Jack Schneider Prepares to Let Listeners in on His Creative Process with 2023 Full of New Music

When looking at the career accomplishments and collaborations that Jack Schneider has achieved before turning 30, it’s, as he puts it, staggering. Collaborations and performances with legends like Vince Gill, Don Schlitz and Paul Franklin, among many others, and performances at both The Bluebird Café and Grand Ole Opry have served as snapshots in a musical journey for the New York born singer/songwriter that is just getting started. The images that encapsulate his journey so far are looking to multiply a few times over in 2023, as Schneider has a plethora of EPs on the horizon and plans to bring his music to as many stages as he can.

Those forthcoming EPs, which range from acoustic arrangements to songs with verse and rhyme, are slated for release every four to six weeks as Schneider prepares to open the vaults on his creative process and the steady work he’s put into honing his artistic identity.

We had a long, in-depth chat with Schneider to talk about his early love of guitar, his friendship with Vince Gill, his Opry and Bluebird experiences, the music he’s released so far, what’s on the horizon and more!

Pro Country: Your bio mentions finding our mother’s guitar at just three years-old being the moment that started your musical journey. What was it about the guitar and music that connected with you so early in your life?

Jack Schneider: I’ve been playing guitar for so long that it’s just always felt like an integral part of my self expression. I gravitated towards sound. I was very taken by music as a kid, and the idea that I could interact with that object and bring musicality out of it was the greatest magic trick of all time for me. There was something about it being tangible and musical that I quickly responded to. The guitar was a very accessible way to generate music.

PC: When did that early interest in music translate into realize you wanted to/could pursue music as a career?

JS: Honestly it really wasn’t until I was 20. I played music my whole life, but it was always for myself. I performed growing up and I sought out opportunities, but it wasn’t necessarily to generate a career, it was more that it was something that I just loved to do. When I was 17 or 18, people were getting ready to go to college, and I thought, “Shit, what am I gonna do with my life?” At that time, I believed that unless you were Taylor Swift, you couldn’t sustain a living in music. I realized I was wrong when I first started going to Nashville and I saw that there’s a big community of people that live there that aren’t Taylor Swift. They may be people you haven’t heard of, but they make a living playing guitar on records or playing for other people. It really spoke to me that I could use music as a way to bring out something in other people’s art and also be able to scrape by. It was around then that I realized that was something I wanted to do, but it was more as a guitar player and less as an artist myself. It really wasn’t until the pandemic when I lost all my work and had all this time on my hands that I ended up writing a shit ton of songs because I had nothing else to do. I showed the songs to Vince Gill and some other people, and everybody was enthusiastic about the batch of songs and said I ought to make a record and see if it speaks to people. I feel very fortunate that the songs showed up and that so far, people have responded to them to where I can go out and play some shows for them.

PC: You’ve had a years-long relationship and friendship with Vince Gill. Can you tell us how that relationship began?

JS: When I was in my teenage years, I got to a point where I realized that there weren’t a ton of resources for guitar growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. I wanted to learn more about the history of the guitar because I thought it would be integral to growing as a musician. How could I create if I didn’t understand the tools and their parameters? I realized that George Gruhnt was the guy for that. He essentially created the vintage guitar market in 1969. I talked my parents into driving me to Nashville for the first time to meet him when I was 15. Within a day of meeting George, he said he reminded me of someone he had met when he was about my age, and that person was Vince. Vince and I didn’t actually meet until I came back to Nashville the next year and started interning for George. He took me backstage at a Time Jumpers show and Vince and I fell into each others’ orbit. The first thing he said to me was to surround myself with musicians who inspire you to bring more out of your abilities. He put it very nicely, but in a way, he was saying to be the worst musician in the band, and he was absolutely right. You can only learn when people challenge you. That same day, he said, “It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the ones you don’t.” That’s absolutely true as well, and that’s been a big theme in me doing my artist projects; it’s all about letting songs and musicianship speak by not interfering with it. I don’t want my ego, voice or presentation to take away from creating a moment.

PC: You had the opportunity to play The Bluebird Café, which was captured on the documentary, Bluebird. What did that night mean to you and what has it been like to have that moment captured on tape as you performed your song “Remember to Dance”?

