The Song That Changed Your Life
Meet the reader: Jason Schneider
Jason Schneider is a music journalist and assistant editor at Exclaim! magazine whose obsession with a song led him to co-write a book. He is also one of two readers who read all of the submissions to our "The Song That Changed Your Life" writing challenge and helped select the finalists.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live and what do you write?
My name is Jason Schneider. I live in Waterloo, Ontario and I write primarily about music.
What's your day job?
I’m an assistant editor at Exclaim! magazine, and the area I’m most responsible for is folk, country and blues. I’m also a freelance contributor at several other magazines and websites.
How did you become a music journalist? What drew you to the field?
After I seriously started listening to rock and roll at about age 10, I became a voracious reader of music magazines. In the pre-Internet age, this was the only source of information on my favourite bands, and from there I discovered the great work of critics such as Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, and Nick Tosches. From about age 16, that’s what I wanted to be.
Can you describe a couple of the stories that struck you as standouts?
All of the stories I chose had something special about them. I was particularly drawn to those that conveyed how rock and roll gave the writers their first real taste of freedom. On the other hand, I really liked the story that was critical of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle,” because I’ve always felt the same way about that song.
Were you surprised at any of the songs or musical styles that people wrote about?
I wasn’t that surprised. A long time ago I stopped judging people based on their musical taste. Whatever kinds of music moves people is valid, and I think this exercise is a great demonstration of that.
Was there a lot of Canadian Content in the songs/music that people wrote about?
I think there was a sufficient amount. I was certainly expecting pieces on Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but it was also nice to see people writing about Hayden, the Weakerthans, Blue Rodeo and the Tragically Hip. And even though I’m not a fan, there were a couple of pieces about Our Lady Peace that were quite affecting.
Is there a song or piece of music that changed your life? And how did it change your life?
Anyone who knows me knows the answer to that is the song “Have Not Been the Same” by the short-lived Vancouver punk band Slow. I became obsessed with that song from the first time I heard it in the mid-‘80s, and that led to the creation of the book Have Not Been The Same: the CanRock Renaissance 1985-95, which I co-wrote with Michael Barclay and Ian Jack. It’s been a focal point of my life for the past 15 years, and is probably my biggest accomplishment.
Jason Schneider is an assistant editor at Exclaim! magazine, Canada's national music monthly. His work has also appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, Paste, Relix and Shindig. He is the author of Whispering Pines: the Northern Roots of American Music from Hank Snow to The Band, and co-author of Have Not Been The Same: the CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario.