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Snyder was born in Queens to a Manhattan mother and a Brooklyn father. The family moved to Kingston in 1972. While attending college in Syracuse, he played in a handful of indie-punk bands before returning to the Hudson Valley; from there, he tried to make a go of it as a musician in Memphis, a frustrating proposition. But in 1995, his friends in Mercury Rev came calling in search of a keyboardist (Snyder also plays guitar, bass, accordion, banjo, and other instruments). The band sent a plane ticket and he was soon back in Kingston, rehearsing for overseas tours and in the studio making such gold records as the group’s acknowledged classic, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs.
“Adam really had a lot to do with how well Deserter’s Songs turned out,” says Mercury Rev guitarist Grasshopper. “At that point, we were starting to want to play and write songs in different ways, and he really helped us out with the new ideas we had. Plus, Adam’s like a jukebox, he knows so many songs. We’d be playing one of our own songs and he’d drop in some part of a Stevie Wonder song or something. A different musical reference every night, which was really cool.”
So why, then, did Snyder leave the group in 2000? “Well, looking back on it now, I guess I could’ve stayed and still done my own music as a side project,” he says. “But I was a bit of a control freak back then, and I really wanted complete control of my music and my career. We’re still all friends, though. In fact I did a short tour with Mercury Rev not long ago, just for fun.”
His years with the acclaimed neo-psychedelic act have also led to brief stints as a studio player for New Order and as a touring keyboardist for The Waterboys. In addition to the ’Rev-friendly UK, the latter band’s homeland of Ireland has become a ripe region for Snyder’s own performances, one he toured with great success upon the release of his first solo album, 2001’s more folk-based, appropriately titled Across the Pond (released on David Gray’s HTI Records). “Ireland has what I call a really high PQ, or poetry quotient,” the singer-songwriter says. “Everyone there has some level of poetry in them. If you want to stand up and sing all by yourself, or tell them a story, they want to hear the story. If you want to share an emotion with them, they want to share one with you. They’ve got thousands of years of history of understanding that, and it goes right into the pop world. Even though I was singing some of these songs [about Kingston] to them, they still identified with what I was singing. Like, when I did ‘Ghost Town’ they would get really quiet and listen.”