Greg Trooper plays tracks from Incident On Willow Street, talks about learning to not over write songs & what made him scream like a little girl. Also on this episode, rock & roll from The Felice Brothers, a country ballad from Lee Ann Womack, country rock from Parker Millsap, outlaw country from Billy Joe Shaver, soul music from Shelley King, backwoods rock & roll gospel from Red Eye Gravy, country music from Cahalen Morrison, lo-fi stomp blues from the Ben Miller Band.
- Woman Next Door / The Felice Brothers / Favorite Waitress / 3:41
- Send It On Down / Lee Ann Womack / The Way I’m Livin’ / 4:06
- Truck Stop Gospel / Parker Millsap / Parker Millsap / 4:06
- Building a Fire / Shelley King / Building a Fire / 3:44
- Hard To Be An Outlaw (w/ Willie Nelson) / Billy Joe Shaver / Long In The Tooth / 3:03
- All the Marijuana / Red Eye Gravy / Dust Bowl Hangover / 2:50
- San Luis / Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer / The Flower of Muscle Shoals / 2:44
- Burning Building / Ben Miller Band / Any Way, Shape, or Form / 3:08
Greg Trooper Info
Greg Trooper interview recap
Calvin notes that Greg Trooper has been recorded by the artists like Robert Earl Keen, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, and Vince Gill and also notes that in past interviews Greg has discussed a “holy trinity” of influences. Calvin asks Greg Trooper to discuss those influences that have made him a “songwriter’s songwriter.” Greg says, “The holy trinity is Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams. It doesn’t really mean those guys specifically, although those guys specifically are among the greatest in each one of their styles of music. It’s more of a frame of reference. Those were the things that inspired me as a song writer, as well as 60’s AM radio. Being a kid and growing up [in the 60’s] sitting in back your parents car. We were so fortunate growing up when we did. AM radio in the 60’s you’d hear Otis Redding and you’d’ hear British Invasion rock & roll. And you’d hear soul music from Memphis and Detroit. And then you started hearing Bob Dylan which gave way to all these singer songwriters. And you’d hear this stuff on the radio right in the car. and it wouldn’t even be a choice. You’d be sitting in the back of car saying ‘hey mom, put on WABC.” and there’s you have it.”
Calvin asks about the new album, Incident On Willow Street and how it came together. Greg Trooper says, “Well it’s like many of my records. I needed to get another record out so all of a sudden I started to write a lot. Deadlines are very liberating to me. I said man, I need to get a record out. I didn’t intend there to be any real theme. Although whenever you are writing you have certain characters, ideas, certain things that have been swarming around in your mind and they appear in your songs when you write them in a short amount of time. In these songs, there seemed to be characters that were trying to break away from a bad situation into a better situation or trying to grow out of a stale and stagnant life into a richer life. There are a few characters in these songs that seem to happen. So if there’s any common theme running through these songs I guess that would be it.
Greg sets up “Everything’s A Miracle.” He says “I’d heard this quote by Albert Einstein. He said there’s two ways a person can live their life. One way is that nothing is a miracle. The other way you can live your life is that everything is a miracle. I wrote an entire song called Everything’s a A Miracle. I worked hard on it. It was a rockin’ little number. I was pretty much done with it. And I was playing it back and playing it back and I just said, man this song stinks. [Laughs] I liked the idea but I didn’t like the song. All of a sudden I started playing a whole different groove, playing this kin of 6 / 8 sixties soul groove. And I rewrote the song completely with a whole different lyric and I was very very happy with what I ended up with. Which is a lesson in songwriting, you’re never done really. Don’t be happy if there’s a doubt in your mind.”
[Calvin plays “Everything’s A Miracle” from Incident On Willow Street by Greg Trooper.]
Calvin notes that many reviewers over the years have praised Greg Trooper for his ability to create memorable characters in a song. Calvin asks Greg Trooper if has any advice for songwriters on how to do that. Greg says, “You don’t want to over-write. I’m still learning how not to over-write. That’s a problem with having Dylan as he ultimate hero. He can write at length, image upon image upon image. When I try to go that way, I find myself over writing. And the characters become too much, too redundant. Economy is a brilliant thing. A guy like Warren Zevon, when you look at his songs. That guy employed economy like you wouldn’t believe. That song “Carmelita.” He paints a devastating picture in three short verses. He did that numerous times. I would say your are looking to find the essence of a character quickly. “
Greg Trooper goes on to discuss character development on Incident On Willow Street. He says “There’s a song on the record called ‘All The Way To Amsterdam.’ I got a girl. She reads these childrens’ books in her room with a flashlight. In the morning her drunken father shows up and scares everybody And he humiliates her on the porch. And she gets back in her room where she feels safe and she reads her books and she dreams about skating in the Netherlands and I was able to do that in under four minutes.” Greg Trooper tells the story about the origination of that song. He was playing a gig about 25 miles outside of Amsterdam in Holland. A guy told him he used to skate all the way to Amsterdam when the canals would freeze. Greg took that idea and put it in a song about a girl in west Texas.
[Calvin plays “All The Way To Amsterdam” from Incident On Willow Street by Greg Trooper.]
Calvin notes that Greg Trooper has spent time in Austin, Nashville, and New York City and he asks Greg which was most challenging to him as a song writer. He says, “I really wasn’t in Austin long enough. I was really young and kind of crazy and I did pursue performing, but I really wasn’t writing back then. I tour there a lot now, But we’ll take that one off the plate, leaving Nashville and New York. I found Nashville to be extremely energizing. There’s so many people there and it’s such a small city. And there’s so many people doing what you are doing. There’s so many people to feed off of and the talent pool is very deep and it’s very concentrated. You might think maybe you don’t want to be with so many people doing what you’re doing. But there’s a sense of community, at least when I was there. I’m sure it’s still the same way now. There’s a real sense of community, almost rooting for the next guy, just like they are rooting for you. There’s back biting and back stabbing in any industry. But there I felt very comfortable with other writers and musicians. It was a very stimulating. And New York is kind of my home. I grew up in New Jersey. I spent my youth growing up and going to New York and seeing shows. I lived there for 15 years and now I’m back since 2008. I feel very at home. I didn’t have the right accent for Nashville. [laughs] And I feel comfortable in both places and I find both to be inspiring. New York is more expensive. When I moved back there from Nashville I felt like I was recapturing my title as starving artist. [laughs] “
Calvin asks about the shows he saw in New York growing up and which ones inspired him to pursue a career in music. Greg Trooper says, “The Beatles at Shea Stadium. That was pretty inspiring. [laughs]. My father took us there. I think I was 9 years old. He was a graphic artist at WOR which was one of the sponsors of the show and he got box seats and I screamed just like a little girl. [laughs.] I saw the concert of Bangladesh. It was the first time I’d ever saw Dylan. I was 16. I saw George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton on the same stage. The other thing about New York is all the small shows I’ve seen. The first time I was introduced to John Prine and Steve Goodman. I saw The Staples Singers at this club on the upper West Side. I saw Van Morrison at Avery Fisher Hall. I saw Patti Smith open up for Happy and Arty Traum! [laughs]. It was pretty rich with a variety of stuff.”
Greg Trooper sets up, “Good Luck Heart” He says “It was one of the last songs I wrote for the record. It was almost a throw off. I was having enough fun with it to finish it. I just came up with this line of a guy talking to his heart. He gives his heart to a girl and she takes it and splits. And he deals with it. And as he moves along he says to his heart, ‘Give her a pinch and see if she flinches’ I decided to keep the song just because I like that line.”
[Calvin plays “Good Luck Heart” from Incident On Willow Street by Greg Trooper.]
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