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Greg Snider & The Winding Stream at SXSW

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SXSW started as a music festival before adding film and later interactive, so it’s a perfect fit for Beth Harrington’s The Winding Stream, edited by our very own Greg Snider and sharing the stories of the Carter family and how they’ve shaped, not only musical, but American traditions.

Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes peek at the project, and be sure to scope out the review in Variety, the festival circuit and give Greg & Beth a shout out for their win at CIFF with Best Music Film!

How did you find yourself on this project? 

I got involved with The Winding Stream when director Beth Harrington and I went to lunch. She asked me if I’d be interested in the project and I said, “absolutely yes.” We went to her car at the curb, she opened the trunk, handed me a box of tapes and said “Here you go!”

Is it safe to assume you’re a fan of the music? 

As the old saying goes —“I love two kinds of music—Country & Western.” The word “Country” automatically turns some people away from this genre of music. I tend to think of it as “American” music. It represents and explains the regional lifestyles, thinking and history that this country was based on. My own passion is for traditional country music. I don’t listen to the pop music that dominates the genre today. If there is a traceable link to genuine country roots, be it musical or personal—that’s the music I like. To edit performances of George Jones, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Hank Williams, Maybelle Carter and so many other of musical idols of mine—it was a dream come true. I don’t understand people who don’t like this form of American music. …All I can figure is, if you don’t like Country music, you’ve probably never had your heart broken.

Music and editing so often go hand in hand and both are such story-centric forms of art/communication—how did the two come together on this project to shape and influence each other/the film?

The Winding Stream is about the The Carter Family—AP, Sara and Maybelle—the First Family of Country Music and their descendants and legacy. In the course of telling the story of their lives and their music it traces the history of American music up to the present day. It’s about the oral tradition of storytelling through song, the first recordings of songs and the revolutionary impact of radio and TV on music. But primarily the film is about the multi-generational continuity of a family whose core being was music. From AP, Sara and Maybelle through The Carter Sisters through Johnny Cash through Maybelle’s solo ventures into contemporary folk through the continuing musical contributions of Rosanne and John Carter Cash—no American musical family lineage has been so multi-generational or influential. At one point, the film tells the story of Johnny Cash being so influenced and inspired by this family and their music that he deliberately changes the course of his life so he can become a member of the Carter Family. At the root of The Carter Family’s music is storytelling. Their songs tell the stories of living, loving and dying. Some stories are metaphysical—winding down a stream in a canoe lost in daydreaming. Some stories recount actual events such as train wrecks or murders. In editing their story, I relied on the songs to drive the narrative. As their lives evolved and progressed, so did the stories in their music. My attempt in editing was to carry this continuity through multiple generations and to follow how this evolving musical talent shaped the lives of this remarkable family. I also wanted to tell the story of how this incredibly talented family influenced the music of generations of musicians to come.

On the topic of shaping, I would imagine any in-depth project like a feature film would inevitably shape and influence the people who work on it—would you say this is true to your experience? Do you feel this project has shaped or affected you as an artist/individual?

Working on The Winding Stream changed the way I look at and listen to music. It gave me a huge education in the history of the music that I already loved, and it honed an ability to hear the roots of this music in other types of American music. Having an understanding of where music comes from and the people that shaped it gives greater meaning to music that comes after. An understanding of how music evolves through time, place, technology and personality amplifies my appreciation and enjoyment of music, both past and current.

Along the same lines, do you hope others will take anything from it?

My hope is that audiences will come away from this film entertained by experiencing the passion of music-making through the lives of this remarkable family. I hope it will inspire people to explore their awesome music and allow them to hear The Carter Family’s influence as it has wound its way to present day. And I hope they think the film is a really fun watch!

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The WINDING STREAM will be showing at SXSW on Saturday night, March 15th at 7 pm at the beautiful Alamo Ritz Theater with a Q&A with director Beth Harrington.

Greg also served as consulting editor on The Immortalists, airing at 11 am on Saturday March 8th at the Stateside Theater.

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# documentary SXSW Greg Snider Beth Harrington