By Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times-Herald - April 27, 2020
“Now is a good time to take a break from (in person) shows,” Snider said. “I’m sort of laying low with the pregnancy.”
By Amy Maginnis-Honey. Daily Republic - November 24, 2017
Stevie Wonder inspired her to finish it and release the tune when he spoke at the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers Expo this year in Los Angeles...
By Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times-Herald - October 26, 2016
Amber Snider was so stunned that she was nominated for an Independent Music Award, she actually thought it was another Amber Snider...
By Alex Cosper, Playlistresearch.com
"...we still have faith and keep trying. And though sometimes unfair, life is so very short. Hopefully we survive our struggles long enough to write a song about it. Or many, many songs..."
By Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times-Herald - May 18, 2016
“I love being a mom,” Snider said earlier this week. “The way she looks at me is the sweetest love I’ve ever known. My husband and I are absolutely in love with her”...
By Paul Freeman | Bay Area News Group - September 25, 2013
Life getting you down? Feeling listless, depressed? Put down that happy pill. The cure is “Happy Song” by Vallejo-based singer-songwriter Amber Snider...
By Amy Maginnis-Honey. Daily Republic - April 29, 2011
"There was always music in the house while Snider was growing up, she said. And, there were instruments to play, if one decided they wanted to try..."
Amber Snider never thought she would be a hit with the senior community. Of course, the singer/songwriter never imagined those same seniors would have to go online to hear her sing “Fly Me to the Moon,” “All of Me,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Mambo Italiano” and other classics.
If nothing else, COVID-19 gives Snider time to create all of the music videos for the vintage tunes. And, oh yeah, Snider, 42, is pregnant with her second child.
“Now is a good time to take a break from (in person) shows,” Snider said. “I’m sort of laying low with the pregnancy.”
It’s nothing like pregnancy No. 1 before Snider’s daughter, Autumn, was born.
“I don’t have the energy like last time when I was doing shows up until my eighth month,” Snider says.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist was already working on the oldies online only album — “Fly Me to the Moon” — when COVID-19 hit.
Amber Snider released 25 music videos to classic tunes while awaiting an expected July delivery. Squeezing the family’s second child is dad Aaron and daughter Autumn.
“I figured this is time to release it. I’ve been working on it quite awhile,” said Snider, developing the set list working assisted living communities.
Realizing some of these communities have their own in-room TV channel, Snider sent over the videos — only to be told there were “too many visuals” of flashing lights that could disturb some of the elderly residents.
“I was told some could be confused about all the things flying at my head; that it’s a little too stimulating. I didn’t think about it at the time. So now I’m working on a new version that’s a little more calm,” Snider said, adding that she’s “put so much energy and time into all the videos” that took two years to finish.
“I work really slow. I’m at a snail’s pace,” says the Vallejo resident.
COVID-19 helped “put a fire under my butt,” Snider said. “People are looking for things to inspire them. I think the timing was good. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”
Snider’s 25-cut project also includes “Under the Boardwalk,” “Beyond on the Sea,” “Save the Last Dance” for Me, “Blue Moon,” “You’re Are My Sunshine,” and Snider’s original “I Will Be True.”
“They are songs everybody loves,” Snider said, thrilled that “my mom and dad like it.”
Snider said many of the songs come from the feedback she would get playing assisted living residences.
“People left and right suggested songs:
‘You should try this,’ so I started diving into that era,” Snider said. “There are so many great songs I’ve been learning while adding more and more. I selected the ones I really enjoy.”
Snider’s three favorites are “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Beyond the Sea” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
As much as Snider enjoyed recording the music videos with her musician husband, Aaron, there’s nothing like entertaining the seniors in person, she says.
“The whole room would be singing together … and some would be in their 90s, even 100,” Amber said. “That was a cool feeling.”
Snider figured she was doing three senior residence events a month for the last four years.
“They’re really appreciative about you being there in a way that you don’t get at performing at a bar or club,” Snider said.
“They are just so happy that you’re there. That feels good. A lot of them don’t get visitors. So you’re like their re-occurring visitor.”
It is sad, Snider noted, when a senior person’s memory declines.
“I had to get used to that,” Snider said. “I would hear, ‘I think she’s going to sing’ and I would be like, ‘Joe, you know me.'”
Though Snider gets song suggestions whispered to her after a performance for seniors, most are satisfied merely having a guest entertainer.
“It’s like ‘anything you do is amazing.’ They’re so happy you’re there and performing,” Snider said.
“They know the music more than I do. It’s their era. I’m always open to learning new songs,” Snider said.
That includes the 1956 Doris Day hit, “Que Sera, Sera.”
“All the women in the room would sing along in unison,” Snider said. “And Elvis Presley stuff. People love Elvis.”
