DIARY - 5 JUNE 2005 - GREG TROOPER INTERVIEW
- STORM TROOPER PROPHESY
from the sky, up from the raging sea/ in the blink of an eye, water's
all you can see/ all you could hear was the wind and rain/ nobody told
us about a hurricane."
- No Higher Ground - Greg Trooper.
Trooper wrote No Higher Ground about a 1900 hurricane in Texas
he had no idea history would repeat with the 2004 Tsunami.
Trooper's song revealed 8,000 Galveston residents drowned because U.S.
authorities ignored Cuban warnings.
"The U.S Weather Bureau was very arrogant and wouldn't pay attention
to what the Cuban meteorologists were warning them about this hurricane,"
Trooper told Nu Country TV Beat in a call from his Nashville home.
"That's what prompted the line - 'we certainly know more than the
Trooper wrote his song for his acclaimed Dan Penn produced eighth album
Make It Through This World (Sugar Hill- Shock.)
So was it a surprise more than 200,000 perished in the Boxing Day Tsunami
because of inadequate warning systems?
"I try not to cast blame," says Trooper who was born in New
Jersey, learned about life in an Austin trailer park and studied music
and English at university during the second of two stints in Lawrence,
"I read this book about the hurricane - Isaac's Storm. Galveston
was a vacation town.
Washington and state of Texas gave as little money as possible to rebuild
the place. The Galveston people were expected to finance all reconstruction
- hard when your whole city has been washed away. Galveston rebuilt itself
- quite an accomplishment for a city that almost didn't exist."
Trooper, 49, says social comment songs are not his forte in a career that
peaked with his new country soul disc produced at Penn's basement studio
"I have dabbled in political writing, it's just that I'm not good
at it," Trooper joked of his vast catalogue.
Peers diverse as Steve Earle, Vince Gill, Maura O'Connell, Robert Earl
Keen, Tom Russell and Lucy Kaplansky cut his songs long before former
producer Buddy Miller introduced him to Penn.
Billy Bragg's cover of Trooper song Everywhere appeared on the
soundtrack of Bob Hoskins movie A Room For Romeo Brass.
But the seeds for his success were sown back in his teenage days in a
city not far from Asbury Park that launched Bruce Springsteen.
was born in Little Silver, New Jersey, and at 14 formed The Ravioli
Brothers to play country.
He later formed Trooper & Scott with fellow Ravioli Brother Richard
"Where did you get all of that?" Trooper joked, "It
was our east coast answer to the Flying Burrito Brothers".
At 18 he moved to college town Lawrence, Kansas, before heading further
south to Austin in its halcyon seventies country boom.
It was an era that produced the famed documentary Heartworn Highways
and enabled him to catch his heroes Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker,
Guy Clark and the late Townes Van Zandt.
didn't make a living from his music.
desperate back then, I was living in a trailer park," Trooper recalled.
We were just desperados with shitty jobs. I don't know how we did it.
We were that young. I was the only one there who wasn't either running
from the law or 16 and pregnant."
So he moved back to Lawrence and went to university before moving back
to New York for 15 years.
"I started studying music and got bored with it then I started taking
English classes but I never finished," Trooper recalled.
"I got ants in my pants and went back to New York."
It was there he recorded his first disc We Won't Dance for Wild
Twin Records on vinyl in 1986.
Trooper produced the disc with Carter Cathcart of rock band Laughing Dogs.
born superstar Vince Gill had a huge hit with the title track and Steve
Earle cut his tune Little Sister from the same disc.
"We Won't Dance is probably the most lucrative song I've ever
had," Trooper said.
The singer cut his first six albums for six different labels before signing
with Sugar Hill for his 2003 disc Floating.
He cut second album Noises In The Hallway in New York in 1988 but
D-Ville didn't release it until 1996.
his third album, Everywhere, cut with The Flatirons, had a
It was released on the ill-fated Black Hole Records, then Ripe &
Ready before Koch issued it with two extra tracks in 1992.
Ironically, while living in New York, Trooper was writing for Nashville
publishing companies - CBS, Polygram and Sony-Tree.
Trooper also teamed with award winning songwriter Don Henry in New
York for the album's entrée song So Far To Go.
"I had known him since before moved to Nashville," Trooper
met him in a bar in New York through Pat Alger when he played with Artie
I went to a New York Mets game with them - a baseball game carved our
The singer also included I Thought I Was Dreaming - collaboration
with Steve Earle - on the disc than ended with a co-write on the title
track with Sid Griffin.
LAWYER AND SINGING SPOUSE
also featured one of three collaborations with Trooper's singing spouse
Claire Mullally - a lawyer by trade but latter day owner of Bobbie's Dairy
Dip in West Nashville.
