Portage songsmith, musician, and performer Jeff Trathen had to travel more than a thousand miles to rediscover his musical mojo.
A little more than two decades ago, Trathen, a fixture in the region music strata, was frustrated by the synth-heavy pop and rock that dominated the airwaves and live music venues. He credits a move to Houston in 1989 with getting him back on the musical track.
“The music in the '80s left me a little disillusioned, there was a lot of electronic music, a lot of synthesizers, and not a lot of guitars,” he said. “When I went down to Texas, I discovered a lot of songwriters that got me back interested into songwriting and music. It just revived my spirit.”
Trathen is scheduled to perform April 20 at Valparaiso’s Cornucopia Coffee Company. He was reared in Gary.
In Houston, he found influence in southern and Americana songsmiths such as Guy Clark, Tom Russell, and Robert Earl Keen. For more than a decade, he co-fronted the alt-country/bluegrass outfit Bluewing in the Lone Star state before returning to the Region in 2000.
“It was a lot of acoustic music and singer songwriter-types with story songs that they sang,” Trathen recalled. “It was great songs and a lot of great songwriters (in Texas) that I wasn’t exposed to up here. There was a great original music scene down there, a real vibrant scene.”
In the dozen-plus years since Trathen returned to the region, he has immersed himself in many ongoing musical endeavors. His current CV includes membership in region-based bands such as the cover band Stumpgrinders, progressive rock-minded projects Happy Travels and Sodderpot, and takes on the moniker and personae of Jack Dillon in the jazz/Great American Songbook-based outfit The Jack Dillon Trio.
Trathen also finds inspiration and comradeship for his current compositions on the Internet. There, he is a member of songwriting groups on social media sites.
“I’m interacting with these people from all over the world, from Australia, from England, from Germany, and we’re all critiquing each others’ songs,” he said. “There must be hundreds of these groups out there, but the ones that I’m in, the talent is just unbelievable with all of these great songwriters.”
For more on Trathen, go to REVERBNATION.COM/JEFFTRATHEN.