If you go
› What: Blitzen Trapper in concert with Lauris Vidal as support.
› When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 9.
› Where: Revelry Room, 41 E. 14th St.
› Admission: $14 in advance, $16 day of.
› Phone: 423-521-2929.
› Venue website: revelryroom.co.
› Artist website: blitzentrapper.net.
2015: “All Across This Land” / “Live Harvest”
2014: “Live in Portland” / “Hold On” / “Daytrotter Presents No. 18 LP”
2012: “Hey Joe”
2011: “American Goldwing” / “Maybe Baby”
2010: “Destroyer of the Void”
2009: “Black River Killer” (EP) / “War Is Placebo”
2007: “Cool Love #1” / “Wild Mountain Nation”
2005: “Field Rexx”
2003: “Blitzen Trapper”
From Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons" and Bruce Springsteen's "Factory" to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," musicians have never shied away from singing about the travails of the working man.
What most people don't realize, however, says Blitzen Trapper lead singer Eric Earley, is that the recording industry has gotten to the point where the bands have become the ones with dirt under their fingernails and paychecks so thin you can shave with them. They're not just singing about that lifestyle, he says, they're living it.
"Our work has become blue collar," Earley says. "We're basically just glorified truckers at this point because no one buys records anymore."
Although their prospects for one seemed good early on, a glamorous lifestyle wasn't the carrot Earley was chasing when he co-founded the indie folk-rock ensemble 15 years ago in Portland, Ore.
Blitzen Trapper signed in 2007 to Seattle-based Sub Pop Records, the storied home of Nirvana and Soundgarden as well as vaunted indie acts such as Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service and The Shins. The band's 2008 release, "Furr," earned it general critical acclaim — its title track has been played more than 9 million times on Spotify — and landed the band a two-page feature in Rolling Stone, which described the album as "one of the most gorgeous rock albums of the year."
In the years since, however, the growth of streaming music services have reduced the return on investment for creating albums to near nonexistence, and the band's lifestyle on the road has become pretty hardscrabble, Earley says.
"At this point we're basically just scratching out a living by touring," he laughs. "It's that way for probably 80 percent of bands — maybe 90 percent of bands."
Yet Blitzen Trapper continues to play shows and put out records at a fairly breakneck pace. In 2015, the band released the live album "Live Harvest" and its eighth studio project, "All Across This Land," its highest-rated release since 2010's "Destroyer of the Void." Despite spending more than a month in the studio, the quintet still managed to clock more than five months on tour.
Blitzen Trapper's next tour will kick off Wednesday, March 9, with a stop at Revelry Room. The appearance will be the band's first in the Scenic City, but Earley is no stranger to Chattanooga. He and bandmate Marty Marquis attended Covenant College in the mid-'90s. Earley dropped out after a year, but Marquis eventually graduated and met his wife while studying at the Lookout Mountain institution.
Since then, he and Marquis have seen the band's sun sail through crest and trough. Regardless of how thin the margins on the road get, Earley says, he still loves what he does.
"I mean, I like to play music. That's pretty much the bottom line," he says. "If you love playing music and writing songs, then it's a pretty good deal. We survive and get by, and I get to play music, which is pretty cool. And some years are better than others."
And whatever his feelings about the state of the music industry, Earley says, he still feels a zen onstage that makes the touring grind a worthy counterpoint to the studio.
"I think it's a difference between driving a really fast car and working on it in your garage," he says. "A studio recording is kind of a collapsed version of a song, in my opinion. When you do it live, it accordions out and becomes this thing that's real, that's happening in real time.
"We're all making decisions onstage, and stuff is changing. Or we're deep in the tour and it's so tight that it sounds even better than the record. It's just the reality of music."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.