An Interview: The Power of Pain and Vulnerability in Music

As independent filmmakers, we here at The Initiative Production Company are always looking to work with innovative creatives and that’s exactly what we found in singer/songwriter Seth Snider.

In The Seems from Snider’s recent album Pitch Black Pines has recently become an office favourite. The song features in our new trailer for Out Of The Woods, which we’re currently in post production for. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Snider on this trailer and wanted to ask him about making the album.

How long have you been working on Pitch Black Pines?

I worked on the album over the course of about 3 years.

Is there a theme for Pitch Black Pines?

Yes, I would say a theme slowly surfaced throughout the making of the album, but the way it manifested was unintentional. “The power and pain of vulnerability” became the theme through a very natural process that I had continually said yes to, regardless of the outcome.

The theme that had shown itself was a living and breathing example of my real battles, true victories, and devastating losses. Through the fields and dark pastures of depression, all the way to the mountains and rigidity of my anxiety, there I found myself. Even in the midst of creating this album I was in tears and experiencing deep pain and anguish. I feel that the theme could also be interpreted as “The real life of someone who allows themselves to feel and be where they are at, in every moment, from bliss to hopelessness and everything between”.

I have never been able to get away with much in life, my conscience can be a wrecking ball anticipating bad decisions, but has also been a gift that keeps giving. Although there was much wrongful judgement and shame against myself laced throughout this album, I was there, I was authentic, and I was present. This album is an honest version of my story and I treasure it. I dove inward continuously, faced my deepest pain, and light came in. A process and practice that will continue over and over for the rest of my life. It’s an honor.

What was the writing process like for In the Seems?

My writing for In the Seems was interesting. It was originally written as a song for listeners who were potentially experiencing some sort of pain, loss, or inner battle. A song of perspective or a song depicting the deception that can come from the way things “seemed” or “felt”. As it was concluded, it was a song reflecting my inner brokenness, confusion, anger, and loneliness, with a very slight glimmer of hope.

It’s not in my nature to give up completely, so to let you in, In the Seems was written on the way to the studio to record it. It was lines from a journal/listening entry I had written on a tough day that ironically played well together. They were thoughts that weren’t strived after or fought for. It was a day I was willing to open my heart up, trust what I heard, and allow every thought to come in, not just the ones that agreed with my safety. It was simple, it always could have been simple, but I chose the way of cynicism, over-achieving, and comparison, only to find out all I had to do was sit down and listen for a few minutes. This song wasn’t the typical and strategic “12 months in the making” type of song, it was a few honest thoughts that I was able to recklessly put a melody to. And yes, most of it was written as I frantically drove to the studio in a panic the same day I set aside to record it.

What was the writing process like for Only In My Dreams? What inspired this song specifically?

I have to say, it’s extremely humorous and enlightening to me that these are the two songs that have been chosen for this film. They are the songs I spent the least amount of heart and time on. So thank you for reminding me of how easy and natural it a can be to write a good song, there doesn’t always need to be pain and tears. It’s a liberating thought.

I don’t write of romantic love much, it used to scare me. I reckon I didn’t want to be held accountable or possibly feel the shame within the vulnerability it would take to write about it. What if I was wrong about it all? I had never been love at the time. I was confused and had scared myself out of the beautiful existence of love. Only In My Dreams was written in the studio as we were in the “pre-production” phase of the album. I had found myself in a bold and light-hearted mood that day and said to myself and my producer, “I want to write a love song for this album and I will write it right now”. I didn’t think of anything involving me personally because at the time, I didn’t think I had ever loved before. I also found myself too scared to reveal my lack of understanding love. So I began writing the first thoughts that came to me, silly and serious all at once, I didn’t care. After about 20 minutes and with the help of my producer, the song was done. Once a rough draft was complete and after listening to the song several times, I realized that this song was merely me processing practical love and the possibilities of what it could and would look like. It was a realistic version of my unreasonable expectations. It was refreshing to me. I believe what inspired this song was my fear of loving and love itself living in the same house. It just came out in a very foreign, subliminal, and unrecognizable way.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

It has changed several times due to the season and emotional state I found myself in, whatever brings me comfort or refuge in the moment I reckon. I would say that the favorite or song that resonates with me most at the moment would be My Angel. It was a poem of my great grandfathers to his wife that had recently passed. I added and took away a few things, but the contrast of his joy and pain remained. There is something about it that makes me happy when I listen, it lifts the heaviness and reminds you that all will be well. I think the fact the it was a form of dedication to someone I had never met, but loved, comforts me. Yes, I never had the privilege of meeting him, but at the same time, knew he was a good man that honored his wife ya know?

What was the hardest song to write?

Your Love I believe. I rarely ever feel I can accurately and honestly express my heart and mind to God, especially in the form of worship. For a lot of my life I have felt misunderstood and for some reason at the time I was in the habit of thinking that God, could somehow, not be able translate what I truly meant in my heart. Silly me aye?

How old were you when you first discovered your love for music?

Around 16 is when I would say I actually discovered my love for it, prior to then it was more just a shallow and impressionable skill to have under my belt.

What’s your favourite aspect of creating new songs? (lyrics? melody? etc?)

I think in general, the enjoyment of writing songs in my experience can vary depending on my “season” of life. Some songs are painful to write, but some songs are fun and a joy! There are so many emotions a song can be written from. I would say one of my favorite aspects of writing lyrics can be the creative and reckless transfer from my mind to paper. The risk or rebellion of it all can be quite a rush sometimes. My absolute favorite is creating melodies, which I prefer rather than going inward to the point of being overtaken by emotion. I would also say it’s equally, if not more difficult, to create a good melody than it is to write a good lyric. I would also say the feeling a good melody can give can sometimes translate and resonate with me even more than great lyrics. Sometimes I seem to think lyrics and melodies are one and the same, melodies are lyrics and lyrics are melodies. They both are saying something, just expressing them through a different outlet, or something like that.

What sets your music apart from others?

Being myself I reckon.

What’s the driving force behind what you create?

Part of it seems to be something inside of me that wants out. Everyone has it.

On a more conscious level, the driving force behind what I create is my belief that I have something to offer that is different than any other human being on this planet. Not only that, but its something of value to myself and others. That’s why we need each other as humans, thankfully were not all the same. That would be no fun and would drive us all to absolute boredom. The other driving force would be along the same lines. I believe we were all created to express love the best we can with honesty, authenticity, and truth in whatever platform you have. It’s the only way we can help one another. Outside of my present awareness to answer this question, I would say it’s all an innate feeling given to us to express. It will continue knocking until otherwise.

Have you started dreaming and planning for the next album?

Not necessarily an album, but I am working on a new single at the moment with my producer, Jacob Early, to release in the Spring. It’s a totally different vibe and we are having a lot of fun with it so far. We’re really thankful to be collaborating with Seth on our film.

In The Seems will be featured in our first trailer for Out Of The Woods and Only In My Dreams will be in the film itself. I encourage you to check out his music on iTunes, subscribe to him on youtube, like him on facebook, and follow him on instagram.

And keep in mind the best way to stay creative is to build your own community of like minded people who you can collaborate with – now get out there and make something.

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  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time is writing a novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson

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