JS: That night was in January of 2018. I decided to come to Nashville for the month. One of my best friends was out of town, so there was a vacancy in her house. I had a month off from school, so I decided to stay at her house in Ashville and get my feet wet. There was a cold front that came through, and it was like eight degrees, and I thought, “This sucks! I don’t wanna live here.” [laughs]. Vince called me and said he was playing a round at The Bluebird that night and asked if I wanted to come. I had obviously heard a lot about The Bluebird over the years, but I had never been there to that point. I was thrilled to get to go. It was the same night that Don Schlitz was playing, and he’s one of my songwriting heroes. I was at a table somewhat near the action. They went around a few times, and just like it happens in the movie, Vince said that he had a friend there and he’d love to have him play a song at The Bluebird. I was totally caught off guard. There was no preparation. I was definitely nervous to do it on the spot. In the moment, “Remember to Dance” jumped out to me as the song I wanted to play. It was a song I wrote with my friend, Khaya Cohen. We had gone to NYU together, and there was a professor there, Nora York, who was a lovely soul. She taught performance studies, and she unfortunately was diagnosed with stage four cancer early in my time there. When she passed, Khaya and I wanted to pay tribute to her, so we wrote “Remember to Dance,” which was the last thing that Nora said to her students. I’m very grateful that the video exists to look back on that moment at The Bluebird. Even when I can’t watch the video, it’s a moment that replays in my head. It’s a beautiful moment to have gotten to be in a circle with so many heroes in such a sacred space, and honoring Nora with that song, which was a reminder to search for beauty around you was something that stuck with me.

I didn’t know there was a camera crew that night. I think if I had known, I probably would’ve clamed up. A few months went by before Erika from The Bluebird called and said she didn’t know if I knew, but they were filming that night for the documentary. She said it was such a special moment and it’s what they thought that’s what The Bluebird was all about. She said she didn’t know if the documentary would be too long to where they’d have to make some cutting room floor decisions. She invited me to the premiere at South By Southwest in 2019, and sure enough, they kept it in the movie. It was pretty damn surreal. Being some knucklehead, guitar playing kid sitting in a theater watching a documentary about The Bluebird and having your song played was pretty staggering.

PC: A few years ago, Vince Gill brought you out to play on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. What was it like as a young artist to step into the circle for the first time and perform for that audience?

JS: That was unbelievable. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. The Opry is something that I have held sacred for much of my life. The Grand Ole Opry is the bar. Vince had brought me as his guest. I had just moved to Nashville and I was trying to make a living as a guitar player. I was backstage with him, and similar to what he did at The Bluebird, it was totally off the cuff. There was no warning, he said to the audience that he had a buddy who was there and that he thought it would be a really special moment to have me come up and play a song. I was standing there like “Shit! How am I gonna pull this one out of my pocket?” [laughs]. Similarly, I thought if there was a song to play at The Opry, it was “Remember to Dance.” 

PC: Last November, you made your official Opry debut. What was it like to see your name and image on the graphics for the show and to have earned your spot as a solo artist?

JS: It’s about the greatest honor, thrill and privilege that I’ve ever experienced. When I found out I was going to be playing, the first person I called was Vince. He called The Opry and added himself to the bill that night because he wanted to be a part of the evening. It was very special. One of my friends, Gary Mule Deer, extended his stay so he could perform too. It felt like a sense of family to be a part of that. Seeing a show print with my name on it was unbelievable. I was very nervous about it for weeks on end leading up to it, and I had a breakdown after it was over [laughs]. The history and tradition of music is important to me, so the Opry carries a lot of weight in that lineage. Being a part of it is a lot to wrap my head around, even still.

PC: You released your debut single, “Remember to Dance,” in 2019, which has since gone on to earn well over 100,000 streams on Spotify alone and was featured in the Bluebird documentary. As an artist releasing his debut single, what was it like to tangibly see the success and support that song received?

JS: It’s amazing. In the state of the world right now with the digital medium, it’s very hard to know what a song is going to do. Vince said to me a long time ago that nothing actually changes in a song that goes from a recording nobody has ever heard to being a number one hit. In the context of “Remember to Dance,” it meant a lot for me. That song was very special to me. Nora’s family had asked us to play that song at her memorial, and we played it again at our graduation ceremony. That song had a life in our little community up in New York, and to see it come out and reach more and more people warms my heart.

PC: “Remember to Dance” features Vince Gill on harmony vocals. What did it mean to you to have Vince, one of the most respected and talented artists in the country music industry, lending his voice to your debut single?

