Snail Mail on “Valentine” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 19th, 2024  

Snail Mail on “Valentine”

Balancing Intentionality with Intuition

Mar 24, 2022 Issue #69 - 20th Anniversary Issue Photography by Tina Tyrell Bookmark and Share

“Nothing’s gonna stop me now,” Snail Mail sings on the chorus of “Light Blue,” one of many standout tracks on her latest album, Valentine. However the 22-year-old indie rocker—born Lindsey Jordan—doesn’t belt out that lyric with the same assuredness she brings to bear on Valentine’s more propulsive tracks.

“It is a pretty loaded statement, but whether I deliberately juxtaposed it or not, I definitely had a feeling that I needed to sing that chorus gently,” Jordan says. She loves veering between vocal extremes, depending on what each song calls for, explaining that “there are some moments that are very from the chest on this new record. But ‘Light Blue’ is very sweet and well intentioned. It’s just a love song.”

But Jordan is quick to add that “there was at least some intentionality there in that moment” of giving “Light Blue” its light touch. While the soft chorus was mostly an intuitive decision, Jordan says she is often “an intentional songwriter.” She’s certainly stricter during her editing process, saying: “That’s why there are so many of my songs that don’t make it on the records.”

One Valentine song that Jordan particularly put through that wringer is “Forever (Sailing).” The synth splashed, melodramatic-yet-downcast track was the last one she wrote for the album, and it took her weeks in a North Carolina studio “pulling my hair out” to finally finish it. She says the loquacious chorus proved especially challenging, because: “Its lyrics were a different iteration of those syllables so many different times before I finally landed on something that felt completely right. There are just so many words there!”

Another of her writing quirks: a need for isolation. Despite touring with some of underground music’s biggest names such as Mac DeMarco and Thundercat after the smash success of her 2018 debut Lush, Jordan eventually grew frustrated. “I almost got nothing done the entire time I was on tour, as much as I tried all the time,” she says. That’s because solitary song-crafting is “part of the freaky magic.” Equally beneficial: a pure final product. “I don’t like eyes or ears on me when I’m fleshing out lyrics. I want to be completely uninfluenced by people around me—I don’t want a reaction that’s good or bad. I just want to be able to ask myself those questions, and resolve them myself, before going on to someone else.”

And while she’s aware those steps are essential to her process, following them isn’t a surefire formula for Jordan. “I always feel confident to make decisions to finalize my songwriting, once I get going. But it’s funny how I’ll also feel mystified when I start up again. It can feel like a miracle that comes out of nowhere, like I can’t do it whenever I want. Instead, the inspiration just strikes me naturally.”

On the upside, that’s not the only miraculous part of her music. Jordan says she “surprises myself sometimes” onstage. Once she begins touring her songs, she’ll often find herself thinking: “‘Oh now this carries more meaning for me, and I want to deliver it like this onstage from now on.’ That’s my favorite thing about performing songs—how they grow after they are recorded.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 69 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, our 20th Anniversary Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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