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Artists—or musicians, to be more specific—have never been ones to worry themselves too much over the rules and preferred guidelines of corporate America. Sure, the thought of being able to pay one's bills by practicing the craft that brings the artist joy is a reasonable and enviable goal. But in order to achieve such a blissful state of combined financially and artistically fulfilling nirvana, artists typically finds themselves bowing, at one point or another, to the people controlling the dollars that fuel the business end of the music industry.
That's not the case, though, for Colorado's Jon Snodgrass, one of the leaders of country-rock outfit Drag the River.
With 17 releases of various types, ranging from full-length players to split seven-inch vinyl singles and even cassette tapes, Snodgrass, co-bandleader Chad Price and the rest of the group (who all have punk-rock backgrounds) have been rather prolific in their 14 years together. It's even more impressive once you realize that their total of 17 albums doesn't include the several solo releases that Snodgrass and Price have each released.
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Clearly, these guys don't play by the rules.
Snodgrass credits Drag the River's current label residence with Denver's Suburban Home Records for his band's ability to flout convention.
"You can do anything with your friends, really," he says. "All of the artists on the label are basically friends and we can come up with weird ideas, like when I knew that Cory Branan [Drag the River's current touring partner] was coming to town and we got together and cut a seven-song record together. Suburban Home liked it and just put it out."
Another assumed aspect of the musical life that Snodgrass and company have never truly subscribed to is that a band must either be fully together—or not—so the whole partnership apart doesn't blow apart. The solo albums haven't gotten in the band's way. And, despite rumors of break-ups and hang-ups that have been prevalent in recent years, they've all, ultimately, turned out untrue.
"Unfortunately, people really like to talk about the bad things, the salacious things," Snodgrass says. "There really wasn't any more to it than that we just really needed a break. There were some misunderstandings, but we're all fine now and everybody's friends."
The name of the game here is "casual." In live settings, the band forgoes set lists; similarly, when it comes to records, choosing which songs will go toward solo or band albums can also be as whimsical. It's worked out well enough: Snodgrass and Price have both recently released excellent solo full-length albums (Visitor's Band from Snodgrass and Smile Sweet Face from Price). Practicality plays a large role, too.
"If Chad and I are working together, the songs just inevitably end up sounding like Drag the River songs," Snodgrass says. "Basically, if Chad's around, we'll make some Drag the River music. If not, then I'll turn it way up or way down."
Snodgrass' casual, practical approach applies to all walks of his career.
"There's a thread that ties everything that I write together," Snodgrass says.
Good thing, too.
"I find ways," he says, "to always make it interesting for me."