union Station) to work on a few Americana tunes. And, dare I say it, maybe a few live shows?