Chris Trapper grew up here, attended Amherst High School and went to Fredonia State College, where he formed the band Awake and Dreaming. This group a powerful ensemble that married Trapper's folk-based songs to elegant alt-rock arrangements and post-punk guitar figures -- moved to Boston, Mass., at the end of the '80s. Trapper went on to form the Push Stars, a killer folk-pop-rock trio high on many a "These guys shoulda made it way bigger!" list.
The Push Stars eventually crumbled beneath record company pressures, constant touring and the inability of management to fully understand what Trapper and company were trying to do. Trapper continued on, however, building a sizable, loyal and still-expanding following based on a string of intelligent and endearing solo albums, and high-profile song placements in major films and television series.
Trapper returns home for a show at 8 tonight inside the Ninth Ward, Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.) with Kristen Cifelli. Tickets are $17. He took time out from the road to chat on the phone last week.
>These days, a songwriter/performer has to be an independent businessperson, too. Do you enjoy this part of the gig, or is it just a necessary evil?
Yes to both -- it's a necessary evil that I've learned to enjoy. [laughs] I look at Ani DiFranco as an inspirational business model. She laid the blueprint out for so many of us. These days, I own my own records, and I can tour when I want to. I'm getting a nice balance, touring, writing, releasing records on my own terms. I no longer have to feed the beast, so to speak. I don't regret any major label involvement I've had over the years. It has all led to great things, and it has all been part of a necessary growing process. But I'm much happier now. If I'm a businessman, that's OK, because the product I'm selling, so to speak, is something that I love and totally believe in.
>The Push Stars ended up on a few bills with jam bands, just as that scene was enjoying the beginning of its renaissance. Was this a good fit?
It really wasn't, unfortunately. We were working with a manager who is the guy that signed Phish. He believed that we were at heart a jam band, but for me, it has always been about the songs. I spend so much time working out where I'll place a lyric -- even if it's just an "and" or an "if," you know? -- and then to be playing big places where no one is even listening to the lyrics ... Well, that just didn't feel right. Again, I don't have any animosity about that period. It was another part of the learning process.
>You're a parent now. If one of your kids wanted to dive headlong into the music business, would you be supportive?
That's a good question. I'm the youngest of six kids. My dad played organ, and my mother was a performer, too. They totally supported me in my music, at the beginning, and still today. When I had taken some time off from performing, and everything was looking a little bit grim, my father told me, "Don't give up on yourself, you're too good at this to throw in the towel." That meant the world to me. So, as tough as this business is, I would have to support my own kids if they choose the music path.
>After all of the different aspects of the musician's life you've been through by now, what keeps you going?
I still go to bed at night thinking of the next gig, the next song, the next recording session, and I'm still as excited about all of these things as I've ever been. I play music because I love it, plain and simple. I never expected to make a living from this, you know? So it just can't help but feel like a blessing to be making my way in the world doing something that I love so, so much.
-- Jeff Miers