Looking satisfied but weary, local singer-songwriter Dylan Sneed sits in a coffee shop near his home in Lake Highlands and talks about his escape from the corporate world.
"Man, I didn't even know what my job was," Sneed says about his two years spent writing instructional manuals for AT&T. "Ninety percent of it was kind of like a monkey's job."
Sneed grew up in Austin and attended his parents' alma mater, Abilene Christian University, before making his way to Dallas in 2002. He'd been singing and writing songs since he was 16, but he wanted to put his Advertising/Public Relations degree to some use.
Dylan Sneed performs Friday, August 24, at St. Paul Caf, Dallas, and Saturday, August 25, at the Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth.
"It was great to have financial stability, but the job ate away at the creative part of me," Sneed says.
Once AT&T downsized, Sneed gratefully accepted a severance package and began to commit all of his time to music. He played bass with, among others, country up-and-comer Aaron Watson but decided to start recording his own songs.
"In the year and a half that I have been a professional songwriter, I've done 10 times the work that I did in an office," Sneed says, sounding like a man reminiscing about an escape from prison.
Sneed's newest release, No Worse for the Wear, is his third recording, following his debut, Dylan's Need (which he put out when he was a sophomore in college and now disdains), and the more recent live effort, What I Thought.
The new EP is by far his best release as it incorporates elements of the literate emotionalism of Paul Simon and James Taylor and the earthy candor of The Band and Townes Van Zandt. Sneed's songs are inherently spiritual with narratives that pose some big questions about devotion and relationships, both personal and mystical.
"Faith is a central theme in my music," he says, "but I can't stand the term 'Christian music.'"
Songs such as "Look Inside" and "What I Love, What I Fear" are richly arranged odes to finding one's way in this world, be that through religion or just having a place to lay one's head.
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"If it's about Jesus, people can write about Jesus, and if it's about a girl, it's OK to write about that too," he says.
"People like labels and things easily packaged," he adds. "My music is full of gray areas."
And it is exactly these gray areas that make Sneed's music stand out. Spiritual without being sanctimonious, Sneed's songs are about the doubt that must accompany all faith.
"I always wonder why there are so many people who want to label God, who want to put God in a box."