COVID-19 isn’t the only reason Aaron and Amber Snider’s music career has been curtailed: The couple expect a child this summer.
Snider acknowledges her own moments arm wrestling with Father Time, recalling the days “when I was doing cartwheels. If I did that now I’d probably break something.”
While COVID-19 allows Snider plenty of home time with her husband and daughter, pre-natal care becomes challenging.
“It’s a bit freaky going into a hospital right now,” Snider said. “I’m wearing two masks, gloves and staying six feet away. It’s different than last time.”
During and after COVID-19, Snider said music is vital.
“People will be in shock for a while. It’s just natural … there’s so much grieving,” Snider said. “But I think music can take on a healing role.”
Snider’s son is due at the end of July and she and her husband already have a name.
It’s “Covid,” right?
“Oh my gosh, no,” said Snider laughing.
Actually, it’s Atlas.
To check out Amber Snider’s music videos, visit ambersnider.com/vids
PUBLISHED: April 27, 2020 at 5:21 p.m. | UPDATED: April 27, 2020 at 5:26 p.m.
Life getting you down? Feeling listless, depressed? Put down that happy pill. The cure is “Happy Song” by Vallejo-based singer-songwriter Amber Snider.
“In that song, you go to the happy doctor, and his prescription, when everything is going wrong, is to push play, listen to this song and then it’ll all be OK,” Snider says, laughing.
“Heroes” is another uplifting tune on her current CD, “The Amber Snider Band,” which was produced by superlative guitarist Gawain Mathews (Mickey Hart Band). “That song was about everyday heroes, just normal folks,” Snider says. “I started it when I was in L.A. and I think I was looking for some inspiration. I wrote it in 2000 and forgot about it. Then I revisited it two years ago and finished it. So that song took me a decade to write,” she says, laughing. “But it ended up being one of my favorites.
“Looking at my earlier work, I liked the writing I was doing. I realized that my lyrics then were very optimistic and unjaded. My songs after that became a little more bitter, sort of angry at times. That song is very hopeful.”
Snider’s new songs run the emotional gamut. There are darker numbers, like “Different World” — “He can’t escape from his mind, he tries to run, he tries to hide. His thoughts keep finding him. He won’t let them in … He keeps staring at that wall but if he climbs it, he’d surely fall. So he sits right there with no company except for his fear.” Or “Gravel,” about an immigrant laborer — “He crossed into a whole new world and his daddy was gunned down at the border in Calexico.”
Snider’s beautifully expressive voice enhances all the songs, which blend folk, rock, country and blues. At Angelica’s, on Saturday, she’ll perform a duo show, joined by her husband, guitarist Aaron Snider.
For full band shows, bassist Dave Youdell, a childhood friend of her husband’s, has been a constant. Their drummer took another musical path recently. So, at one gig, Snider’s mother, singer/multi-instrumentalist Diana Wallis, filled in.
Snider and her mom occasionally play duo gigs as Muse Roots. Diana also performs with her husband, Steve Wallis, in the Pine Dogz band. And sometimes the two married couples, the Sniders and the Wallis pairing, join forces for a family musical extravaganza.
When Snider and her brother Jeremy were growing up, their parents always had country-rock and classic rock bands. “It seemed like a lot of fun,” Snider says. “But it also seemed like a lot of work. You’re working on every little detail. My parents approached it like, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Put time into practice.” She took piano lessons from age 4. In addition to learning classical music, Snider composed her own little tunes. Soon, like her peers, she was listening to the raps of Salt-N-Pepa. As she got older, she began listening to Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco.
“They blew my mind. They wrote songs that were really intense, unlike what I was hearing on the radio. I thought, ‘Wow, they actually go there? That’s pretty cool.’ When I hear someone sing something that sounds like it’s a page torn out of their diary, I’m always like, ‘That’s brave.’ You’re giving a piece of yourself up, instead of pretending like you’re well-adjusted and everything’s fine and tying your song up with a nice, little bow and making people so happy. Though now, I do love those songs, too,” Snider says, laughing, “because there’s so much out there in the world already that makes people angry and agitated. But I do always respect the songwriters who don’t censor themselves.”
By age 12, Snider poured her heart into poetry, short stories and journals. “It helped get my emotions out, which were very furious and tortured at the time, reflecting all the ups and downs. I was very rebellious.
“In high school, I was always acting out. And I’d get a lot of attention, because I was getting into trouble. If I kept that up, I was going to get expelled. I had all this stuff that I need to get out. My English teacher, who I’m still in touch with, recognized that I was having a struggle. She took one of my writings and submitted it for a contest. And I won this little award. That was the first time I realized I could get attention for doing something good. She coached me and lifted me up. I realized, I can do something that I love doing and people will like that.”
Songwriting, however, wasn’t yet Snider’s focus. “Music was part of my life, but I didn’t really see myself doing it, seriously. I wanted to be an actor.”
