There’s a timeless classicism to Blitzen Trapper’s rootsy rock reflecting both traditional country influences leader Eric Earley inherited from his musician father, and the ’70s folk and AOR he grew up hearing. It broadcasts crackling, free-spirited warmth that on their latest, American Goldwing, suggests music best heard in a car with the windows down. PW caught up with Earley while on the road from Atlanta to Nashville, Tenn.
There was a period where you were homeless, prior to and during the recording of your third album, 2007’s Wild Mountain Nation. How did this happen?
It started when my Dad died, and I was drinking really heavily and I was in a terrible relationship. It kind of went on and on for a while. So I went through that two-year grieving period. At the end of it I felt really empty and that was when I got rid of the house we were in, along with all of my belongings.
After a year, it sparked an incredibly creative period though.
Yeah, that’s when I kind of built the studio in a practice space in this little building. I recorded Wild Mountain Nation and Furr there in kind of the same year basically. Wild Mountain Nation was the record that made it so I could tour all the time and I had some money and I could finally get an apartment and everything. Furr was sort of the next level up from that.
How did American Goldwing come together?
I had made all these songs for Destroyer of the Void and was recording them. The recording of them was not enjoyable for me, to be honest. I couldn’t get anything I was happy with. We were touring all the time. I just couldn’t focus. When we were done, we were on a big break and I just wrote a record and recorded it all at once, kind of like exhaling.
Prior albums were a little more storytelling oriented. This has that, but it also feels a lot more personal and confessional.
It is more personal, more confessional, some of the songs. It’s not as much a detached storytelling thing. It’s definitely me talking about either my childhood or recent relationships.
There’s ‘70s rock classicism to tracks like “Might Find It Cheap,” which recalls Skynyrd, and the piano-swing of “Fletcher” sounds very much like The Band. What does that period of music mean to you?
It’s music I really like. It has a certain masculinity that a lot of modern music lacks in my opinion. It has a certain blue collar-ness to it. It’s not the music I’ve always loved. But as I get older it is. I’m nostalgic for my younger days when that’s what I did; I worked all the time and things were simpler.
There’s a frank simplicity and earnest straightforwardness that defines country music to me—not that what you’re doing is straight country, but it seems like an aspect of this.
Country music is definitely the most simple, earnest proletariat music there is in America. It’s like the country music of any foreign nation. It’s the people’s music. So anytime you start introducing elements of that ... but for me I was really just interested in writing songs that meant something to me and that were simple and straightforward, and that was me not really messing around. There’s a fine line between being poetic and being really straightforward. You want to do both at the same time.
You made this comment in reference to the dark tone of some of your songs and our violent culture, that “Men are killers.” Could you elaborate?
It’s pretty undeniable to me if you just look at history. As Americans it’s easy to ignore that side of humanity. In the end, when you strip everything away, men prey on other men. It’s what we do. We’re not supposed to, and it’s not right, but it’s just the way we are.
Thurs., Oct. 27, 7pm. $20. With Dawes + the Belle Brigade. TLA, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com
PW's Music Issue 2014