Last summer when I found out Chris Trapper had agreed to headline our 2nd Annual, Life as a Zebra Foundation Benefit Concert, I asked if he would be willing to let me interview him. He immediately agreed. Chris has been a source of support since even before we started the foundation. He headlined our first benefit when Allie and I really had zero clue what we were doing. Luckily, because of many people including Chris, it ended up being a very successful night. Chris has done different interviews for us to help promote the concerts, and therefore the foundation. He has been nothing but kind, open, generous, and encouraging as Allie and I work to hopefully make a teeny-tiny difference in this crazy, ginormous world, for a cause that is extremely personal to both of us. Anyways, not only am I one of Chris’s biggest fans as a singer-songwriter, but I am one of his biggest fans when it comes to Chris as a person.
I hope you are able to join us at the benefit concert on April 13 to hear Chris Trapper’s beautiful music, and watch him mesmerize the audience as the expert performer that he is. If the benefit concert is not in the cards, do yourself a favor and check out his music…and check out his tour dates. He may be coming someplace near you. You won’t be sorry.
The following is my interview with Chris Trapper.
What has been your biggest obstacle in life, and how have you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle in life (that I’m willing to go public with:) is probably my history with stuttering. When I was in grade school,high school, and even college, I was afraid to speak publicly. So much so that I would stay home from school, skip classes, and hide in my room. When I auditioned for a part in my school play, I couldn’t read one word off the page, my mouth locked, my face turned red, and I nearly suffocated. Now, there is a difference in stuttering, and being a stutterer. A stutterer’s pain is more constant, and severe, and his/her stress level is that of a full grown adult, regardless of how young. It is anxiety to the tenth degree. Especially mixed with the normal social pressures of school. And I would say I haven’t overcome it as much as I’ve learned to plow through situations where it might rear it’s ugly head, and I’ve gained confidence in the fight.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
As cliché as this sounds, I like to be with my kids when I’m not working. (I have two boys, aged 5 and 7)I like to hike with them, play with them, teach them, read to them, etc…I think especially because my job can be a little self-consuming at times, it is refreshing to spend my time thinking of someone other than myself. And kids’ perspective of the world is so refreshing. They can literally siphon the jaded right out of your heart, mind and soul.
If you had to choose only one of your songs as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
I think my favorite song that I’ve written is a song of mine called “Keg on my coffin” …and I base that purely on the fact that I don’t get sick of playing it. When it hits, It seems to pretty much hit people regardless of age group, because it conveys hope in the face of death, and celebration in the midst of grief. When I got into songwriting initially as a kid, I had no idea it would be my partner through life, but It has become just that. Now I have songs about birthdays, anniversary’s and even death.
What is the thing you like most about being on the road touring? What is the thing you like the least?
I pretty much like every aspect of touring, driving, hotels, playing singing, affirmation, meeting people, Waffle Houses, you name it…I’ve learned that the touring life is not for everybody, but it definitely works for me. What I don’t like about it is the isolation, and this is a little more complicated, because it’s not just the kind you feel just when you’re alone. I can remember feeling it even when I was with 8 guys on the road with my old band (The Push Stars), and it’s the kind of isolation you feel when you realize you’ve taken the road less traveled, and the majority of the country is waking up when you’re going to bed, and that you will never lead a totally “normal” life, for better or for worse.
Where do you see yourself career-wise in the next 5 years?
In 5 years I’ll be grateful if I’m still making a living playing music. Best case, I’ll be playing bigger theaters across the country, I’ll have provided the principle songs for a great film, I’ll be touring a little less, but selling a few more tickets. Worst case, I’ll be doing Justin Bieber covers in a Holiday Inn lounge somewhere. The good news is I feel that I am on a solid path right now to my best case.
Name your top 5 favorite musicians/artists/bands…Who does Chris Trapper listen to?
I’ll name a top 5 but it’s a list that is always shifting and expanding. Right now I love:
1. Colin Hay, he’s my idol, friend and touring mate.
2. John Prine, he’s kind of my long term business model wrapped up in one of the greatest living songwriters.
3. Martin Sexton,…I’ve toured with him a bunch over the years and learned so much from him. He’s a masterful performer.
4. Sam Cooke…I’ve been obsessed with him for many years now, to the point that I sought out the motel in Watts where he got shot, and stood in the same spot where he passed onto the next world, in the hope of absorbing a trace of his spirit…(I know I’m a lunatic).
5. Rob Thomas…I always admire how he treats the people around him, his fans, and his friends. I think of him as a very soulful pop singer.