So Snider moved to Los Angeles and began auditioning. But she couldn’t break through. Then she landed a job with songwriting great Diane Warren.
“I answered an ad in one of the entertainment publications. It just said someone in the music industry was looking for a receptionist. Didn’t say who. So I went and ended up working there for six months.
“It was great, because I got to see her take the craft of songwriting so seriously. She worked at it like a job. She woke up, went to the office, locked herself in the room, and wrote songs. I was filing sheet music for her and answering phones. People would stop by like Mariah Carey, Steven Tyler and Leann Rimes. As a Northern California girl, I wasn’t used to seeing celebrities all the time. I was star struck. It was so cool. But I also learned a lot, observed a lot, about what it means to be professional, about what the industry is all about.”
Snider began writing a lot of songs. “I would lock myself in and just write and write. I became obsessed with writing songs. That was really all I had control over. I wasn’t getting any auditions, didn’t have agents looking at me seriously. I would talk to my mom on the phone and she would say, ‘Maybe you’re a singer. Maybe you’re a musician.’ She’d be putting those little seeds in my ears. And ‘Maybe you’re not an actor. Think about it.’ So I began to concentrate on doing what came naturally, which was playing and writing music. And I had more fun. And I got a lot of positive feedback. So I felt like I was on the right track.”
Snider, who plays not only piano, but guitar, harmonica and several other instruments, started playing open mic nights.
“I got tired of L.A. My mom talked me into returning to Northern California. They needed a keyboard player for their band. So I came back up and played with them for a while.”
Then she formed her own bands, developing a following. She released a few CDs as Amber Estrada (her birth name), before she married.
At 36, Snider has written more than 200 songs. “I love it when I first write a song,” she says. “That’s magical to me. That’s always been like my therapy. The moment where it comes together and it’s good and you know you’re happy with it, and then when you play it for other people and they appreciate it, that process is so rewarding.”
PUBLISHED: September 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm | UPDATED: August 12, 2016 at 12:53 pm
Amber Snider thought music was everything. Well, besides, of course, her husband, Aaron, and the rest of her Solano County family.
Then came the couple’s first child, Autumn. Suddenly, those guitar-playing, original song-singing gigs weren’t such a big deal.
“I love being a mom,” Snider said earlier this week. “The way she looks at me is the sweetest love I’ve ever known. My husband and I are absolutely in love with her.”
Still, after five months of this motherhood thing, the Vallejoan got the itch for strapping the guitar back on and jumping on stage. And that she’ll do June 5 at Silo’s in Napa.
“The last gig I did when I was pregnant was a winemakers dinner in Sonoma,” said Snider. “I quit playing guitar at about seven months pregnant mainly because my belly stuck out too far and I had no lung capacity to sing.”
Snider canceled two shows “because I just couldn’t play anymore. I picked up the accordion a bit for fun and thought about learning the violin, but I had low energy and no patience for it.”
Even after Autumn arrived, “I still want to play other instruments but guitar is always my No. 1,” said Snider. “As far as playing shows, we are focusing on quality rather than quantity and are excited to be doing some of our favorites again this year.”
Snider’s first performance since last January was a recent women’s songwriter show.
“And that went great,” she said.
Snider did sing plenty to her daughter “through the whole pregnancy and I sing to her constantly now. Her little face lights up with a big smile. She loves it and I love hearing her voice. It’s so pretty and sweet. Right now, she is exploring all the different sounds she can make and it’s quite entertaining. I try to harmonize with her, so, hopefully, she’ll get used to it.”
When it comes to screaming, “there’s no competition. She’s got me beat,” Snider said.
Snider, a former employee at the Vallejo Visitors and Convention Bureau, performs solo or with a band that includes her husband.
“Finding time to play music is now met with the logistics of finding a baby-sitter so we can practice with the band and play shows,” Amber said. “Luckily, we have supportive family members that gladly take her for a few hours here and there. When Aaron and I play music in front of her at home, she really likes it. I think she recognizes the songs she’s heard in utero until now. I’m sure the vibrations were soothing.”
All that music equipment around the house? No mas.
“There’s a lot less music gear and a lot more baby gear,” Snider said. “And we don’t blast our guitars so much anymore. It’s a much more serene environment. But we have ‘baby noise’ canceling headphones just in case.”
Snider said there’s undoubtedly going to be changes in her song writing to reflect motherhood.
Still, it’s not the lyrics that stand in the way of new tunes as Snider is on the cusp of releasing two CDs — one by the Amber Snider Band, “Piece of Work,” and the other a solo project, “Heroes and Heartaches.”
“The challenge is making the time to do it,” Snider said. “It becomes more about time management.”
PUBLISHED: 05/18/16, 1:15 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 05/18/2016
Amber Snider was so stunned that she was nominated for an Independent Music Award, she actually thought it was another Amber Snider.
