Getting to Know Roy Schneider

Roy Schneider has presence.  It’s impossible to dismiss him when watching him on stage.  His music makes a powerful impact on the listener. As one music critic says “Roy Schneider fits in the same bag with such classic singer-songwriters as Guy Clark, John Prine, Steve Goodman and Townes van Zandt.” That’s some bag!  Add the keyboard and vocals contributed by Kim Mayfield (Roy’s wife) and you’ve got a winning combination.

You need to check out Roy’s website to learn much more about him.

 Here’s a great example of Roy and Kim’s music.

Roy and wife

Having experienced you live, I’d have to say that I am in total agreement with the review from Maverick magazine that says that you are “a cut above the hordes who tote acoustic guitars and second-hand Hallmark card verses disguised as insights.” Do you have a lyric litmus test so that you avoid those Hallmark sounding lines?

Thanks Kathy, so glad to be along with you on the bus!

I try to maintain a decent cheese filter when writing lyrics, and just keep it honest. I try to avoid lines that are unnecessarily dramatic, predictable, or that rhyme too perfectly too often, and instead choose words based on a combination of how well they paint the image I’m trying to convey and how well the syllables fit into the music. Really, I just try to write stuff I think I would want to listen to if I was not the guy writing it.

Tom Paxton is quoted as saying that you’re “one of those horrible people” who can pick up any instrument and play it beautifully. How many instruments do you play?

I think I can safely claim to play guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, resonator slide guitar, ukulele, bass, flute, drums and percussion. I will tap, scrape, blow, thump or bite just about any object to see if it will make music (note: cats do not make good instruments).

Performing with Tom Paxton, I alternated between guitar, banjo, mandolin and reso slide, and what a lot of fun that was! Living Folk Legend status notwithstanding, Tom is a very humble, down-to-earth guy and was a real pleasure to work with. Getting to know him a bit and hear first-hand snippets of what went on in Greenwich Village back in the folk revival days of the 60s and such was a savored treat, and the highlight of my spring this year.

Are you an instrument junkie? Do you have favorites? For all the geeks out there, please describe your absolute favorite instrument.

“Instrument Junkie?” Me?! Ghasp!

Yes. But it’s not a matter of having multiples of the same thing… I just want the best­ sounding/feeling example of each thing that I play. That I can afford. Bonus if it smells and looks good, too. Maybe it’s only affordable because it needs a repair I can handle. Oh man, she’s got me talking gear… Buckle up!

The acoustic guitars I love most and play onstage and on recordings are two beloved rosewood Martins, a 175th Anniversary model OM-28V and a 2001 HD-28V. Both are vintage reissues, meaning they use all the old-school design and materials of the 1930s models, only with the handy-dandy convenience of an adjustable neck. I could take up a sizable paragraph listing all of our other odd instruments, but suffice it to say a carload of A.D.D. musicians with a keg of espresso could not be bored in our house.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?

One journalist described my sound as “A compelling mix of Blues, Country, Folk and Americana, all rolled together in a beguiling and tasty stew.” I thought that came close, but still looking for that 3-to-5-word description that says it just right. Suggestions welcome.

“Blue-Twangled Folk’n’Roll?” I dunno…

Tell us about your debut album, “The Humble Sessions.” I understand that it has something to do with a syndicated comic strip of yours.

I had a newspaper comic strip distributed by United Feature Syndicate from 2003-2008 called The Humble Stumble. I was playing bars at night while my strip ran daily in The Chicago Tribune and a handful of other papers, and was trying to think of ways to combine and grow an audience. But was I a singer or a cartoonist? What the hell was I doing?

The Humble Sessions CD came out in 2006; I wanted people who knew about my music to know about my comics, and I wanted my comic readers to know I was musical. I wanted to find some way to eventually make original music my primary focus, with cartooning reserved for when I really felt inspired to do it. That daily deadline is a killer!

Schneider

Was illustration something that you studied? Do you still draw cartoons?

I never studied illustration formally, but I intensely studied comics all through my childhood. First I copied Snoopy and Charlie Brown, then later Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Many years later, I came across a world-changing phenomenon called Calvin and Hobbes, and that was it for me. I was going to be a syndicated cartoonist. Over the next 13 years, I kept thinking up strip ideas and sending them off to the major newspaper syndicates. Once I became a single father and wrote straight from my own life, it finally happened. This eventually also led to me writing a humor column for a while in SouthWest Florida Parent & Child magazine; they liked the idea of single-parenthood from a male point of view.

I still do freelance cartoons, T-shirts and other things when I can. I love cartooning too much to ever stop completely.

Your wife Kim plays keyboards with you. How did that working relationship come about?

When we first went out exploring the road together, I was performing as a solo songwriter. Kim booked the shows and came along for the adventure and to sell CDs. What prompted us to get her on the stage was that, in many cases, the pay at the corner coffee house may have not been great, but at least the performers were guaranteed a sandwich. Not the performers’ spouses, just the performers. So we decided we did not want to pay for Kim’s sandwich after she booked the show and probably drove most of the 6 hours to the pass-the-hat gig; we wanted two free sandwiches, dammit.

Of course, now there is the whole total enjoyment factor of having a harmony vocal and beautiful accompaniment to so many of my songs! Nothing like sticking a shy person in front of the public for eight hundred shows or so to get ’em over those little anxieties. We love performing together and look forward to the day we are able to add a full-time rhythm section.

You spend a lot of time on the road. Do you have any interesting road stories?

I don’t know how interesting they are to other people, but when you’re drifting from town to town one day to the next, you never know who or what you’re going to run into.

In one situation, we had played a little pub in Western MA and I realized two hours down the road that I’d left my baritone ukulele behind. I called the place and just caught the bartender, said she was locking up and it would be behind the bar whenever.

On the phone with the venue owner the next day, she asked where else we were headed around the region, and when I said we’d be volunteer-staffing at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, she said “Aha! I have people who go to Falcon Ridge every year – we’ve got you covered.”

10 days later, we show up in New York and find the camp of the kind folks who brought the uke from Massachusetts. After we thank them profusely, they invite us to hang out and trade a few songs. Turns out there are some mighty talented folks in this family, and oh my goodness, they also host house concerts! We’ve since played a couple of very fun shows for them and have become great friends with the family, their circle of friends and their donkey.

Never been gladder to have left something behind on tour.

Are you ever inspired to write songs about people or situations you encounter on the road?

Absolutely. We’ve lived so much of our lives on the road these last six years, it’s been difficult not to have elements of it all show up consistently in my songs. It’s incredible how much moving around and meeting so many different people, often staying in their homes and sharing in their lives for a moment expands your perspective and understanding of humanity. It also makes it possible to lead a pretty interesting life. We really feel blessed to do what we do.

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