Claire sang on their co-write of Every Single Day and Rosanne Cash
on Blind Spot.
"I met Claire in New York, she's from Brooklyn," Trooper revealed.
"I recorded all the songs we wrote together. Now she has something
to fall back on but if you told her she had a career as a songwriter she'd
laugh out loud. She mostly takes care of the ice cream parlour. She decided
she'd rather prepare ice cream cones than arguments all day long."
Another of their collaborations Every Heart Won't Let You Down
appeared on his Buddy Miller produced Popular Demons disc in 1998.
And The Road So Long was on his Phil Madeira produced 2003 disc
Trooper lives with his wife and son Jack, now 11, in Nashville when not
on the road.
NASHVILLE AND WALTONS
writing career bloomed when he moved from New York to Music City.
The singer wrote Light In The Window, covered by Salamander
Crossing and late Bill Hearn, with actor Jon Walmsley - star as
Jason of The Waltons TV series.
"That was a trip, I had no idea who he was when I wrote with
him," Trooper joked.
was the first co-write I had when I moved down here. The publisher
set it up.
reaction when I was told who he was afterwards was holy shit. He turned
out to be a lovely and talented guy."
Trooper had 121 songs logged with BMI from his embryonic Nashville writing
era with collaborators such as Keith Sykes, John Sieger of Milwaukee bands
The R & B Cadets and Semi Twang, Duane Jarvis, Buddy Mondlock, Jenny
Yates and Earle's guitarist Eric Ambel.
Others include Goodbye Cruel Circus (Billy Livsey,) Pink Flamingos
And A Mobile Home (Fred Koller), Trampoline (Bill Lloyd) and
Watch The River Flow (Deana Carter.
Trooper wrote The Heart with Tom Russell - it appeared on Sara
Elizabeth Campbell disc Running For You in 1994 and Lucy Kaplansky
album The Tide.
His Hong Kong Boy appeared on Russell album Box Of Visions
and Right Night For Love on Robert Earl Keen disc A Bigger Piece
Trooper recorded the albums Straight Down Rain in 2001 and Between
A House And A Hard Place in 2002 before signing with Sugar Hill for
Floating in 2003.
The singer won wide acclaim for eulogy Muhammed Ali - The Meaning Of
Christmas that was inspired by David Remnick's Ali biography King
Of The World.
a mining town, after the mine's shut down/ coal turned to diamonds, but
she won't let you find them/ she's a mining town." - Sad, Sad
Girl - Greg Trooper.
was a prelude to his acclaimed country soul hybrid Make It Through
The World, produced by the legendary Dan Penn in his Nashville
basement studio on 16-track analogue tape.
Penn, renowned for a famed Muscle Shoals era with Chips Moman and
Jerry Wexler, wrote soul classics Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,
Dark End of the Street and I'm Your Puppet.
He also produced artists diverse as The Box Tops, Solomon Burke and
Penn hired Goners drummer Ken Blevins of John Hiatt fame, and Dave
Jacques who played electric and double bass on new John Prine disc
Fair & Square.
tourist Bill Kirchen plays guitar, Steve Fishell dobro and lap steel and
Delbert McClinton sideman Kevin McKendree utilised Penn's stockpile of
vintage keyboards, from Hammond B3 to Farfisa.
Penn suggested Trooper try a different posture for singing.
"It was great, the first time I have recorded, sitting down, what
an education," Trooper
I LOVE IT WHEN SHE LIES
only one co-write here - I Love It When She Lies.
"Amanda Hunt-Taylor came over to my house with the idea of she lied,"
Trooper said. "I just turned it around, it's kind of a silly song."
Trooper says Penn, unlike many Nashville producers, didn't pressure him
to record his songs.
"If I could get to write with Dan I would love that," Trooper
"Dan and I were going to work on a song but he was happy with what
I had when we recorded. But never call Dan Penn a Nashville producer.
He would bite your head off.
Trooper, who frequently tours Europe, is keen to tour Australia.
"I'd love nothing more than to come and tour Australia," says
Trooper, "maybe the publicity for this record will prompt that."
But it was an Irish tour that spawned Lonesome For You Now.
"I used the reference to Belfast as I go to Ireland a lot,"
"I wrote that here but the inspiration got started there. I can't
tell you how many times I have driven that road from Dublin to Belfast
in rain, in shitty weather."
Trooper's incisive songs about women include personalised divorce vignette
Close To The Tracks, Don't Let It Go To Waste and Sad, Sad Girl.
"It seems like on every record I've got some poor woman with a mood
disorder," says Trooper of the disc that also features Don't Let
It Go To Waste with memorable lyric - "I think you're as lonely
as a Sunday morning that never had a Saturday night."
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