Nope. It was her. And the Vallejo singer/songwriter can sweat it out until Nov. 12 when the announcements are made between performances at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
“I might catch the ‘red-eye’ to see them announce it,” said Snider earlier this week, still on a natural high after getting the congratulatory email over the weekend.
Snider didn’t give much thought after entering her latest album, “Heroes & Heartaches” in the Folk/Singer/Songwriter category for the 15th annual event and its active support of “innovative self-released and indie label artists.”
At first, she overlooked the personal email from the IMA. Then she checked out the public email announcing the nominees.
“I was going through the list, not really thinking I would see my name and there it is,” Snider said. “I thought, ‘Oh, there’s another Amber Snider.’ Then I saw the album name next to my name and thought, ‘That’s me!’”
Snider quickly told her husband, musician Aaron Snider, who was a bit skeptical.
“He was nervous. He wanted to check and make sure it was legit,” Amber said. “He didn’t want me to get involved in some scam operation. He did some research and said, ‘Yeah, I think it’s legitimate.’”
Amber was also wary, having won contests before and then told she would have to pay money for some questionable company to promote it.
Since the IMA works with many major artists — and this year’s judges include Tom Waits, Slayer, Amy Lee of Evanescence and other name acts — it was enough to convince the local songwriter she was actually up for the award.
Though Snider has no idea why her album was selected, she said it is her best.
“I usually get tired of listening to my music quickly and this is something I don’t get tired of,” Snider said.
Snider believes there were “thousands” of entries internationally, with each category whittled down to the final five.
“It’s super exciting,” she said, thrilled that the IMA is already promoting her entry.
“Last week, I got more sales on my album and I was confused: Where are these coming from? People saw my name listed,” Snider said.
Though there’s no instant recording deal or cash involved, the winner, according to the IMA website, receives: “An Independent Music Award. The IMAs elevate the exceptional work of independent artists and releases. And provide winners and nominees access to millions of music fans via yearlong marketing and sales support — as well as performance, promotion and distribution opportunities.”
“Either way, it’s exciting to be nominated,” Snider said. “I can use it on my bio. It’ll open more doors for bookings, that kind of thing.”
Ironically, Snider’s almost shelved her live playing either solo or with the Amber Snider Band since the birth of her daughter, Autumn, 10 months ago.
Plus, she has a “regular” job doing online marketing for a wine company.
Then there was the last gig she played.
“It was around midnight and people were drunk and fighting in a bar,” Snider said. “And I looked at Aaron, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Nobody cared about the music. It was really depressing.”
The Sniders decided to “be more selective,” Amber said. “And play only for people who appreciate music.”
And, oh yeah, now there’s baby-sitters to consider. And yes, first-time mom often sings to child.
Apparently, everyone’s a critic.
“She prefers ‘Itsy-Bitsy Spider’ to any of my stuff,” Snider said.
For more information, visit independentmusicawards.com.
PUBLISHED: 10/26/16, 11:28 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 10/26/2016
Amber Snider is finding a way to blend motherhood and music, albeit gradually.
The singer-songwriter gave birth to her daughter, Autumn Snider, two years ago. Since then, it’s been difficult to lay down tracks. She and her husband, Aaron Snider, the lead guitar player in her band, venture into their home studio when family stops by to help take care of their daughter.
She recently released “A Love Song for Humanity,” which was penned during the 2016 presidential election.
Stevie Wonder inspired her to finish it and release the tune when he spoke at the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers Expo this year in Los Angeles.
Snider was there and heard him say, “What we need is a love song for humanity.”
Proceeds from the tune benefit California fire victims until the end of the year.
“Napa is a second community to me,” she said.
She said she has dual citizenship because she lives in Vallejo.
Aaron Snider hails from Napa. His family stayed with in the couple in Vallejo during the October fires.
Many of her solo gigs are now close to home, where Snider performs at retirement communities and some memory care units that are also on the same site.
“I like being in a room full of 100-year-olds and they sing along,” she said. “It’s kind of surreal.”
A few tunes from Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin seem to quench the audience’s thirst.
Snider said the audience in the memory care units may not recognize their surroundings or anyone near them, but they can remember the lyrics to songs from their earlier days.
Snider took a break when she was pregnant. After giving birth, she planned to keep up the busy schedule she had prior to becoming a mother.
It was a challenge.
“For the past few years I haven’t tried hard to get gigs,” she said.
She loves to sit with Autumn and play music with her.
“I’ll take that moment over being in a bar where people don’t care what I’m singing and just watching a game over my head,” she said.
Snider was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area to a musical family. She started playing music when she was 4 and composing songs at 12. She primarily plays guitar, piano and harmonica but also enjoys playing the banjo, mandolin, accordion, lap steel guitar, ukulele and more.
