BJ and the bare facts
Inside the world of “outsider” musician BJ Snowden
by RUPERT BOTTENBERG
It’s nice to be noticed, even if the compliment feels a bit backhanded. Boston’s BJ Snowden, singer, songwriter and keyboardist, was certainly grateful for the acknowledgement in Songs in the Key of Z, Irwin Chusid’s noted text on “outsider” musicians. She felt, however, that she was in inappropriate company—many of Chusid’s choices, mentally ill or awkward outcasts, were there for novelty if not outright comedy value.
When, over the phone with Snowden from her home in suburban Boston, I apply the term “unlistenable” to some of her colleagues on the Key of Z companion CDs, she laughs heartily. “The way I look at it is, at least I’m getting exposure all over the world because of his book, which I’m happy about, but I agree with you on the other aspect.”
Snowden’s no musical naïf, no crackpot neither. She holds a degree from Berklee College of Music and has taught music to school kids for years. “I started writing music when I was three years old. I actually started composing before I played anybody else’s music. I started the recording aspect of it in ’89. Of course, I tried to get a record deal, but then I got responses back from them saying, well, your music sounds different. We would prefer you to have three or four songs that sound the same. That’s what they told me.”
Classifying Snowden’s oeuvre is a task, as it’s neither pop, folk, jazz nor anything else in particular, just straight-up, from-the-heart tunecraft, no frills excepting the snappy, supplemental guitar bits care of her talented son Andres. Snowden’s lyrics are likewise plainspoken as she ponders love, family, her teaching life, America—and Canada! She sure loves Canada, as her album title In Memory of My Father & My Life in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces suggests.
“It’s so beautiful up there. I’m an American of Canadian descent—my great-grandparents are from the Antigonish area of Nova Scotia—and I’ve travelled all across Canada. I’m so proud, pleased and happy at the response and reception. People are so nice, they seem to welcome you, and they’re so courteous, especially people that have businesses.
“I’ve written many songs about my feelings toward Canada with such enthusiasm, and when I play them in America, the audience cannot keep themselves from joining in the patriotism of Canada.”
Snowden knows how to win ’em over. Her fans are legion, including the tremendously supportive Fred Schneider of the B-52s (and some guy named Ratboy). “What happened was, I started sending my CD out to different recording studios and record stores. The store Venus Records picked my music up. I guess they put it to the side, and then two or three years later, they picked it up and heard it and this guy Ratboy really liked it. The place is right in the middle of New York City, down in the Village area, so a lot of famous people go into that store. Fred Schneider was one of them, and they put the CD on and said, ‘Listen to this!’ He ended up endorsing my first CD. Then we ended up doing a Christmas CD together—I wrote the music and he produced it. I guess he made me more enthusiastic—like, he’d say, ‘Put some more feeling into it!’”
Funny he should do that. Feeling is one thing BJ Snowden’s got plenty of!
Performed at Pete's Candy Store" in Brooklyn,NY, where she wrote a song to be commissioned for the nightclub. BJ also wrote commercials for "Detroit Bikes, W.F.M.U, and wrote a couple of songs for W.F.N.X. Boston.
Sonny's Dover Dover,NH
Red Door Portsmouth,NH
Strange Maine Portland, Maine
The Buoy Gallery Kittery, Maine
The Middle East Cambridge, Ma
All 4 clubs Upstairs, Downstairs, Corner Restaurant,
Coolidge Corner Theater Boston ,MA
Club Cafe Boston, Ma
Start On The Street Festival Worcester, MA
The Elevens Northampton, MA
The Basement Northampton, MA
Sierra Grill Northampton, MA
TT and The Bears Cambridge, MA
Plough and Stars Cambridge, MA
Empire Club Providence, RI
Simon's 677 Providence, RI
The Brighton Bar Long Branch, NJ
Fennario West Chester, PA
World Cafe Philadelphia, PA
Khyber-Pas Philadelphia, PA
The American Visionary Art Museum: Baltimore, MD
The New Deal Coffeehouse Greenbelt, MD
The Velvet Lounge Washington, D.C
Montreal Pop Music Festival, Montreal, QUE Barrymore Club Ottawa, ONT
Ba-Ba's Lounge Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Khyber-Pas Halifax, NS
Gus Pub Halifax, NS
Sappyfest Festival Sackville ,New Brunswick Sled Island Music Festival Calgary,Alberta
Singer Songwriter/Composer/Keyboard-Wizard/Renaissance Woman/Music Educator
Graduate of Berklee College of Music
Certified Music Teacher K-9, Commonwealth of Massachusetts no: 324735
Experience includes full time Music Teacher in the Boston Public Schools for the 1995-1998 school years,
Music Choral Director in Templeton Public Schools 1994-95 school year, earlier substitute teaching positions and
Music Director at The Middlesex School of Summer Arts in 1994.
BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC BOSTON,MA
Bachelor of Music in Applied Music:
UNIVERSITY OF LOWELL LOWELL,MA
Completed 18 credits of Music Education courses.
