Identity

Snail Mail Isn’t Afraid of Big Emotions

The 19-Year-old musician on saying no, being her own boss, and writing songs to get to know herself better.
September 11, 2018, 4:14pm
Photo by Julia Rendleman

Nineteen-year-old Maryland native Lindsey Jordan, who performs as Snail Mail, makes music that explores universal themes: those raw teenage anxieties over unrequited love and other landmark experiences that are as relevant to young people now as they are to those who experienced adolescence years ago. Her latest full-length album, Lush, was released earlier this year to critical acclaim and reminds us how very complex life can be at any age. Jordan’s voice is crisp and raw; her lyrics, straightforward and relatable.

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Snail Mail is currently on tour in Europe and will return home to the US for several more shows this fall. A tour in Asia follows, then another set of dates in Europe. It’s a busy time for this relative newcomer, but her calm confidence and self-awareness are proving to be beneficial travel companions.

Photo by Julia Rendleman

We spoke to Jordan about how she’s handling her newfound fame, the career lessons she’s learned so far, and what influenced her to pick up the guitar in the first place.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On manifesting a vision
I started playing guitar when I was six, as a hobby. I started taking lessons and just never stopped playing. Around middle school, I was like, "I'm going to do this for a job." As a band in Maryland, we were just getting really cool shows and it was really resonating with people. I booked us one tour, and after that, things ended up going really well. I was planning on going to college, but then we went to SXSW and signed with an agent and had all these label offers. I had to pick, which was something I hadn't really put much thought into. I made that decision a year ago.

On personal growth
I'm always trying to grow as a writer. But even before the record came out, we were on this busy tour cycle and now we're doing it again, so there's not a lot of space for me to chill and reflect. It's all been so hectic. I feel like I'm always trying to change and improve, so it's hard for me to look back at something and give myself a thumbs up. I'm always pretty critical of myself. The acclaim is cool, but I don't really take it to heart.

Photo by Julia Rendleman

On her creative approach
My music is all just from personal experience. A lot of it is about friendships of mine and how my life is changing, relationship turmoil, and the positive aspects of relationships. Everybody interprets music differently; for me, [my songwriting] was meant to be journal entries of what was happening in my life. Everything is deeply personal and honest. I wrote what I felt I wanted to and never really pressured myself to do any kind of writing outside of that. I try to think about outside sources and influences as little as possible. It was a lot of making blind jumps and locking myself away to figure out exactly what music is to me, and what songwriting is, and why I care.

"Writing has always been a nice way to wrap everything up into a bow and reflect."

On how writing became an emotional outlet during her teen years
Writing has always been a nice way to wrap everything up into a bow and reflect. Especially during a time when I was changing and learning a lot about myself, and transitioning between stages. I've learned a lot from that time in my life. Sometimes things are naturally kind of dark and sad. That’s just the adolescent experience. There's a lot of darkness and sadness and loneliness—along with other really great things.

On the hardest challenges of her career so far
Saying no to things is really hard. It's a lesson that people usually learn along the way, rather than before you start. There have been so many hard things: learning to be independent and a leader. Realizing that I'm the boss, and I need to act like one. It was also difficult making the record, writing it, being my own critic, and then touring all the time. Saying no to cool tours or having to cancel things is hard. It feels good to say yes to everything and be this invincible traveling wizard, but I’m learning I’m not invincible.

25 Strong is a new series highlighting people who have broken barriers and changed culture in 2018. Created with Reebok.