In early January 2006, adorned in poor-fitting, borrowed business casual, Dylan Sneed slumped in a cubicle of a cold office building in downtown Dallas, TX. Over his short but painful tenure in the machine of corporate America this Austin, TX, native learned many lessons, but one prevailed above the rest: this was not where he was supposed to spend the rest of his life.
6 years and tens of thousands of miles later, Dylan has become a full-fledged road warrior, a charismatic live show producer, and recognized as an "A-list tunesmith" (Darryl Smyers, Dallas Observer). After escaping his corporate confines he began booking national tours the grassroots way, making friends and fans one at a time across the country. When asked why he's made the choices he has, Sneed prefers to respond in the voice of Paulo Coelho: "I was just following my personal legend."
NO WORSE FOR THE WEAR
After finding his audience on the road, Sneed began to find his voice in the studio. The Dallas Observer praised his 2007 EP No Worse For The Wear as “one of the best local releases of the year.” Steven Collins of Austin-based roots rock band Deadman produced the 5-song collection, which Tom Urquhart of the Fort Worth Weekly dubbed "epic."
While not on the road, Sneed remained hard at work in Dallas, his home base through 2008. At his weekly Alphabet Soup concert series he performed a different 10-song set every Sunday. The tunes he chose pertained to an audience-suggested word, which began with a randomly selected letter. For example, for the letter "H," the audience chose the word "Hasselhoff." Sneed performed songs such as "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman and "Vigilante Man" by Woody Guthrie (both alluding to Knight Rider). He even performed a solo acoustic version of the "Knight Rider Theme." Learning all these songs while continuing to play his own original music at shows around Texas was quite an undertaking. After several weeks of burning the candle at both ends, Dylan decided to change the format of Alphabet Soup by making it a monthly series and by incorporating several of his Dallas area songwriter friends. Together Sneed and his friends made it through 17 letters, learning and performing nearly 160 songs in 6 months. Dylan has continued the series in his new hometown of Hartsville, SC.
BRIAN VANDER ARK / KRISTY KRUGER
2008 found Dylan entering his first foray into touring sideman work. He traveled with Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe) and Texas songwriter Kristy Kruger, playing electric and acoustic guitar and banjo. Each tour he also played his own music, which exposed him to new fans across the country.
The end of 2008 brought about the biggest change in Sneed's career so far. On the last day of August he packed his few remaining possessions in his car and set off on his last tour as a Dallas resident. He called the tour Texodus, and kicked it off with a synonymous event that featured 9 of his closest musical compatriots from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The long, emotional night was a great success, and was followed by three weeks of shows along the way to Hartsville, SC, the small southern town that has become Dylan's new home base.
HOME SWEET HOME
After touring across the country for close to six years, Dylan has played a wide variety of venues, ranging from day care centers, to bars, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, and even living rooms. It's the last venue on this list that has piqued his interest the most. So much so that Dylan and fellow Texan songwriter David Ramirez booked two weeks of solid house concerts. The duo called their tour Home Sweet Home, which spanned from Texas to Florida to Michigan and back. The songwriters' main mission was to spread the word of the house concert format, teaching aspiring hosts how to organize these intimate nights of music and community. Both artists continue to play house concerts across the country today.
TEXODUS - THE ALBUM
In mid-April 2010 Dylan met five friends in a 125-year-old farmhouse in the low country of South Carolina to record his latest album, Texodus. The five-day session was a flurry of activity, as the group worked day and night tracking 12 songs. And best of all, it was all paid for before they even pushed "record."
During the previous two months Dylan raised money to fund the recording project through the website Kickstarter.com. His fans came through, pledging 120% of the budget.
According to The Dallas Observer, "Sneed has created an autobiographical song cycle that joyfully reeks of miles spent on the road, looking for answers. And he's even found a few." Kevin Oliver of the SC Free Times has compared Sneed's work to Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, John Gorka, and Pierce Pettis. He also adds, "The more these songs insinuate themselves into the ears of this lifelong South Carolinian, the more I’m glad that Sneed chose to make that trek from Texas; here’s hoping the next disc celebrates him staying put."
MUSIC SEEN TOUR
Dallas-based photographer Sara Kerens joined Dylan in November of 2010 for the Music Seen tour, where the two artists attempted to document a typical independent singer-songwriter tour, warts and all. The result was a vivid companion blog full of descriptive photos and honest and introspective writing.
Try new things. These three words sum up the heart of Dylan's production company, Artsville. It all began when Doc Dailey, a songwriter friend of Dylan needed help booking a show in central South Carolina. After failed attempts to contact traditional music venues in the Columbia area, Doc sought help from Dylan. The result was the first Artsville House Concert. 6 shows later, the series has already booked artists from across the country, and even two European songwriters. Artsville continues to grow, with events like Artsville House Concerts, The Lakeside Music Room, Artsville Open Mic, and more.