Do you have a method to your songwriting? A place where you write? Take us through your “typical” process of writing a song.
My songwriting process has always been the exact same as a 13 year old girls process might be writing in her diary. Something happens, and I need to write about it, just to get it off my chest. Although these days I do have to be a little more aware of relating to the grind, because my grind is left of center,(hotels, airports, highways, stages, and dressing rooms, or lack thereof) so I can’t talk about that stuff in every song or I’d be preaching to a very small choir. Sometimes, I write songs from memories and fantasies, but for the most part, I’m reporting what’s going on in my life.
What can you tell us about the new album you are working on?
On my new record, I think one obvious theme I’m dealing with is the death of my mother, who left this world this past August 2012. She was maybe the most supportive person of my music in the world, and my good friend. I would call her every day from the road, if I didn’t, she’d be pissed because she’d “have to worry”. I think she could kind of read through the isolation I might feel on tour. At first, I was surprised at the amount of joyful songs on the record, but then I realized, joy was her legacy, and celebration was her point of view. Had I told her at 18 years old that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up, she would have been disappointed, but music for her was a huge priority, so she easily signed off on that.
What are you the most proud of?
I’m not a proud person in general. Sometimes I think pride is for the boastful. But I know I sometimes FEEL proud for taking the road less traveled with my career. I kind of feel like I’m a painter selling my own paintings. How unlikely is it that you might make a living out of that? But I have now for many years (knock on wood:) The music business is more congested now then ever, and just think of how many kids have sat on their beds playing guitar dreaming someday they’d be able to do that for a living? I was that kid,100%, so although I realize I’m not exactly topping the charts, I feel blessed to make music my living.
What or who inspires you?
I think I’m most inspired by my father. One of my new songs talks about him, and it’s called “Extraordinary” because I’ve always thought he was just that…extraordinary. He raised six kids on a hard-earned salary, and has always loved us in a true and gentle way. He’s very smart, so my favorite line in the song is “you loved with an ever hopeful, ever open mind” because he’s always encouraged his kids, and he’s always accepted our shortcomings. And though the story of his life is long, it can be summed up like this: he was an only child who lost both his parents very young, so he went from not having a family of his own to speak of, to creating this huge, wacky and wonderful family…
Name 3 things on your bucket list.
I don’t have a bucket list, nor will I ever because I see my entire life as just a tiny fraction of what I’d like to do in this world. It is endless. I would like to live 1000 lifetimes, I’d like to spend an entire day just staring at the sky watching the clouds go by, I’d like to meet a million more friends. It’s not that I’m unsatisfied, my life is exactly what I’d wish for if I could have ordered it, it’s just hard to to ignore the vastness of it all…
What memorable moments as a musician will forever remain etched upon your memory?
There’s really too many to pick just a few. The funny thing is, I could write a book easily about all the weird and wonderful things that have happened to me through music. I will say this, If you had told me at 19 years old that any of the following would have happened, I would have looked at you like you should be locked up:
I’d have songs in popular movies
I’d tour the country many times with my best friends
I’d go to the Grammys, and not just as a spectator (i had a song on a soundtrack that was nominated)
I’d sit at a bar chatting with Rebecca Romijn (I had the theme song for her sitcom)
I’d sing a duet with Rob Thomas
I’d open for John Prine
Colin Hay would come to my house for dinner
I’d have people wanting to meet me, get a picture with me, etc…
See, before I go into name-dropping overdrive, I’d better stop, needless to say, I don’t take a moment of it for granted.
What keeps you sane?
I think sanity is boring.
Name 10 things other people would be surprised to find out about you.
I love Howard Stern
I barely drank alcohol until I started touring with the Push Stars (then I made up for lost time)
My cat is obsessed with me
I love Boxing (the sport)
I cried after the Buffalo Bills lost their 4th consecutive superbowl
I run every other day
I see a shrink when I’m off the road
I find the tv show Forensic Files relaxing
I am the reigning Buffalo, NY table tennis champion
I played on a high school soccer team that went 0-12 (no wins, twelve losses)
What would you tell people who are out there looking for a little hope?
If your eyes are open, there are inspiring people all around you. People who crawl out of holes deeper than yours, people who walk through fire hotter than yours, who fight insurmountable odds, and people who heal themselves by helping others. Seek these people out and learn from them, because when you see yourself reflected in someone else, you become them…
And last question, Chris…What do you think of zebras?
I think they make hoofbeats too…
For more information about Chris Trapper, please visit, http://www.christrapper.com/
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