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Trapper Schoepp On His New Album & Writing Songs With Bob Dylan & Bruce Winter


The last time Trapper Schoepp played in the Lake Effect performance studio, it was tracks from his EP based on the rides at Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay. 

READ: Trapper Schoepp Pays Tribute to a Wisconsin Landmark in 'Bay Beach Amusement Park'

Schoepp’s new album Primetime Illusion comes from places not as consistently joyful as an amusement park. However, that is not to say that it’s a depressing album in any way. The Milwaukee singer-songwriter (and Lake Effect alum) has produced another character-driven, literate collection of tunes, produced by Wilco veteran Pat Sansone. 

"[Before this album] I was at the bottom," says Schoepp. "I was near 30, and I'd been all around the world with my songs, put out albums, gotten record deals, toured with my heroes, and I had that big existential question of, 'What now?' "

"It was the classic singer-songwriter thing: I wrote my way out of it."

Surrounding all of that was the return of chronic pain which led to depression and anxiety according to Schoepp, "so it was the classic singer-songwriter thing: I wrote my way out of it."

In fact, Schoepp notes that his first experiences with chronic back pain was how he originally got into music, and songwriting and music continues to be a place of comfort for him.

Primetime Illusion also features the songwriter opportunity of a lifetime: co-writing a song called "On, Wisconsin," with music legand Bob Dylan, which Schoepp admits was a daunting challenge to finish.

"I tried to get inside of the mind of a song that was started over 50 years ago," he explains. "And I was thinking about the character in the song, I was thinking about a drifter, someone who was lost at sea."

But Dylan isn't the only notable figure with whom Schoepp shared songwriting responsibilities on the new album.  "If All My Nines Were X's" originated with a time Schoepp filled in on a bowling team with the late Bruce Winter, WUWM's former program director.

"It was serious — it's visceral in the air — Wisconsin bowling," Schoepp says. "But I felt pretty good. I started bowling a bunch of nines, and I got my spin on and the whole thing.

"And I looked at Bruce and I said, 'Oh man, if all my nines were X's,' and he said, 'You know what, Trap? That'd be a great song for you.' And so we just started going back and forth, finishing each other's sentences, and before I walked out the door of the bowling alley that night, I had the whole song finished."

Ahead of a concert tomorrow night at Colectivo’s Back Room,Trapper Schoepp accompanied by his brother Tanner Schoepp, joined Lake Effect's Mitch Teich in the performance studio:

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.