21 under 21

21 Under 21: Snail Mail on Why Indie Music 'Can Be Limiting'

Snail Mail
Michael Lavine

Snail Mail

As Snail Mail, Baltimore-area native Lindsey Jordan, 19, channels the coming-of-age intimacy of ’90s Liz Phair through indie-rock confessionals. Her debut, Lush, hit No. 20 on Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart, etching a spot as the youngest in a new class of guitarist singer-songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.

Her edge? No one can convey the whirlwind of being a teen like a teen.

You’re the only indie-rock artist on this list.
When I started, I never expected to get anywhere with my songs. I was making music as an output of having a lot of feelings, being expressive and not knowing what to do with teenage angst. Now, I’ve been enjoying getting to meet artists outside our realm that are completely different. The indie world can be pretty limiting.

Who are some of the artists outside the indie realm you’ve been excited to meet?
This is only sort of outside the realm, because it’s Baltimore shit. I got to meet JPEGMAFIA lately, which was really cool. I’m a really big fan of his work. I personally really love hip-hop, I’m really influenced by it, and we talk about it a lot in [the band]. I got to meet Princess Nokia at Coachella, which was cool. I also love really pop stuff, but I knew it wasn’t something I’d be making.

What is the most applicable lesson your parents taught you?
My mom is a business owner, she owns a store and started it herself. We have a lot of conversations about money and trustworthiness. She’s really big on how you go about presenting yourself and always taught me about being your own entity, doing things yourself, always being a leader and a boss. Both of my parents always taught me to be my own person. They’re both really singular, smart independent people.

For artists under 21, why is social media important?
It’s cool to have something that’s yours. I don’t know a lot about being famous, but there are rules and regulations about how you present [yourself online]. I try to not put too much out there, and I don’t do too good a job of it. But I feel more normal when I’m able to fuck around online. It’s an essential part of being a teenager.

Tell me more about how you use social media and your favorite platforms.
Instagram is my favorite platform for sure. I’m not on there right now, I have to take breaks from it. I dream in Instagram all the time, I’ll wake up and have a dream that I forgot to answer someone’s DM or something. For Twitter and Instagram, there’s not much of a say from the people I work with. People aren’t like, “Delete that,” or “You have to talk about this” or whatever. There are things I have to post about obligation-wise, but I feel like I can be myself on there. As far as Instagram goes, I can post whatever I want as long as it’s not sloppy. I’m a big fan of memes -- being able to express myself in the meme world is important to me.

What obstacles do you face by being younger?
The day after I graduated high school, we went to the West Coast, started touring and never stopped. Starting off, I felt everybody was my best friend and had my best interests in mind. But people take advantage of green-ness. At festivals and stuff, we all cling to people our age who are in bands because it’s so rare.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of Billboard.