"Snowy" was written this way: First, I played the rhythm guitar part through my old Danelectro amp that I unfortunately no longer have. I had the tremolo on and as soon as I strummed the first chord, an E major, the whole rest of the song appeared in my head. I turned the 4-track on and made the rest up in one pass. Then on a second pass, I made up the lead guitar parts.
The lyrics took a couple of tries. Generally my process for writing lyrics is to sing random things over top of the music until something sticks. I rarely sit down and write lyrics out like I used to do in college. Some songs don't have lyrics until we record them and even then, I just make them up as I go. This was the case with "Yardbird Sings Metal" and "Waiting for Later" on the new album.
In the case of "Snowy," my first pass on making things up sort of stunk. It was about regional sales managers or something. I don't quite remember. Anyway, I'd written and recorded it in December of 2002. That December, I was also scheduled to take the LSAT. However, two nights before I was to take the test, there was a terrible, apocalyptic ice storm. The evening before, when the snow started, Jennifer had nearly been trapped in Durham and only barely made it home in time. That night, Jennifer and I woke to the sound of trees breaking. Not just branches, but whole trees. The cracking sound of trunks snapping made the duplex tremble. The power went out and it got cold and we were scared. But we were also tired, so we went back to sleep.
The next morning, we woke to a world encrusted in ice. It glittered in the sun and hurt our eyes. It was beautiful, but after a few minutes of wonder, Jennifer and I realized that we had a few problems:
1. No power.
2. No heat.
3. I had the LSAT the next morning, but no alarm clock.
4. Seriously, no heat. We are going to die.
5. No food.
6. You don't need food if you are dead from cold and missed the LSAT.
After a few panicked hours, including an aborted trip to Harris Teeter for rations (the inside was a dark throng of cold people offering up laments to God, so I just bought a loaf of bread at Weaver Street and called it a day), we decided to sleep in Jennifer's office on UNC's campus. Of course, we couldn't leave the cat, so we smuggled Register in, yowling loudly the whole time, Jennifer and I both assuming that if we got caught with the cat on campus we would be jailed and she would get kicked out of school. Don't laugh, these were dire times.
But once we were nested in her office, I learned that the LSAT had been postponed a week. At that point, it was just party time!
Flash forward to mid-January. When you take the LSAT, there is a designated day the next month when you can call and get your score early. So I spent that day, a Saturday, in bed, in my boxers, calling the number which was busy all morning, clogged with nervous law-students-to-be. I don't know why I wouldn't get out of bed. Maybe the floor was lava. I don't know. I had my 4-track and keyboard in bed and I was messing around. I listened back to "Snowy," which wasn't actually called that then, and I remembered Jennifer's story of almost being stuck in Durham and the inspiration came to me. I plugged in the microphone and from bed, began to croon. Of all the songs I've written about Jennifer over the years, this was the best one.
When I finally got through to the LSAT people, I found out that since I took my test late, I would have to wait another week for my score.
I rose from my bed and put on my pants.