Chris Trapper has his own show to do
From late spring to summer’s end, Chris Trapper was on the road, supporting headliners. He opened for a tour starring Sammy Hagar and George Thorogood, did a run with Pat Benatar and her husband guitarist, Neil Giraldo, and played some dates with John Hiatt. Each night was an introduction of sorts, though Trapper has been making music going back to his days with Boston buzz band The Push Stars in the 1990s.
“I just described myself as the appetizer for a very rocking main meal,” Trapper said in a recent phone interview, noting he did but four songs to precede Hagar and Thorogood. He’ll have more room to stretch out when he does an evening solo at the Music Hall Lounge in Portsmouth, on Oct. 22. “It’s going to feel great to play a full set again.”
Not that Trapper minds his role as a palate cleanser. Delivered in a husky sweet voice, his songs have an easy familiarity. He’s wry with the raucous “Keg on My Coffin,” and emotive on “Under Blue Stars,” which leads off Cold Water Waltz, his most recent album. Perhaps his best-known song, the soaring “This Time” was sung by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the 2007 film August Rush.
He spent much of 2019 opening for Rob Thomas, who co-wrote a song on the new album. “The one thing Rob said about me repeatedly was ‘You’re a very good master of ceremonies’ … I have some ability to get the crowd’s attention; even if they don’t know me, I can always try a few things.”
A mid-summer house concert in upstate New York, during a break in shed touring, put it in perspective for Trapper.
“Songwriting at its core has always been about finding commonality among us,” he said. Playing on a backyard stage, he watched an approaching storm. “There was lightning in the distance, kind of coming closer, but it wasn’t raining yet. I had a literal lightning bolt moment — that it was my job to make people feel less alone.”
Trapper is aware of the thin line between art and selling. “You can start to feel a little bit stuck in the vanity of it all,” he said. “But I started to feel like there is a sense of purpose to this [and] that process makes me feel less alone also. When you’re writing or singing a song, you’re trying to find those things that connect us. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. I think I’ve become a decent support act because even people who don’t know me will walk away feeling that they do.”
For the past few years, Trapper has booked space on a cruise ship, “trying to build a little culture around my music and community…. I do a few concerts, a Q&A session, a meet-and-greet, we have dinner every night, and also there’s a lot of after-hours disco dancing — my dance moves definitely look problematic,” he said. “A lot of people on the cruise were the base of my favorite people who I see on tour, so it ended up being a total lovefest.”
Though he wouldn’t mind a big hit or two, Trapper is content.
“I have always wanted to have kind of a John Prine career, where you have to play a couple of songs that people need to hear, then basically play whatever you felt like playing,” he said. “People would love it because the quality of material was always good. That’s been my goal. … I always have a few things that I definitely have to play, and the rest of the stuff is pretty variable.”
For his upcoming show, “I basically do everything, early Push Stars, some of my solo stuff and some off the new album,” he continued. Last year saw a Push Stars holiday record with all but two originals, When Christmas Comes Home. Trapper enjoyed the effort. “I stretched my songwriting muscles for that. Writing original Christmas songs is not the easiest thing to do … there’s only about five or six themes you can latch onto, and they’ve all been done a billion times.”
On Cold Water Waltz’s tongue-in-cheek “Out of the Limelight,” he hints at the promise of his early Push Stars days as he sings about an Austin band on their comeback tour.
“With my band it was funny, because we had some of the struggles that I joke about in that song, like the lead singer being a mess,” he said. “I of course I was in certain ways, but I stayed stable enough to stay in the business.”
Next February Trapper will be back in the area, opening for ex-Great Big Sea singer Allen Doyle in Concord. “I actually wrote about seven Great Big Sea songs, so Alan sings some of my stuff on his tour, and we always get up and collaborate for a couple of songs,” he said. “We’re old friends at this point.”
When: Saturday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall Lounge, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth
More: $22 and $32 at themusichall.org
Featured photo: Chris Trapper. Courtesy photo.