Xtra Mile Recordings is excited to announce that Wisconsin-based Trapper Schoepp’s new album, Primetime Illusion, will be released worldwide on 25 January 2019. Preorder it on vinyl and CD, and presave on Spotify here.
Produced in Milwaukee by Pat Sansone (Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock), Primetime Illusion sees Schoepp reaching for his own place in the American songbook canon with a truly remarkable collection of character-driven songs and stories, a carefully-etched series of sonic snapshots in which people we all know struggle to fulfil their own American dream. The album also features a co-write with Bob Dylan called, ‘On, Wisconsin’. Rolling Stone premiered the song alongside a Q&A with Schoepp, and the state of Wisconsin shot a mini documentary about it. Listen to the song and watch the mini-documentary below.
In early 2017, the news emerged that way back in 1961, just months after he’d first moved to New York City, Dylan had drafted a song about Schoepp’s beloved Wisconsin, imagining a homesick rambler pining for the cheese and beer of his faraway Badger State. More than half a century later, the handwritten lyric sheet was uncovered by a former roommate and put up for auction at $30,000. In Milwaukee, Schoepp saw a photograph of Dylan's handwritten lyrics and decided to set them to music, recording a rollicking version of the song that he titled ‘On, Wisconsin.’
“I just connected with it immediately,” Schoepp says. “It’s so obvious. I knew immediately that I had to finish the song. I just thought it’s got to be done.”
Once he finished the song, it was sent to Dylan’s management team to consider it for an official co-write credit with intent to publish. Eventually, consent was given, bestowing Schoepp’s official imprimatur on the collaboration.
“On, Wisconsin” – which closes Primetime Illusion – proved the catalyst for Schoepp, to get creative again after going through some rough personal times. “Publishing a song with Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan! – put wind in my sails,” he says, resulting in a deluge of 40-odd new songs.
When time finally came to record, he reached out to Sansone, who he had met earlier that year in Chicago while supporting The Jayhawks. Impressed by the young troubadour’s “songs and commitment and enthusiasm”, Sansone sorted through the songs Schoepp had written over the past year, whittling it down to an essential ten tunes. The multi-instrumentalist/producer provided “inspiration and Jedi-like guidance” as he helped push the project to completion. Together, artist and producer built upon Schoepp’s newly-acquired piano skills by adopting a refined and relaxed approach akin to the classic Laurel Canyon sound of the 70’s; all glittering piano, ringing guitars, and crisp vocal harmonies courtesy of Trapper’s bassist brother Tanner Schoepp.
“Pat and I were very conscious of not overcooking things,” Schoepp says. “Keeping it sparse and letting the songs and the characters who inhabit them speak for themselves.”
A few years earlier, the Milwaukee-based tunesmith had been on a roll, earning acclaim as one of America’s most gifted new singer-songwriters, singled out for his remarkably well-drawn tales of characters on the fringes of society. His Brendan Benson-produced second album, 2016’s Rangers & Valentines, was hailed among that year’s finest, declared a “mini masterpiece” by Relix after being named Billboard’s “Best of the Week”. But by the time 2016 came to its end, Schoepp had split with his longtime partner, been all but forced out of his longtime home and band clubhouse by a new landlord, and worst of all, painfully re-herniated a disc in his back that had plagued him for years.
“And then on top of all that, we got a new president,” he says. “That put me into an even darker space.”
Schoepp freely admits to Primetime Illusion being a breakup album – “There’s the breakup in the traditional sense, but there was also a breakup with America I was feeling at the time.”
Heartbroken but unbowed, Schoepp found solace and direction in his music, devoting his substantial energies to crafting what now proves his most emotional and expertly-crafted collection of songs so far.
With its extraordinary melding of the personal and political, Primetime Illusion firmly places Trapper Schoepp on the long American continuum of singing storytellers, a pedigree and place on the family tree that inspires and drives him each and every new day.
“I think a lot about the folk process,” he says. “How things are passed down to the next generation and are reinvented and evolve. That’s really important to me, to keep the spirit of what someone might consider old new.
“Dylan, in his MusiCares speech a few years ago, made the point that his role in music is simply extending the line. That’s my whole MO as well. I want to push this music forward like my life depends on it. It’s all I have.”
Having spent the last half decade “getting home just in time to leave again,” playing countless dates and sharing stages with such like-minded Americana mainstays as The Wallflowers, The Jayhawks, and Old 97’s, Schoepp plans to tour especially hard behind Primetime Illusion.
“I love Milwaukee,” he says. “This is my home. But us singer-songwriters have to be citizens of the world to make it work.”
What that in mind, Schoepp will be spending all of 2019 on the road, first supporting Skinny Lister in the UK and Europe beginning 29 February 2019 and then an American tour and more to be announced soon. Confirmed tour dates are below.
UK TOUR WITH SKINNY LISTER
28 Brighton @ Concorde 2
01 Norwich @ Arts Centre
02 Southampton @ 1865
06 Bristol @ Fleece
07 Glasgow @ King Tuts
08 Leeds @ Key Club
09 Leicester @ Academy
EUROPEAN TOUR WITH SKINNY LISTER
13 Berlin, Germany @ SO36
14 Kiel, Germany @ Orange Club
15 Erfurt, Germany @ Kalif Storch
16 Prague, Czech Republic @ Futurum
17 Nurnberg, Germany @ Der Hirsch
19 Frankfurt, Germany @ Batschkapp
20 Vienna, Austria @ Arena
21 Munich, Germany @ Strom
22 Bern, Switzerland @ Bierhubeli
23 Zürich, Sqitzerland @ Dynamo
26 Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
27 Rouen, France @ Le 106
28 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso Noord
29 Cologne, Germany @ Stollwerk
30 Antwerp, Belgium @ Kavka
UK TOUR WITH SKINNY LISTER
03 Edinburgh @ The Mash House
04 Newcastle @ Riverside
05 Nottingham @ Rescue Rooms
06 Manchester @ Club Academy
10 Cambridge @ Junction
11 London @ Electric Ballroom