Snider was born in Portland, Oregon, and lived there until his family moved to Houston, Texas. When he was 15, he ran away from home with a friend and went back to Portland. After high school, he moved to Santa Rosa, California, to be a harmonica player. Then his brother, who lived in Austin, Texas, bought him a ticket to move there. After seeing Jerry Jeff Walker in a local bar, Snider decided that he didn't need a band to be a musician.After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid-1980s and establishing residency at a club named the Daily Planet, he was discovered by Keith Sykes, a member of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. A longtime acquaintance of John Prine and Walker, Sykes began to work with Snider to help advance his career. Prine hired him as an assistant and then invited him to open shows. In time, Buffett heard Snider's demo tapes and signed him to his own label. On his music, Snider has said "I was just trying to come up with the best ... most open-hearted ... well-thought-out lyrics I could come up with. I wanted every song to be sad and funny at the same time, vulnerable and entertaining at the same time, personal and universal at the same time. I wanted every song to be as uniquely written as possible and then I wanted to perform them in a studio loose and rugged and hopefully as uniquely as I could. My hope is to be hard to describe and/or new ... I'm not saying I am. I'm just saying that's the hope."