Trapper Schoepp on How Men Should Respond to #MeToo, Playing Summerfest and Working with Bob Dylan

First this Milwaukee musician convinced Bob Dylan to co-write a song with him, now he’s playing Summerfest with Willie Nelson.

When Trapper Schoepp sat down for this interview he was tired. Not because he’d been up all night partying the night before, but because he’d just flown back from Britain.

And though the 29-year-old troubadour still considers himself lucky to play music professionally for people around the world, he admits that the thrill of touring wore off at some point during his recent trip to Europe, where he played several nights a week for nearly two months. “The first day there I hit a dumpster with my rental car because I wasn’t used to driving on the other side of the road,” he says. “Later, the cops searched that same car for drugs.”

Schoepp is back stateside for now, but he’s not about to take a break. He’ll be opening for Willie Nelson – and a slew of other folksy legends – at the Outlaw Music Festival at Summerfest on June 29.

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This story is taken from our June 2019 feature:
99 Days of Summer: Here’s Your 2019 Guide to Maximal Milwaukee Summer Fun


Then he’ll hit the road again, to continue touring for his latest album, Primetime Illusion. The record, which he produced with Wilco alum Patrick Sansone and released earlier this year, has been praised by critics for its stripped-down, 70’s-inspired approach to American roots music.

We were able to corner him while he’s still in town, though, to ask him a few questions about Primetime Illusion and his Summerfest set.

How would you describe the new album?

It’s a bit more sparse. There aren’t as many bells and whistles.

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a vocal cyst. We were playing at the Pfister and my voice blew out. Since then, I’ve been trying to strip things down so that there aren’t as many musical flourishes for me to fight with.

We recorded the album in Tosa. My brother, Tanner, played bass.

Any favorite tracks?

“Drive-Thru Divorce” is a favorite, and “Shakedown” too. I wrote that one in the Boundary Waters. I was out there in a canoe, and I saw the Northern Lights.

“What You Do To Her,” a song for the #MeToo moment, has been getting a lot of airplay on 88Nine too.

Yeah, and I appreciate that. Some more commercial radio stations have been hesitant to play it.

Men have stood for too long on the sidelines on the issue of sexual assault. And I don’t think that it’s an issue that should be politicized. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or the right – you should be engaged.

Even casual fans of Bob Dylan should be delighted to see that the final track features a collaboration with the Minnesota-born musician. How’d that come to be?

When Bob Dylan was 20, he visited Madison, Wisconsin, to see Pete Seeger in concert, and said that the show inspired him to try to go see Woody Guthrie in New York. He found two students on campus who agreed to split the gas cost with him. Not that long after, in November of 1961, he went into a studio to record his first album. He’d written a song about that night he spent in Wisconsin. But he didn’t end up doing anything with it. Fast forward 57 years … I found the lyrics online. And I knew what had to be done. I had to finish the song.

My manager threw a series of Hail Mary passes and it worked out.

Tell us a bit about your Summerfest set.

We’re kicking off Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Roadshow, which is our first time at the amphitheater. It’s mix of some of the best Americana acts classic and current so it’s an honor to say the least.

You play the festival pretty often, right?

Almost every year now. There are always naysayers, but it’s pretty remarkable that a city this size is able to sustain the world’s largest music festival.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing there?

Brandi Carlile. She has a soaring voice and won a load of Grammys this year. I want to see all of the other artists on the Outlaw roster too.

“Say Hello to Summer!” appears in the June 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.