By Christopher Treacy & Brent Snyder
When we first heard Brent Snyder’s latest single, the current Song of The Week in the new CQ Roundup, we swooned. The planets seemed to align. Because while there’s most definitely a modern production glaze over the top of “Rhinestones & Regret,” it captures the vintage country aesthetic so magnificently… and with such a queer spin, too! Snyder delivers the song with conviction amidst weeping strings and wisps of steel guitar, unveiling a story of deception… but what kind of deception is it? In this case, the protagonist is deceiving the world around him (and maybe himself as well, to some degree) by showing a face that doesn’t reflect what’s going on inside—it’s highly relatable. But then, he turns a corner. He’s “all set with rhinestones and regret,” and will no longer be giving in to the compulsions that keep taking him down.
Easier sung than done, perhaps; Snyder’s character has his work cut out for him. But his resolve to turn things around is infectious and empowering. I mean…there’s got to be a morning after, right? If you’ve ever reached a point of exasperation with bad habits or come up against a dead end in your life, this song speaks to that moment when you decide you’ve had enough. The digging out process is another story entirely, but “Rhinestones & Regret” articulates that magical moment when the light of hope shines through and the desire to change asserts itself.
Snyder recorded this track with producer Kristian Veech, a queer singer-songwriter in his own right that produces artists in both the country and pop spheres; Veech’s musical direction is in top form, here, and Snyder turns in a rather convincing performance.
Rhinestones mean different things to different people. Obviously they’re directly associated with country music, but they also have symbolism in different cultures. Some seem to think of them as signifying surefootedness. The Chinese associate them with happiness. Other folks see them as symbolic of imitation or somehow cheap. What was the connection you were trying to make using them in this song?
Rhinestones mean a good deal to me. I love anything shiny and eye-catching and they obviously symbolize country music as you mentioned. On a deeper level to me they symbolize the dreams I am working on. The glitz and glamour of a life on stage. For “Rhinestones & Regret” I wanted to show that this character has had great success but is also struggling with great loss. Many times in our life the yin and the yang are equally present and for me, I often find that one area of my life is skyrocketing while another area is hitting rock bottom. That’s exactly what this song is about.
Were there any specific vintage tracks you were thinking of as you and Kristian put this track together?
When I first wrote this song I honestly thought I may never record it. I kind of put it away and thought “It’s not for me”. About a year and half ago I was trying out songs to see what the crowds reacted to in order to figure out what I should be releasing. I played “Rhinestones & Regret” at The Lipstick Lounge and got a lot of positive feedback so I decided that maybe it WAS for me. As I worked on it I realized it was exactly the type of country music I want to make. I told Kristian, “If Patsy Cline or Hank Williams Sr. were still alive today and making music, what would it sound like”? We wanted to incorporate that old Nashville sound with the whiny steel guitar I love and yet set in a modern sonic space. We listened to a lot of Patsy and Hank and I even had a photo of Patsy taped to the wall in the vocal booth as I was recording. The success and beauty of this song is solely attributed to Kristian Veech and his unbelievable talent.
“To feed something that won’t go away..” It’s amazing how things get away from us. Suddenly, something that once seemed like a choice is now calling the shots and we’re rendered helpless – it can be money, food, sex, substances… In that sense, the song takes the “woe is me” vintage country format and turns it into something modern and empowering – were you aware you were doing that? Was it deliberate?
I definitely was not aware of that when I was writing the song and it was not deliberate. I simply wanted to convey that this character has some demons and I wanted to contrast the brightness of the rhinestones with the darkness of regret. I struggle with addiction and can be somewhat self destructive at times so I was definitely thinking about that when I was writing the song. The regret part of the song feels very personal to me. I know what it feels like to let something else “run the show” and fight that daily and I think a lot of people can relate to that.
Songs like “Rhinestones & Regret” can help people recognize unfortunate patterns in their lives and, with a little willful strength, be the catalyst for positive change. Can you think of a few country songs that might’ve helped you make some important realizations in your life?
I’ve always loved story songs and tend to learn the most from those. As a kid who grew up in a trailer not having much money, I heard “Coat of Many Colors” when I was really young and that really resonated with me. It helped me be thankful for what I had and really hold items or moments of seemingly no value very close to my heart. I think “Fancy” also did the same thing for me. Those songs just said “be yourself, lean into that, and the rest will take care of itself.” Also, for what it’s worth, before any big moment in my life (interview, big performance, meeting) I listen to “Freedom” by Beyonce and “Sissy That Walk” by RuPaul. “If they ain’t paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind…” has actually changed my life.
You released a string of genre-crossing singles and an EP this year, and there’s more coming in 2023. Maybe you could tell us a little about what you’re working on? Is there more country flavor to be had in the next batch of songs?
Yes I have been hard at work creating music that I am so proud of! My debut EP, MAGENTA, came out in May of this year, and since then I have released two more singles—”Karma” and “Rhinestones & Regret”—as well as a Christmas cover of “Christmas Time Is Here.” 2023 is set to be even bigger. I will release my second EP, COBALT, on January 6th and will commemorate that release with a release party at The Bowery Vault where I will do a full band show with Wesley King as the opener. All are welcome to come to that. I have plans to release another EP in 2023 as well as my debut album. This catalogue of work I am creating is meant to show the world who I am musically. I want these projects and the album to show everything I am capable of sonically, lyrically and vocally. Country Music is my home. It is what I know. I have never wanted to be anything other than a country singer. I am finding so much happiness in rediscovering my love for traditional country and bluegrass sounds and you can expect the next batch of music to be just as country as “Rhinestones & Regret” but with my own Brent Snyder flare.
Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.