GO DUTCH WITH DYLAN
In late August of 2011, almost three years to the day that Dylan landed in Hartsville, he performed a special concert called Go Dutch With Dylan in celebration of his first tour of the Netherlands. The sold-out show was as emotional or more as the original Texodus concert back in Dallas. Once again, Dylan's long time friend and drummer Jeff Rogers flew in from New York. Dylan was backed by five band members in all, including Nathan Fox-Helser, the fiddle player from the Texodus sessions.
The Netherlands tour was a huge success. Though not lengthy, it gave Dylan a chance to play in five different Dutch cities, including a fantastic finale at the much-heralded Paradiso club in Amsterdam. Dylan enjoyed good exposure on Dutch radio and plans to return in the future.
UP NEXT: NEW TERRITORY
Dylan is currently splitting time between his Artsville endeavors and his own music. What's next? Experimentation. New songs, new sounds, new instruments, new arrangements. Sneed has always been someone willing to push his own boundaries. Really, he's just taking his own advice: try new things.
For the most up-to-date information on Dylan Sneed, stay tuned to www.about.me/dylansneedmusic.
Praise for Dylan Sneed
"Emotional and poignant." - Corner News (Auburn, AL)
"A road gospel." - Florence Morning News
"Saccharine-free lyrics and honey-grained vocals" - Fort Worth Weekly
"Like Leo Kottke covering Paul Simon.” - Dallas Observer
"Like a sober Townes Van Zandt." - Columbia Free Times
"Soft-spoken wit, elegant and fragile songs exploring the world around him, and a fine ability to pick angelic melodies on guitar.” - Present Magazine (Kansas City)
“Music that evokes the spirit of greats like Paul Simon, James Taylor and more roots-oriented acts like Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie.” - Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS)
"Sneed evokes rare glimpses into life's most pertinent, thoughtful and melodic questions with grace, style and enjoyably wise revelations, something a lot of performers try to manufacture, but can't." - Tyler Morning Telegraph
"Sneed is a terrific songwriter who knows how to turn a phrase and plays a mean acoustic guitar." - No Depression
"A strong Americana songsmith." Shuffle Magazine
"Sneed’s approach to songcraft is graceful and no doubt heavily inspired by Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie, and a few other giants of hearty folk music." - Fort Worth Weekly
"Personal and mystical." - Dallas Observer
"Sneed’s songs give a contemporary spin to the Lone Star country and folk of Guy Clark, Steve Earle and others, coming out more like the acerbically literate North Carolina songwriters Jonathan Byrd or Malcolm Holcombe." - Columbia Free Times
“Whether live or recorded, Sneed is a Texas troubadour worth hearing on stage no matter how large or small.” - Present Magazine (Kansas City)
"Thoughtful and melodic questions with grace, style and enjoyably wise revelations." - Tyler Morning Telegraph
"Quiet but intense." - Dallas Observer
"Sneed generally draws quick mentions of Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan as likely influences, his youthful energy combined with a sound that feels both old and new puts him more in line with The Avett Brothers, Cory Branan, and Joe Pug." Columbia Free Times
"Dylan's fingers entice a masterful musical-stream-of-consciousness sound from his guitar, reflecting the audio equivalent of an honest man holding a lantern on a clear or sometimes murky path, laughing, crying and musing as he travels." - Tyler Morning Telegraph
"Rich and rewarding." - Dallas Observer
"Dylan Sneed's 'The Beautiful Noise' is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year." - Columbia Free Times
"Dylan's extension into the musical realm, playing past his lyrics, rounds out a satisfying and even precious musical experience." - Tyler Morning Telegraph
"The literate emotionalism of Paul Simon and James Taylor, and the earthy candor of The Band and Townes Van Zandt." - Dallas Observer
“Spiritual without being sanctimonious." - Dallas Observer
“Sneed represents the best side of true Americana: music of passion and skill that can move an audience with a whisper or a roar.” - Dallas Observer
Notable venues played:
Paradiso (Amsterdam, NL)
Workplay Theater (Birmingham, AL)
The Living Room (NYC)
Eddie's Attic (Decatur, GA)
Evening Muse (Charlotte, NC)
World Cafe Live (Philadelphia, PA)
Good Folk (Fayetteville, AR)
The Blue Door (Oklahoma City, OK)
Iota Club & Cafe (Arlington, VA)
Ashland Coffee & Tea (Ashland, VA)
Gravity Lounge (Charlottesville, VA)
Bend Studio (Dallas, TX)
Gypsy Tea Room (Dallas, TX)
Notable artists played with:
Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe)
Chris Trapper (The Push Stars)
Competed in the Eddie's Attic Open Mic Shootout XXVII, Fall 2007
2007 International Songwriting Competition semi-finalist for "No Worse For The Wear"
Official Showcases - 2010, 2011 Folk Alliance International; 2011 Southeastern Regional Folk Alliance
#1 and #6 spots simultaneously on the SC Roots Radioplay chart