Like many artists, Daniel Snipes was catapulted towards the next phase of his life when his love story reached an unhappy ending. However, the pain of his breakup with his long-time girlfriend eventually subsided into clarity. Feeling alone, yet surrounded by his biting insecurities, he picked up his guitar and focused on creating a unique sound. As his former relationship faded, Snipes found that his desire to explore his faith through making music was one love that could hold him together.
“It brought me to an even playing field to where I could analyze actually who I was,” Snipes says. “I was lower than I really have ever been in my entire life and I’m so glad that I had that because of what it did.”
Originally from the small southern town of Westminster, South Carolina, Snipes, twenty-five, made a leap of faith to pursue his music career in the Northwest. In 21 days, Snipes journeyed over 3,000 miles across the American south to California playing his music and eventually settling in Eugene, Oregon. As an acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter, Snipes expresses himself stylistically through a hybrid of jazz and rhythm and blues. The southern hints sprinkled throughout his dynamic sound provide a complimentary edge to its spiritual content. He plans to take his newfound musicianship and travel around the country, sharing his songs with anyone willing to listen.
“Most people in the South are raised in church,” Snipes says. “A lot of people that I’ve met [in Eugene] have not been raised in church at all I like that because they actually ask questions and it just falls upon deaf ears back home. t’s quite a different experience playing here.”
Snipes’ songs employ the use of parable to disguise a deeper Christian message. In his song writing process, he says that his inspiration comes in the form of a gift from his strong connection with God and Christianity.
“I just apply structure to the gift—that’s really all I do,” Snipes says. “It’s not an audible thing like anyone is whispering to me, but it just comes and it’s there and I listen to it.”
His music proved to have a magnetizing effect when he first showcased his songs at his church in South Carolina. A man named Jack Connally heard Snipes play at the Tri-County Worship Center in Seneca, South Carolina and encouraged him to travel to Eugene.
“He’s just given lyrics by God to write a song,” says friend and travel companion Connally. “His purpose behind writing his music isn’t to be famous, but it’s just out of his love for music and the fact that he interprets things in a different way.”
Although he now channels his musical talents to convey a Christian message, Snipes’ old songs are of a very different nature. Back in South Carolina with his ex-girlfriend, Snipes was writing what he considers to be “distasteful music.” One song in particular, “Dirty Date,” he wrote entirely using sexual innuendo.
“It’s weird because it was totally reflecting my own lifestyle,” he says. “I found it so much more important to write songs that come from the bible because they actually have true power. They have weight and they have conviction as well, but you learn something at the same time.”
Snipes can recognize the difference between a song that comes from his own experiences or when it’s filtered through his spirituality. His song “Where I’m From” is an upbeat musing on the many differences between the South and the Northwest, while “Satisfy” explores his Christian faith.
Yet not all of Snipes’ songs are so straight forward.
“Tempt Me” takes the listener through a soulful whirlwind of inner questions and longings for someone or something. “Love Drunkeness,” a song Snipes says many people think is about a drunken intimate evening is really about the dizzying experience of encountering an indescribable powerful entity. Drawing on many biblical stories for creative content, he’s able to express his own experiences and his relationship with God in a way that is relatable for members of all creeds.
“I write my music for anybody and anyone,” Snipes says. “It’s not for just people who believe in Jesus. I want to show hope through my songs.”
It’s apparent in Snipes’ music that he is heavily influenced by jazz. Upon first hearing Snipes play, Connally was intrigued by his inventive take on popular worship songs.
“I’ve never heard anyone really play those songs like that,” Connally says. “They were played in an original way—an intimate creative manner.”
To create his soulful sound, Snipes draws influence from Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole by playing jazz chords and using vocal techniques to emulate a Big Band feeling. When writing a song, he considers the big picture—where all the other instruments would be playing in the overall composition. While it’s only him and his acoustic guitar, he hopes to record an album using accompanying classical jazz instruments in the future.
But for Snipes, an undiscovered artist currently self-recording his music, it’s not about getting a record label, making a fortune, or becoming famous. In the next month, he plans to leave Eugene and take his songs to the streets of Portland and Seattle to perform for the public.
“I know that at the end of the day if I’m not doing this, if I’m not playing or writing music, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do,” Snipes says. “My true desire is to do this, and I don’t care if I make any money off of it. I’m willing to pour everything I have into it.”
Snipes’ new-found love of sharing his faith through his unique musical talents has mended him from a broken past, guided him across the United States, and grounded him in a career that sustains him the way a romantic relationship failed to do. Now, standing at a crossroads between self-expression and financial success, Snipes must again consult his faith and ask, “Which way?”