JS: The way that that came about was pretty unexpected. I’d recorded the song after The Bluebird, and I wanted to have a recording of the song so I could have a tangible way to interact with it. I recorded it in New York, and I brought the recording to Vince the next time I was in Nashville. I had signed off on it probably being done. He listened to it and said it was cool but he thought it was missing a harmony, and he asked if it would be okay if he sang it. It was unbelievable, Vince Gill asked if he could sing harmony on my song [laughs]. It’s one thing for him to say he wants to sing on it, but when you listen to what he sends back, come on. Vince is one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard. You hear my measly, Americana folk voice, and then Vince’s harmony comes in on the chorus and it’s like “Jesus Christ” [laughs]. Talking about it feels so absurd. It still doesn’t feel real. Years can go by and other things can come up as you get busy with life, but you look back on it, and you think “damn, did that really happen?”

PC: Throughout the pandemic, you released a series of “vanishing albums” that were available for a week before being pulled from streaming platforms. Can you talk about that release strategy and what you enjoyed about it?

JS: It was purely for my own amusement. Everybody that I know that is a business-minded individual said I was a dumbass [laughs]. I made so much music during the pandemic. I probably made eight or nine records worth. I have a four-track recorder, and I recorded them all pretty bare bones. People would ask what I was up to, and I would tell them I was writing and making records. I didn’t know if I wanted those records to live on that much, because I didn’t know what I wanted to say yet artistically. I was still coming to terms with putting myself out there as a singer/songwriter/artist. It was a trial period. People responded very positively to them, and then I said, “You know what? They can go away.” [laughs]. Who knows, maybe they’ll show up again. They still exist somewhere. My original strategy was to make physical copies. To this day, I love the idea of records existing in a physical medium. I don’t have Spotify myself, I listen to music on CD, cassette or record. When an artist I love puts out a new album, I buy it. I want to own it, sit with it, read the lyrics and look at who played on it. That said, the original plan with the vanishing records was to only release them on CD and cassette, and when I ran out, I ran out. At the last minute, I got talked into allowing them to live out in the world for a week. To this day, people ask me if those records still exist, and I’ll whip out a CD or cassette for the right person. I don’t know if the idea made any sense, truthfully, but it made sense in the moment.

PC: Your sophomore single, “Strong Enough,” is a sonic outlier in your catalog as it features a more electrified sound than anything you have released otherwise. Can you take us in the studio and take about the sonic inspiration behind the song and how it came together?

JS: I’m a big Jackson Browne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan fan. At one point, I made a whole record of that kind of material. It didn’t quite feel like an authentic representation of myself. That was a song I kept listening to as its own entity. It would be a sunny day in Nashville, I’d roll the windows down and listen to that kind of music. I have visions of making a record like that. Unfortunately, it’s pretty expensive to pull that off. I’d definitely like to revisit that well, but I don’t know when that will be financially feasible. I’m fully independent without a label or team behind me, so if I want to make something, it’s on my own dime. One day, there will be more of that stuff, but for now, it’ll be an outlier for me. 

PC: “Josephine” was the first single you released from your newest album, Best Be on My Way. What went into the decision to release “Josephine” first and have it serve as the introduction for the album?

JS: It’s funny how you work through the process of records and recording. That was a song that wasn’t even going to go on the record. We had a day of tracking with Vince, avid Rawlings, Stuart Duncan and Dennis Crouch. We played each song three or four times, and that was it, no overdubs. We were about to take a break for lunch, and I brought the song up. It just felt good when we played it. It had an energy to it. The recording that exists is probably the third or fourth time I ever sang that song. I can tangibly feel the spontaneity in it. When it came time to release Best Be on My Way, that song felt like it encapsulated the spirit of the recording session. It was spontaneous and free. That recording is the second take of two takes.

PC: You’ve mentioned that “Tennessee” was the first song that you recorded for Best Be on My Way. How much did that song and its presentation in the studio set the tone for what the rest of the record became?

JS: I knew what I wanted to capture. Being in the studio with David, Vince, Stuart and Dennis was a moment I wanted to remember forever. It was captured for me. I felt that a song that was written about a place I had come to live in felt like a reasonable start as far as the narrative went. It was a big music party. We all sat in a big circle and talked and played. Every once in a while, I’d say, “Hey, let’s try this song,” and we would run through a few takes. In many ways, I didn’t know it was going to be a record when we recorded it. I moreso just wanted to recordings for myself. When I listened back, the narrative of the songs made me feel that there was a record and story to tell. It’s a black and white photograph of that moment in my life. In putting forward music in a tangible way, I wanted to show people a moment that was special to me. There’s something important about making music that you, as an artist, want to hear. You have to be true to yourself, and if people like it, that’s great.