The Amber Snider Band was formed during weekly shows at Downtown Joe’s in Napa from 2007-09. After using monikers such as Hypnosis Company and Mom’s Chicken Pot Pie (named after a sandwich board special), the Sniders wed and The Amber Snider Band was born.
Respect is the secret to being bandmates and spouses, Amber Snider said.
“You have to listen to the other person and try to understand where they are coming from,” she said. “There are times you feel passionately and you have to explain why. You plead your case to the jury.”
The family’s dream is to record and focus on music as a full-time business, which may include touring and/or song licensing opportunities.
In the interim, the Sniders are working on about three or four songs, hopefully one they will finish in a few weeks.
“We are trying to find the most impactful song,” she said.
It should be released for the holidays, she said, but not necessarily a Christmas song.
“We are slowly collecting tracks we want to work on,” she said.
She said the band hopes to release an album in 2018.
Learn more about Snider, her band and her music at www.ambersnider.com.
Published on November 24, 2017 | Last Modified on November 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm
ALEX: Tell us about where you're from and how you got into music.
AMBER: I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, mostly from Vallejo and Napa but I lived in LA briefly in my early 20s to pursue a career in acting. I was born into a musical family and began playing in my parents' band on various instruments and vocals then began writing songs and performing. I had a very rocky childhood and music provided a much needed outlet (still does). I started a band, married the guitarist and have been playing ever since. We sometimes play with my parents as well.
ALEX: I heard your song "Heroes & Heartaches" on Bandcamp and thought it stood out as an exceptional song. What can you tell us about the song?
AMBER: Thank you! The song 'Heroes & Heartaches' talks of the "heroes" in my life as well as those who have given me "heartaches". Many times in my life, this has been one in the same person. Because people are people, and have the capacity to both love and hurt the ones they love, "Someone you know may go either way. Towards the dark of night or into the light of day." People won't always love us the way we would like to be loved and sometimes that just plain hurts. And the same is true of ourselves with how we treat others.
But we still have faith and keep trying. And though sometimes unfair, life is so very short. Hopefully we survive our struggles long enough to write a song about it. Or many, many songs. The song, is also the title track of the album and since it is dedicated to my godfather who was born in 1933, it is meant to have a 1950s - 1960s vibe (as does the song 'I Will Be True'). This is partly because it is paying homage to 'his time' and also because I really love the music of that generation; extremely heartfelt, beautiful and real.
ALEX: "Heroes & Heartaches" is also the name of your album released in August 2016. How would you describe this album?
AMBER: This album is a dedication to my god-father, Francisco Gallegos who passed away in 2010. He was an amazing musician. He was a disciplinarian. He loved to laugh. He was very much a DIY guy and he was old school. He believed in hard work, dedication and he was constantly pushing boundaries until the day he died. At the end of his life, in his 70's he was still playing golf, recording songs, studying Spanish and learning to play the accordion. We were even collaborating on music together. I treasure that time we had. He was an inspiration and helped many people in his life.
The Story - Francisco was a father figure to me, a mentor, a music teacher, a life coach and a friend. He took my family in and gave us a home when I was very young, when we had nowhere to go. He continued to be there throughout his life. He loved me like a daughter and taught me many things.
The Songs - You'll notice a couple of songs with a distinctly 50's/60's vibe to them, that is a tribute to Francisco and his era. 'Guiding Light' is very much about our relationship on a personal level. The album 'Heroes & Heartaches' is a tale of love, loss, yearning & learning diving into different layers and chapters of my life. It was a very emotional experience recording this CD as I started while grieving the death of my godfather and finished while pregnant with my first child. Major life changes. I know Francisco would've been proud of these songs and of me and that feels good. This project is dear to my heart and without him, it could've never happened.
The Studio - This marks my 7th CD release and my 2nd one working at Gawain Matthews' Studio, which is just an amazing process. I mean he's so talented, he can play just about any instrument you can think of. He works quick and gets the best out of you. You get top quality sound coming out of there and it's a gorgeous, pristine environment. He's in San Pablo overlooking the water there.
He was a guitarist for Mickey Hart on tour and plays a bit here and there but mainly he is a studio guy and is amazing at it. One of his songs was featured on American Idol. He recorded 'The Amber Snider Band' CD back in 2012 but this time I gave the band a break and it was just him and I on the tracks. Just incredible. I'm really excited about these songs.
ALEX: Your music fits into Americana and multiple categories. What music has influenced your music the most?
AMBER: I am glad to hear that! My family roots on my mother's side are from Arkansas and Oklahoma where my grandparents lived before moving to the SF Bay Area. My grandmother's family had so many children (twelve) that they could not afford to move them all out at once. They had to make several trips, picking fruit in the California orchards to save up enough money for the next batch. My grandmother's maiden name is "Muse" so my mother and I will sometimes play as the "Muse Roots" duo paying homage to our family lineage.
