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Jon Troast interview

| June 1, 2009

Household Name

Having the stamina to perform a hundred shows in a hundred days is a tricky task in and of itself, but finding a competent booking agent to line up that many back-to-back gigs for an indie artist is even more of a long shot. Lake Geneva-based singer/songwriter Jon Troast has plenty of energy and drive to complete the marathon, though without any formal representation (outside of a publicist), he wasn’t exactly sure if the self-imposed challenge would even be possible.

Before jumping ahead to how he pulled it off, Troast is quick to credit the catalyst for this performance pilgrimage (currently en route this summer), which came after a slot on Garrison Keillor’s weekly National Public Radio program, “A Prairie Home Compan-ion.” The troubadour innocently submitted his tunes for a “Talented Twenties” contest two years ago, but actually bypassed the competition altogether and was given a green light by producers to perform on the program.

“The contest came and went and I actually never heard back from them, but I got a call from the music director with an invitation to be a musical guest [when the program was recording] live at Ravinia,” Troast says from the road. “I was able to play three songs backed by [the show’s house band] The Guys All-Star Shoe Band and was on the bill with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, along with several other amazing musicians. Afterwards I remember being at the restaurant in the hotel and hearing Ramblin’ Jack tell me stories about Cat Stevens and pretty much everyone else who crossed his path. It was a really amazing night.”

While Troast would’ve been more than satisfied meeting such a musical legend and adding the successful show to his résumé, the relative newcomer was surprised at the national fanfare that resulted. Not only did Web hits and mailing-list sign-ups go through the roof, but orders for his debut, Second Story, ballooned more than cumulative sales from several local clubs and bars.
As that list of e-mail addresses grew, so did the idea of the “100 Concerts In 100 Days, 100 Dollar Tour.” Troast typed an e-mail to these newfound fans explaining his goal, and for a mere Benjamin Franklin, he’d not only perform in their town, but their actual living room (or backyard as a back-up).

“I had introduced the whole house-concert type of thing shortly after being broadcast on the show, but one night I was waiting to fall asleep and just kept thinking of my goal as a songwriter, which is to connect with people in the most effective way,” he recalls. “I’d rather play for five people in a living room than a hundred people in a bar that aren’t listening. I’m not saying I haven’t had good nights at regular venues, but in a living room, it’s all people who want to hear music and maybe even ask some questions. So I sent out an e-mail about playing a one-hour concert for $100 and people started signing up. Within a week, I booked my first tour and wound up playing 27 out of 28 nights.”

Andy Argyrakis

For the full story, grab the June issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.


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