EASTERN NAZARENE COLLEGE QUINCY,MA
Completed 15 graduate credits
SOMERVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS Somerville ,MA
Music Teacher K-8
BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS Boston, MA
Music Teacher K-5
NARRAGANSETT REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT Templeton,MA
Music Teacher K-6
THE MIDDLESEX SCHOOL FOR THE SUMMER ARTS, Concord,MA
BURLINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Substitute Teacher K-12
WOBURN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Substitute Teacher K-12
NORTH MIDDLESEX SCHOOL DISTRICT, Townsend,MA
St. MICHAELS SCHOOL, FRANCO-AMERICAN SCHOOL and IMMACULATE CONCEPTION SCHOOL, Lowell,MA
Music Teacher, K-8
B.J Snowden, Composer, Arranger, Recording Artist, Publisher and Keyboard Sorceress!
1. "B.J Snowden is the 90's Renaissance woman. Composes, plays, arranges and sings the hell out of a tune. I played "In Canada" for my friends in Toronto and they were blown away---- This song cements good relations between our two countries. forever."
Fred Schneider of the B-52's - Warner Brothers Reprise Recording Artist
2. "Congratulations on a great performance, we are still singing "New Brunswick"
The staff of "The Jimmy Kimmel Live Show" ABC network, a division of the Disney Corp: Hollywood, California
3. "All of her songs were humble homages to positive influences in her life."
Vinnie Scorziello-"the Noise Magazine"
4. "Her songs are like snapshots from someone's everyday life"
John Elasser "The Magnet Magazine"
5. "She's been compared to Jonathan Richman or a soundtrack to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood".
6. "A thing that is clear from listening to her songs, it is nearly impossible to get her melodies out of your head"
Dave Perry "The Lowell Sun"
7. A crowd of full age 20 something fans who usually enjoy loud and aggressive rock bands enjoy her music."
David Wildman "The Boston Globe"
8. "She Achieves the lo-innocence all the indie kids so crave."
Dave Grad "New York Press"
9. "She has become the toast of the art rock crowd"
Chris Wright "Boston Phoenix"
10. "Go ahead and try, but it will be hard to find an artist whose songwriting skills are more heart felt and earnest than hers. If anyone
knew about her, there would be world peace."
Marc Scortino "The Block Island Summertimes"
11. "The school teacher from Boston with a heart of gold, Snowden sings upbeat, Casio sing along songs that could force a smile onto
the stoniest of faces. But as good as her songs are, just being in her presence is the real appeal. She radiates so much goodness."
Ken Switzer "The Village Voice"
12. "She Rules her own musical universe."
Jeb Gottlieb "Boston Herald"
13. "She has a unique sound you are unlikely to find anywhere else seriously. You've never heard anything quite like her before.
Joe De George "Clark University"
14. "Her singing is full of joy"
"New York Daily News"
15."Her songs have a way of staying in your head"
Alan Wigner "Ottawa Sun"
16. "The Casio keyboard wielding entertainer belts out blues croons like Burt Bacharack and touches on themes as diverse as her passion for
"Stuff At Night" " A division of the Boston Phoenix"
16. "Listening to B.J Snowden's music is akin to experimenting with hard drugs. Frightened and strange at first, it slowly becomes comforting
and before the listener's know it, they are completely addicted."
Berkley Beacon Arts and Entertainment Suffolk University
"But Snowden doesn't really fit into any genre or scene, which is precisely what makes her so beguilding. Her debut album, the 1996 release"
Life In The U.S. A and Canada" bursts with dities and about 2 nations denizens."
Her chops are surprisingly formidable"
The chord changes of "Ode To Lesley" recall Burt Bacharack, while the instrumental,"Happy Beat" suggests Duke Ellington composing incidental music for "Sesame Street", "La Luna Bella" dabbles with Latin rhythms."
She is nobody to laugh at"
Kurt B. Reighley "The Seattle Stranger" Seattle,WA
18."Maybe it's because her big heart songs don't quite fit in any one musical category, or maybe because she's not the type to wait around for a helping hand."
"Montreal Mirror" Montreal QUE Canada
19. It's hard to describe her music, it's not pop, it's not jazz, folk or soul, the only thing you can say for sure is that Snowden puts her heart into it."
Cathy Resmer "Seven Days" Burlington,VT
20. "Snowden is a one woman show. Strapped with a keyboard and her vocal chords, this performer brings something completely different to the table. "
Jillian Locke "Lowell Sun"
21. "Snowden may be Billerica's answer to the British invasion."
Julie Hanson "Billerica Minuteman
22. "Classifying Snowden's oeuvre is a task, as it's neither pop, folk,jazz nor anything else in particular, just straight up, from the heart, tune craft, no frills excepting the snappy, supplemental guitar bits care of her talented son, Andres."
Ruppert Bottomberg "Montreal Mirror"
23. "Snowden definitely situates her music in a place that we recognize, it's clearly in the pop format, and she uses traditional instruments, but it's what she elicits from those forms".
George William Myers Professional Musician Northhampton,MA
24. "Snowden sings her life".
Ken Maluri " Daily Hampshire Gazette" Northampton,MA
25. "In the Snowden experience a very satisfied audience erupted in applause consistently after each song, and following an encore
performance of "Pete's Candy Store", tribute to finish her set, the entire room was on their feet for a standing ovation."
Diesel: U: Music Blog New York, New York