Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan on Post-Pademic Performances, Gratitude and Growth
WORDS by GEMMA GREENHILL
PHOTOGRAPHY by CAITIE KRONE
STYLING by PALOMA EWING
Growing up in Baltimore, guitarist and singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan felt galvanized by an environment that encouraged individualism, and so she was inspired to start recording and performing at just fifteen. She’d been playing classical guitar since age six but felt the call to be a rock star grow stronger as she hit her teen years. Her yearning for self-expression outweighed what the teachers and adults in her life were telling her was possible.
Inspired by the DIY spirit, she discovered a sense of community by going to house shows and her confidence grew. She began playing and eventually she was booking her own shows as Snail Mail, her solo indie rock project. Eight years later, she’s still making music and touring but those early discoveries still inform who she is as an artist and her desire to create meaningful and authentic work.
You found your sound in Baltimore’s DIY community. How are you staying true to it as you grow into a more mainstream career?
Damn, that’s a great question. I have an interesting relationship with the DIY stuff. A lot of it is still really high-priority for me. It’s important to keep everything about the craft. I consider myself a songwriter before anything else and I definitely have strong opinions about industry stuff, and a lot of the ways that things get done. I think the integrity I learned from people in the DIY world has stuck with me. I want to keep my old friends and keep it about music. I’m not interested in stepping on any heads and I lack the competitive edge that a lot of people have.
A lot of great stuff that comes out of Baltimore is free of criteria. It’s super different and I really like that. People aren’t trying to assimilate to a sound. What I was getting excited about when I was younger was just so creative. To me it’s still about friendship, people getting their dues and ensuring I’m supporting my friends’ bands. There’s a lot of industry stuff that I absolutely 1000% reject and I don’t know if that would be the case if I didn’t have so much DIY experience. I learned a lot about what’s okay and what’s not without a team or a manager. Like advocating for yourself and your band to get paid, how much do we pay an opener, what’s fair? You learn a lot about how it works and how to use your own instincts rather than trusting some manager because I’ve seen how it works from the ground up.
It’s so important to keep friends around at all times and also keep people who say “no” around. I try to stay super grounded because so much can get lame in this field.
Did moving into a virtual life over the lockdown years change your work?
It shifted so much. I feel like the pandemic was a formative time of my adulthood. I was turning 21 and ev
erything music-related was becoming livestreams. I just hated that format so much because it was technical difficulties and playing into a webcam. I was like, “oh damn, this is part of the job description now?!” I just felt like I would rather do nothing.
I’m a pretty introverted person, believe it or not. I came out of the pandemic even more of a hermit. I learned so much about myself. I’d been touring pretty heavily since I was a teenager and this is one of the first periods of time where I was just a normal person. I had a routine. I was home. I had my car and I learned a crazy amount of stuff about myself and that definitely helped me with writing. I needed to be intentional about it. I have a really hard time writing around other people or when I’m on the road and the pandemic was exactly what I needed to make a record. No deadlines and no pressure. Obviously it sucked but I feel like I personally needed two years of messiness. It helped me in a lot of ways, and just like everybody else, I’m sure it traumatized me in a lot of ways.
How did you handle that trauma of isolation?
I was either taking really good care of myself or just playing Xbox and smoking weed all day. I started going for runs and I liked to cook, journal every day, go to therapy, do an hour of writing. I’d do an hour of reading with the phone far away. I deleted Instagram for a year. That was crazy! I got really into flossing. I felt that one of the only ways to make myself feel human was to take unbelievably good care of myself.
Did the pandemic change who comes to your shows now or how they engage with your music?
They’re definitely different. It’s a lot of kids coming to their first shows and the vibe is different. You see a lot of stuff that you didn’t see before, people writing messages to you on their phone and holding it up. That must be some post-TikTok thing. Everybody asking to get on stage. It seems like a new era of fans entirely. And now we’re opening this tour for Turnstile, so it’s mostly their fans, who are also completely different than ours. So it’s hard to even tell what’s going on. But I mean I’m glad we’re still able to play venues full of people. I feel like the pandemic just put everything into perspective.
You’re currently on tour. Are you thinking about what’s next?
I don’t actually have any material yet. I’m working on demos but I don’t know if any will make it onto an album. The next record is gonna start showing itself to me once the next chapter starts. I’ll have time off and I have a really good feeling about it.
I absolutely want to co-produce again but I want to use all I’ve learned from working with a bunch of people in the past to make everything exactly how I want it. Anytime other people are involved—even just an engineer—you can get their taste all over things. Sometimes that’s awesome. Sometimes it’s an influence you don’t actually need or want. I’m always trying to get closer to my intuition. [Second studio album] Valentine is all me. It sounds just like me—how I wanted it to be—which is absolutely true.
I’m interested in messing with other types of music. It’d be so cool to work on a video game soundtrack or a movie score. I have interests in doing more acting or maybe a screenplay. I can’t promise that the next record is even gonna be a good record. But no…yes, I can! I can’t promise anything about it other than I want to do it myself again, grow and make something great.
What does it mean to make something “great”?
Oh my god, it’s scary to think about. It’s hard to imagine wanting anything more than what we have. The venues we play now are awesome. We get our own dressing room. It’s much more than I ever expected times a thousand!
And I for sure don’t want to be stuck in any kind of rut. I think it’s really easy to fall into that, especially because we have our taste. There are certain things that I like in a song, that haven’t changed in years. I want to keep making records that feel meaningful and not just pushing them out to make money–keep becoming a better guitar player, songwriter and singer. Staying genuine, good and uncorrupted by other people’s tastes and opinions. I want to keep getting closer to whoever I am as an artist, discovering that, learning and growing. As a writer, I have so much more to give to the world. @snailmail