Songwriting a welcome outlet for former frontman
Singer-songwriter Chris Trapper began his career in the late '90s as frontman for alt-rockers The Push Stars. As a solo artist, he has become a respected and acclaimed songwriter who tours internationally, and will play a show Friday, May 17, at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington. He was kind enough to answer some questions while traveling and gigging in England recently.
The Beat: I assume you're working on and have some new songs. Is there a timetable for a new record?
Chris Trapper: I just recorded all the basics for my new record. It's 15 new songs, and should be out by mid-summer. Although when I say should be "out," it's a curious thing, because there are not really any record stores anymore, but it should be ready by then.
TB: How has your songwriting changed and how is it the same as when you were "just starting out" with The Push Stars?
CT: The only thing that's changed is that I take it more seriously now, because I depend on it for my livelihood. With The Push Stars, it was more of a lark. We got signed before we knew we were a band, and went on tour before we had any idea how to tour, so it was all on-the-job training. Now I know a little what to expect, and know that if a song is good, not only can it have personal impact, but also financial.
I think I also pour a little more gratitude into my work now, because I realize what a huge privilege it is to make my living doing what I love.
When I was a kid, I'd stand in front of the mirror and play guitar, dreaming there would be someone listening -- occasionally wearing my mother's high heels, pretending I was in Kiss.
TB: How has having a family impacted your writing -- and your touring?
CT: Having a family has made the good gigs better, because it feels very complete, like everything makes sense. Without a family, a good gig can become an excuse for excess and recklessness. When I have a bad gig, I get frustrated, because I feel I'm away from home for no reason. It makes the stakes higher, in every way. If I want to be a good dad, I eventually want my two young sons to be proud of me, and know that I was away for a good reason, not to be an f-up!
TB: Talk about the difference between writing the quirky, humorous songs and the more-serious tunes. Is there a different motivation or a different reward from a creative perspective?
CT: I think I write the quirky ones as palate cleansers, because If I had my way, I'd play all slow, sad love songs, because that's what I'm drawn to. But I know that would be torturous to some, so if I throw a funny one in here or there, it lightens the mood, gives fans an opportunity to hit the restroom without feeling guilty, and besides, so much of life is funny. I will say this: to write a truly funny song does take some skill, and some honesty and vulnerability, because so much of the music world prides itself on being "cool."
TB: Can you tell in advance when a song might resonate with fans/audiences? Examples?
CT: I don't think you can tell. You may have an inkling that a song is good, but it's always just speculation. For my last CD (The Few & the Far Between) there was a song I'd written called Skin which I thought was sappy and off-balance lyrically. In it, I was trying to capture the notion of eternal love, which is not easily done. It's much easier to write about puppy love. I was ready to scrap the song, until my friends were outwardly enthusiastic about it. So I recorded it, and then tried it live, and people said it made them cry for beautiful reasons, so it's become a staple of my live show.