One of New York’s finest singer-songwriters, Greg Trooper, is back in town after 13 years in Nashville–and out with his first new studio album of new material since his 2005 Dan Penn-produced Make It Through This World.
Upside-Down Town, released on his own 52 Shakes label, resulted from a recent round of songwriting following his move from Music City to Rockaway Beach.
“Like Steve Earle said, it’s so far out I could still be in Nashville!” laughs Trooper, a New Jersey native who came back East to be closer to family.
“I got back and got together with [New York producer/musician] Eric Ambel, and remixed and remastered a record I did in 1995, right before I moved to Nashville,” says Garing. “But I got involved in other projects and deals, and had never got back to it. So I said, ‘Let’s put it out now just so it’s part of the whole story.”
So Trooper released the album, The Williamsburg Affair, himself.
“I was in charge of publicity–so no one knows about it!” he says. But he’d already begun writing new songs to go with a recording project begun in Nashville with Delbert McClinton keyboardist/bandleader Kevin McKendree, and then recorded newer material in New York and New Jersey with producer Stewart Lerman (The Roches, Willie Nile).
Upside-Down Town, then, came from these sessions, with the physical product being enabled via the creative project fundraising Web site Kickstarter.
“When you’re making your own label, there’s no pile of money to draw from!” says Trooper. “But it was very humbling: Money started pouring in! It was like buying a record in advance, with most people paying $5 more than for a regular CD, with some kicking in an extreme amount of money.”
Trooper was even able to hire a real publicist and radio promoter this time.
“There are songs on it that are more about me than not, but I tried to stay away from writing about myself,” he notes. “I call it ‘reality-based fiction.’ I got tired of giving people a tour of my own belly button–which is not that interesting!”
He singles out the Upside-Down Town track “They Call Me Hank,” which is getting the most attention so far.
“I wrote it after reading Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree,” he says. “It’s loosely based on it, which is about an alcoholic guy living on the fringe of life, fishing on a houseboat on the Tennesee River in Knoxville in the ’50s. Hopefully it carries the feeling I got from the book, of human experience where you’re living just on the verge of giving up–but not giving up and reeling it back in and hanging in there. And hopefully it’s reality-based fiction–and I’m not foreseeing something in my future!”
Soundwise, Upside-Down Town retains the keyboards/rhythm section-drive of Make It Through This World rather than being guitar-driven, says Trooper.
“Dan really was the perfect choice for that record and delivered exactly what I was looking for,” he says of soul legend Penn, who penned such 1960s hits as “Dark End Of The Street” and “Do Right Woman” and produced The Box Tops.
“This record is an extension of it,” he notes, “with a lot more keyboard than my older records, and thanks to Dan, I feel like my singing’s been improved–because he told me to sit down! That’s made me able to plug in more emotionally and sing better, which is nice when you’re 55 and can feel you’re going forward.”
And speaking of 55, what’s with 52 Shakes?
“That came from my wife’s ice cream place in Nashville–the famous Bobbie’s Dairy Dip on the outskirts of Sylvan Park,” Trooper explains. “One day someone actually called in an order for 52 chocolate shakes!”
Subscribe to my joltleft.com pages and follow me on Twitter!