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TOURING FOR A SONG:Story by Tony Bonyata
Lake Geneva-based singer/songwriter Jon Troast is no stranger to the road. Ever since he was invited to perform on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" national radio show two years ago, he's been touring coast-to-coast virtually non-stop. Unlike most touring musicians, however, the vast majority of Jon's shows weren't performed in noisy nightclubs or bars, but rather in the cozy confines of people's living rooms.
Most of these intimate shows, not surprising, have not been open to the general public, but rather to the host's circle of friends, family and acquaintances they'd personally invite. Though time, multiple CD releases and relentless touring (which he also books himself) Jon has built a strong national fan base through a combination of musical talent, grass-roots promotion and perseverance, not to mention an uncanny knack for side-stepping the old models of how the music business is suppose to operate. Christianity Today has referred to him as a "forward-thinking tunesmith," while World Magazine exclaimed earlier this year that, "No musician [including Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen] has proved more ingenious at staying ahead of the economic paradigm shift than Jon Troast." Hefty words of praise, indeed, although not unfounded.
Earlier this year Jon came up with the brilliant, if not seemingly impossible, idea of embarking on his "100 Concerts In 100 Days Tour," where from March 20th to June 27th he performed 100 concerts (most of them in living rooms) throughout the country in as many consecutive days. While his required fee of $100 per show may not seem like that much at face value, the indirect benefits were many. Not only did he get the opportunity to perform for an intimate group of attentive music lovers every night, but he also witnessed his CD and T-shirt sales increase through these performances. In addition, with only an hour-long performance each night, and the host providing both a room (i.e. most often a couch), along with dinner and breakfast, Jon would get a healthy, good night's sleep at no extra cost before heading to his next show destination the following day. Through his travels he also enjoyed the vast culture changes, beautiful scenery and many great people throughout the country. He even had a concert host who is a dentist that gave Jon a complimentary teeth cleaning - not once, but twice through his travels....talk about perks!
After completing his "100 Concerts In 100 Days Tour"Jon has been peppering in house concerts whenever he can, while also working in enough time to head back into the studio to record his latest full-length album aptly titled Living Room (out nationally January 19th). The majority of Living Room was directly inspired by the musician's many experiences from his recent 100 day tour. As Jon states, "Some of it is personal reflection from being on the road, and some of it was inspired by the people I met. It was such a privilege to see little snapshots of people's lives all across the country."
These "little snapshots" are neatly arranged in this engaging album that successfully melds folk and pop rock with '70s singer/songwriter fare and just a touch of Americana music. Living Room marks Jon's fourth full-length effort recorded in Nashville and produced by Mitch Dane, who also handpicked the session players for the recordings. "There are a lot of talented people in Nashville," Jon reveals, "and the musicians I worked with are all extremely sharp and professional, but at the same time they're also pretty laid back... which is just my style."
One of the first things that's apparent on these 10 tracks is the warmth of the recordings and the honest spontaneity of both the performances and arrangements. "This was the first time we recorded on tape (analog)," Jon states. "I loved it because we tracked the drums, bass, acoustic guitar and vocal at the same time, using only two or three takes for each song and no pitch correction. It gives it a natural feel, very similar to a living room concert."
Even after completing a project as unique and aggressive as his recent Living Room tour Jon continues to look for new paths and methods to get his music heard and appreciated. His latest idea will find him touring the nation absolutely free for the first six months of 2010. So whether booking a house concert or a much larger public show, Jon will not charge a cent for any of these performances - instead relying on the revenue from his recorded music as his sole income for the first half of the year. As he explains, "I want to make it very clear and simple that buying music supports artists. So, for the first six months of 2010, I'm breaking it down to the basics. Since I'll be playing my shows for free, all of my income will come from CD and digital music sales. If I'm going to spend $50 on groceries, I need to sell five CDs. It's as simple as that."
In addition to his new Living Room CD, Jon will also be releasing a concert DVD in February that features the 100th and final show of his 100 Concerts in 100 Days Tour, which was filmed at the historic Geneva Theater in downtown Lake Geneva, WI on June 27, 2009. Various video clips of Jon's adventures as part of his 100 day tour will also be interspersed with the concert footage making for a wonderful document of this very unique tour.
For more info or to book your own show with Jon Troast go to: www.jontroast.com