Back south, my grandparents grew up poor and lived in the country without electricity or running water, yet all were incredibly rich with warm hearts and a great love for music. So I have a "romance" with the styles of music that reflect our American history although I myself grew up in a very modern urban/suburban pop-culture. Ironically, I didn't really like country music growing up and listened to mostly top 40 pop radio. I was in love with Michael Jackson when I was a kid and thought we would one day be married. I listened to hip-hop. So I imagine I somehow developed a pop sensibility with a nostalgic love for twang.
ALEX: I understand you've released several albums now. Tell us about your recording history.
AMBER: The first song I ever recorded was in LA year 1999 and it was a demo a friend did for me as a favor, it was a decent track, one of the first songs I ever wrote. At the time I was holing myself in my room writing and writing doing little else. My family gave me a 4-track recorder which I fiddled around with during that time mainly to capture ideas. I still have the cassettes somewhere. At the time I worked for Diane Warren and I watched her write 40 songs a week so I was aspiring to be more like her. I still am.
Flash forward to 2002 I had moved to Napa, formed a band and recorded 'Accoustic Color' (an unintentional misspelling of the word 'acoustic') and recorded the EP with another musician friend in his mobile home trailer in just about an hour. I was going through some personal relationship issues at the time and the session was some much needed therapy. The songs are just me and a guitar (under my maiden name 'Amber Estrada') and have been a very popular download over the years.
In 2004 I recorded 'A Sleep To Dream' with Shoestring Angel Records, a startup that signed me and another Napa artist. We recorded at Narada Michael Walden's Tarpan Studios in Marin. We hired top-notch Bay Area musicians, it was all very exciting and the songs turned out great.
That EP showed a range of my songwriting and performance and opened a lot of doors for me in my career. One song, 'Chaotic Sancity' was placed in an indie movie in NY. At that time, we all lived in one big house and had a recording studio that we would dabble with from time to time and I also recorded a bit in other friends' studios but I didn't release another album until 2010 when I released 'Still Dreamin' (a play on the previous released title) and 'Napa City Nights LIVE 2010' a live recording of the popular city concert we have done since inception.
These were my first releases under my new married name "Amber Snider" (I was married in 2009 to longtime guitarist, Aaron Snider). 'Still Dreamin' had re-releases of the previous EP "A Sleep to Dream" plus four new songs recorded at my friend's home studio (Jef Madnick) and two recorded at my parent's home studio (my parents are on the tracks, too - Diana Wallis & Steve Wallis).
2010-2011 Aaron and I studied Audio Engineering at the local college and began recording at home, mostly laying down ideas, tracks for future releases, etc. I continued writing songs. In 2012, my band, The Amber Snider Band, went into Gawain Mathews' studio in San Pablo to try to capture the sound we had been getting in our many live performances. Gawain added elements of banjo, mandola, B3 Hammond, dobro, etc that gave the songs the proper folk-americana treatment they so desperately needed. We were very happy with this EP.
In 2013 I went back in the studio with Gawain to record a holiday song, "Let's Make Christmas" a feel-good song for a special time of year. At the same time, working with Gawain I released 'Should've Known Better' a rocking new twist on one of my older songs from the 'Accoustic Color" release. I continued working on home recording and writing.
In 2015, pregnant with my first child, I released my personal home recordings with some mixing and mastering assistance from my friend Steven Meloney. These were songs I had been working on for the past few years. Some with me playing piano, some on guitar, with lots of other instruments thrown in such as accordion, lap steel, strings etc. I had fun making it. The album was titled "A Little Heart" because of the little heartbeat growing in my belly at the time and because the songs all had heart, too.
In 2016, I released 'Heroes & Heartaches' which took about two years to finish. Again working with Gawain Mathews. We wanted to make sure everything was perfect and we took our time with the details. For instance, on the song, 'The Beat Goes Bad' we recorded footsteps as percussion, because the symbolism of the song called for it. I never get tired of listening to this album and I plan on making music videos for many of the tracks because they need visuals to finish telling their stories. Heroes & Heartaches was nominated for "Best Folk Singer-songwriter Album of 2016 by the Independent Awards," which is a huge honor.
In our home studio, Aaron and I are in the process of finishing our new/old recordings and we hope to release them early 2017.
BTW Heroes & Heartaches was just nominated for "Best Folk Singer-songwriter Album of 2016" by the Independent Music Awards.
ALEX: How comprehensive was your audio engineering training?
AMBER: I took one college course and learned by watching people in the studio but I am still learning! I recorded A Little Heart (2015) on my computer by myself and had a friend help mix/master it, it turned out pretty good I think! I will be starting another music production college course next week and I am really excited.
