Xtra Mile Recordings is excited to announce that Wisconsin-based Trapper Schoepp’s new album, Primetime Illusion, will be released worldwide on January 25, 2019.
Produced in Milwaukee by Pat Sansone (Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock), Primetime Illusion sees Schoepp reaching for his own place in the 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 today alongside a Q&A with Schoepp, and the state of Wisconsin shot a mini documentary about it.
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 10 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 detailed 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,” he says, “We got a new president. That put me into an even darker space.”
Schoepp freely admits to Primetime Illusion being a breakup album — “There’s the break up in the traditional sense, but there was also a break-up 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 thus far.
With its extraordinary melding of the personal and political, Primetime Illusion firmly places Trapper Schoepp amongst 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.
What that in mind, Schoepp will be spending all of 2019 on the road, first supporting Skinny Lister in the UK and Europe beginning February 29, 2019 and then an American tour and more to be announced soon. The Leeds date will be at The Key Club on March 8th.