PC: “Farewell Carolina” is our favorite song on Best Be on My Way. Can you take us in the writing room and talk about how the song came together?

JS: That was one of the last songs to show up before the record started. My friend Wes Langlois had written a draft of it. He texted me a voice memo of it, and it didn’t really have a chorus at the time. I really liked the verses and I worked out a chorus and sent it back to him. There was a bit of a disagreement after I wrote the chorus. The night before we went to record, I brought the song to Vince’s house and asked how I could make the verses and chorus go together. He threw out some suggestions, and we had a song. Vince worked his magic and brought out the song that was there. It was all very subtle changes, but when it’s thoughtful like that, it can completely alter the way a song feels.

PC: What drew you to have “Best Be on My Way” serve as the title track of its album?

JS: To me, that song is the heart of the record. It ties in the aspect of having lived through a pandemic and the aspect of being a 26 year-old musical expeditionary who doesn’t know what lies just a few days ahead. As citizens of this planet, we don’t really know where we’re going; we know that we’re here in this moment and tomorrow is a question mark, and it’s beautiful to not know where you’re heading. There’s a certain sense of peace in that. To me, that was the thread of the record. If you would have told me four months earlier that I’d have all these heroes in a room recording together, I wouldn’t have believed you. That was just part of the journey, and this record is about journey and the open-endedness of movement.

PC: What was it like to share a creative space musicians like Vince, Stuart, David and Dennis, and how does that make you a better musician?

JS: I remembered what Vince told me the first day I met him, “Surround yourself with musicians that are better than you.” It brought out a lot in me. I think I only played one guitar solo on the record, otherwise, I just strummed rhythm. On some songs, I didn’t even play. That challenged me as a vocalist and as the person expressing the narrative of those songs. Those guys have supported so many great vocalists. Dennis has toured with Allison Krauss. David played with Gillian Welch. Stuart has played on James Taylor records. There were big shoes for me to step into, and that was exciting for me. One of them would play something, and it would inspire how I sang the next line, word or phrase. It was a musical conversation.

PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Best Be on My Way after listening all the way through?

JS: I hope people enjoy the journey from start to finish. I hope people see that it’s a real moment. There’s no gimmick on the record. There’s no tuning on my voice or cuts or edits, it really was as if you held up a camera and took a picture. In an era where everything has become so intangible, I hope this record lives as a reminder for keeping two feet on the ground.

PC: iTunes reveals that you have an instrumental EP, Sketches, set for release on March 3rd. What drew you to release an album in that way and how much are you looking forward to having it out into the world?

JS: I’ve got so much music stashed away. I’ve got Best Be on My Way that I’m really proud of, and I think that moving forward, I don’t want to be as precious with what I put out. I want to let people into the creative process. In order to land on a finished, polished record, you spend a lot of time experimenting and having creative freedom to discover who you are artistically. There will be a lot of EPs coming out this year, some that are collaborations and some that are just mine. There will probably be an EP every four to six weeks this year. Sketches is the first one because I want to show people how it begins. In many ways, that’s how the songs start; they’re little acoustic guitar pieces that I stumbled upon and put on tape, then I’ll hum the melody until words start showing up. It’s like chiseling away at something. You have to start wide and narrow in on what the essence of what you’re trying to say is.

PC: You’re currently touring as a member of Vince Gill’s touring band. What has it been like to take the stage with so many world class musicians and play those legendary songs for Vince’s audiences?

JS: It’s really scary [laughs]. I’m the new guy in Vince’s bands. Billy Thomas has been in the band since the 80s. Paul Franklin is one of the greatest pedal steel players that’s ever lived. I’m just a 26 year-old knucklehead who’s really lucky to be there. I don’t take it for granted. I try very hard to honor and respect that band. I try to stay out of the way. I try to play the songs with respect and as little as possible. I want the focus to be on Vince’s voice and songs. It’s been an incredible musical education as I’ve played with those musicians. You learn a lot from playing with people you respect.

PC: Along with your consistent string of EPs, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?

JS: I’m on tour with Bella White right now, and I’ve got all this music slated. Sketches will be the first release, and the record after that is a collaboration with one of my high school buddies, Val Hoyt. We made an acoustic guitar improvisational record. Val and I have been playing for over a decade now, but we don’t have any recordings that exist of our playing, so we made this record together. After that comes out, there’s a lot more of song compositions; I’ve got piles of songs that haven’t seen the light of day yet. There will be a lot of music, and I’m going to play as many shows as I can. There’s probably some more work with Vince coming up as well. We’ll see what develops!

*Jack’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*


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