ALEX: What are live opportunities like in Northern California's Wine Country?
AMBER: Well there are plenty of wineries and tasting rooms. I have played come great ones like Chateau Montelana, Freemark Abbey, etc. Napa itself has come up with a lot more music venues too like the Uptown Theater, Silo's Music Club, City Winery (which is now Blue Note) and of course Bottle Rock Festival is HUGE. I have played those places, too. But I remember when there was only a couple of spots for live music. Tourists were always looking for it, I think the supply is now catching up with the demand.
ALEX: You've talked about playing guitar, piano and other instruments. What's the range of instruments that you play?
AMBER: Mostly I play acoustic/electric and electric guitar and sing though I do compose songs on the piano and enjoy it very much. The piano was my first instrument so it holds a special place in my heart. Some songs I play harmonica along with the guitar such as on "Gravel" on The Amber Snider Band CD. I also like dabbling in other instruments such as the banjo, ukulele, violin, lap steel and drums. When I was a kid, my parents use to have me sit in on their practices on the drums when their drummer wasn't available. I learned a simple yet steady beat! Years later I played keyboard and sang with them at various gigs but when I formed my own band, I gravitated mostly to the guitar.
ALEX: What are your thoughts about how today's music business is shaping up and how the internet is now part of it?
AMBER: Great question. I think that the main difference today as opposed to 50 years ago is that musicians are much more empowered by technology to record and release their own music. They no longer have to depend on that "record deal". This is both good and bad.
When I first released a cd back in 2002, there were already a lot of indie artists doing the same thing yet it was all very new and exciting for everyone. There was a "new frontier" sense of opportunity and discovery with such social media platforms such as MySpace and YouTube as a way to discover new music and also to be discovered by audiences. People launched careers that way.
Now in 2017, I think the market has gotten so over-saturated it has become a challenge for artists and audiences to connect. There is also the "why buy the cow when you can get the milk online for free" mentality. If artists are constantly giving away all their content: songs, live performance videos, etc. I think a lot of people don't see a reason to leave their houses, find parking and pay to see them at a venue, buy a cd, etc. It is much easier to stay home and enjoy their music online for free. This is a predicament for the artists who want people to know them so badly that they constantly give their work away for free. This kind of business model cannot be sustained.
The question becomes, how do musicians make a living as "musicians"? It is a tough career choice. I have spend thousands of dollars creating music, buying gear, travelling to shows, playing many for free, etc. and I am not the only one. Most of the other musicians I know do the same thing and everyone has to find a way to make money to support this "habit." I think music is undervalued in our society because of the over-saturation and the mentality that people have now-a-days that they shouldn't have to pay for music. It is a silly notion. When in any other field, construction, website design, etc. people would never think to ask for a good or service for free. Some club owners actually try to get musicians to play at their establishments for free or for very little and call it "exposure" for the musician as justification. The problem is when enough musicians accept this as being ok, out of desperation or whatever, all musicians suffer. Our overall value is decreased.
Luckily I have had a network of good venues and supporters over the years who pay me decent money because they respect what I do. And in general I sell more CDs at a performance than online because that's where I create a personal connection with people. That has always been the case for me.
The internet, though incredibly efficient at spreading information around the world, is impersonal. It also seems to me to have created a culture where more value is placed on sensationalism and not talent. There seems to be a mentality for people to look for a quick gimmick to get a viral video and become famous rather than learning to play music or craft a song to deliver a message that can make the world a better place to live in. If you can do both I suppose you can be ahead of the game.
Smart indie artists join forces with other artists to do shows, promotion, booking, etc. There is always so much work that needs to be done and it's a great way to find new audiences, too.
The best way for indie music to survive and thrive as a "business" is for artists to stay positive and to keep creating great original music and for listeners to support them by going to their shows and buying their music. That way everyone wins.
ALEX: Do have any ideas on what would make the music business better for independent musicians?
Because large record labels don't really put a lot of resources into discovering and nurturing talent as they have in the past, there is a lack of business knowledge and resources in the indie music industry. Indie artists have to educate and fund themselves if that is the path they choose. Mentor and education programs would be of incredible value to indie artists because there is so much misinformation and scams on the internet.
Personally I have spent way too much money trying to promote my music the way I thought I "should" through several companies and I got nothing back in return (except for a tax write off). Music and Art in general should have great value in our society to balance out all the ugliness that we see everyday. Having education, guidance, funds and resources available to indie artists would greatly propel the quality of talent and content that we can have in the world for all of us to enjoy. That would be nice.
Published January 2017
Don’t believe everything you read.
Especially when it comes to the baseball cap Steve Wallis wears that reads: “Don’t Ask Me, I’m Just the Bass Player.”
Wallis is one-half of the duet called the Pine Dogz. The name comes from the fact that there is a lone pine tree where Wallis and his wife Diana Wallis reside in Cottonwood.
The couple, who used to live in Fairfield, will perform on Mother’s Day at the Suisun City waterfront.
On the same bill is the Amber Snider Band, fronted by Diana Wallis’ daughter. Those going to the event will also get a chance to see mother and daughter perform together.
There was always music in the house while Snider was growing up, she said. And, there were instruments to play, if one decided they wanted to try. Snider started on the piano and it wasn’t long after that her mother handed down her first guitar to her daughter.
“My first good guitar,” Diana Wallis said.
While she loved music, Snider said she had her heart set on being an actress and headed to Southern California. There, she worked for legendary songwriter Diane Warren, who penned Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing.”
She got homesick and returned to the area, launching her music career. Snider plays many shows in Solano and Napa counties.
Her mother and stepfather have played music together for several years. Diana Wallis also plays the mandolin and percussion, as well as guitar.
Steve Wallis plays the bass and also records the tracks that give the duet the ability to sound like a bigger band.
“She really led by example,” Snider said of her mother.
She said she would often watch Diana Wallis practice with a band and pick a song apart until it became a version she was happy with.
Wallis offers praise for her offspring.
“I am proud of Amber,” she said. “I see how hard she works at her music. She continues to amaze me. You inspire me, kiddo.”
The Pine Dogz specialize in what they call Americana music that includes pop hits from a few decades ago to songs for the senior citizens set. They often perform at skilled nursing facilities and have been called the “Corn Dogs” by many of the residents who have dementia.
Snider’s band plays what she calls “Ambericana,” which is a mixture of folk, rock, country and blues.
Now, Wallis and Snider are observing the next generation of the family find enjoyment in music.
“It’s fun to watch my little niece pick up the guitar and want to make the sounds,” Snider said.
And it may be the opportunity for Snider to pass down to the child the song about life’s lessons that Wallis wrote for her when she was 16.
All three say sharing their music is mostly what it’s about.
“How many people make the big time?” Steve Wallis, a retired firefighter, asked rhetorically.
“He’s the practical side,” Snider said.
Then again, she realized she is doing what she loves and “more often than not, gets paid for doing it.”
Published April 29, 2011 | Last Modified on May 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm
It's not that American Canyon will ever be "Amberican" Canyon out of some sort of tribute to vocalist Amber Snider. And odds are the red-headed singer isn't going to pay for any kind of naming rights.
"It's because I am in my own world most of the time," Snider said.
And that is usually a world of music, which suits her just fine.
"We've been rehearsing a lot of new material as a band and are currently going through about three years of recordings we have been collecting," Snider said. "I am wearing my sound engineer hat more than my songwriting hat lately, but I do have flashes of inspiration from time to time that I can't ignore."
Nothing can get Snider more inspired than Mother's Day when, coincidentally, The Amber Snider Band is on the same bill as the Pine Dogz, which happens to feature Snider's mother, Diana Wallis and Amber's stepfather, Steve Wallis.
Mom and daughter were, apparently, in independent contact with Brenda Mossa, event coordinator for the Mother's Day Artisan Fair at Harbor Plaza.
Snider's band headlines with the Dogz opening. No big deal, said Amber.
"The only reason The Amber Snider Band got the gig over The Pine Dogz was because we were 'local,'" Snider said. "My mom was thrilled when I asked her to do it and we both thought it was a funny coincidence" it was on Mother's Day.
"I am happy that we will all be sharing the stage together," Amber said. "We've shared the stage on numerous occasions. I started out playing keyboards and background vocals for her old band and we have shared shows at venues in Napa and Benicia. She's a great musician. She has so many skills and experience."
The Pine Dogz are from Cottonwood near Redding, though Amber's mother lived in Vallejo for eight years. Steve Wallis was the American Canyon fire department captain for more than 20 years and leads the band that plays folk, rock, blues, and Americana.
It was Diana Wallis who taught daughter harmonica and mandolin "as well as performance in general," Amber said.
"She was essentially self-taught and continues to amaze me with new knowledge all the time," Amber said. "She teaches me new things every time I see her."
Most of Snider's childhood memories involve music, she said.
"We always had instruments all over the house and always had musicians over," she said. "I remember their band practices being fun but also a lot of work. Pretty grueling. My mom always met musicians wherever she went and was never shy about jumping on stage with people so there was never a dull moment. She was pretty fearless."
Snider added that her friends "All thought coming to our house was pretty cool. I thought it was pretty normal until I realized not every family had these experiences. "
Snider's band includes her husband, Aaron, Dave Youdell, and Ram Hatley.
Next Sunday could just add to the list of fond Mother's Day memories, Snider said.
"I remember making her tons of homemade cards and she saved them all," Amber said.
PUBLISHED: 05/01/11, 12:01 AM PDT