Stirring up trouble with Eric Schaffer

click to enlarge Stirring up trouble with Eric Schaffer
Eric Schaffer and the Other Troublemakers are, from left, Loren Dircks, Eric Schaffer, Daniel Thomas and Jess Barrera. (Jimi Gianatti/Contributor)

Eric Schaffer has long been influenced by a range of genres. These different influences are reflected in his band’s music.

Eric Schaffer & the Other Troublemakers will celebrate the release of their third album, “Dry Lightning,” with a party at Monterey Court on Friday, Nov. 10.

“Dry Lightning” producer Peter Dalton Ronstadt, will open the show with a solo set, followed by The Other Troublemakers performing the album in its entirety, along with guests Bobby Ronstadt, Eric Ramsey and Sunny Gable. Ramsey, winner of the 2022 International Blues Challenge, will return to close the show.

Along with Schaffer on vocals/rhythm guitar, the band — known for its three and four-part harmonies — features lead guitarist Loren Dircks, bassist Jess Barrera and drummer Daniel Thomas.

The follow-up to 2018’s LP “Crazy Road Trip,” “Dry Lightning” blends folk, country, blues and rock. Eric Schaffer and the Other Troublemakers started recording “Dry Lightning” in March. Schaffer said the collection is well thought out and meant to connect with listeners.

“We try our best to write the songs so that every one of them would have meaning and impact for as many people as possible, and I like what we did. There’s no filler,” Schaffer said.

The songwriting for new album was mostly a collaboration between Eric and his wife, Carol, who have been writing together since 2014. Loren Dircks, Sunny Gable, Bernice Lewis, Jerry Careaga and the Schaffers’ son, Joe, also share songwriting credits.

Carol isn’t a musician but has been collaborating with Schaffer since the group’s first release, “The Bootleg EP.” Among her co-writing credits is “Beer Tastes Better in Mexico,” one of the act’s signature songs.

“For me, the music always comes easy,” Schaffer said.

“I’ve got probably on my computer 150 songs I’ve written where I’ve got music but no words. Carol is great with words. That’s why we started collaborating.

“The first thing I hear when I listen to songs — anything I put on the radio or CDs — is the music. I hear the melody. I hear the rhythm, and I hear the groove. It won’t be until a few times listening to a song that I will actually start processing the lyrics. Carol does the exact opposite. The very first thing she hears when she hears a song is the lyrics.”

The couple wrote much of the new album in Mexico.

“There’s something about being down there,” said Schaffer, who got his start performing at clubs and colleges in New Jersey.

“We intentionally stayed disconnected and let things flow. When you’re at home in your normal environment, I think by nature you allow distractions to intrude on you. When you’re away, all of those things are gone.”

Songwriting became a multigenerational affair when the Schaffers enlisted the help of Joe, who contributed lyrics to “Wild and Hard to Find” and “Mama’s BOGO Blues,” a comedic country blues song about Eric buying his mother weed.

“It’s one of the ones that people get a chuckle out of. People request it at our shows now,” he said.

But “Dry Lightning” isn’t all laughs. The album features reflective ballads such as “The Garden” and “My Friend,” higher energy, danceable tunes such as the title track and the roadhouse blues song “Fire Road.”

The couple wrote “I Choose You” after hearing vows at a wedding they attended. Schaffer sings it as a duet with Liz Cerepanya.

Schaffer said that he and Carol tried to create an album featuring a cross-section of sounds.

“This was by design,” he said.

“I had listened to a lot of albums, going back a few years. With many of them, I felt like after I heard the first two or three songs, I had heard everything that the artist was going to say. For ‘Dry Lightning,’ I set out intentionally to write a collection of music that would be demonstrative of what we do at our shows. At our shows, we play all of this kind of stuff.

“As we were writing, if we wrote a song that was a ballad, I made sure the next song we wrote wasn’t. What we came up with was a much wider variety of musical styles than you would typically find on one album.”

“Dry Lightning” includes appearances by Peter McLaughlin, Bobby and Michael G. Ronstadt, Peter Dalton Ronstadt, Alvin Blaine, Heather Hardy, Jim Lipson, Liz Cerepanya and Sunny Gable, who co-wrote the title track.

“These are all people who are friends of ours, who I asked to come and play. They were gracious to do it. It really made for a very nice project,” said Schaffer, who also hosts a monthly songwriter night at the Century Room.

The album was recorded at Tucson’s Jim Brady Recording Studios.

“We recorded the basic tracks — the guitars, the bass and drums — all together in one room at one time. That helps with the energy,” he said.

Eric Schaffer & the Other Troublemakers slowly developed the songs, and narrowed them down from 20 to 13. They played many of the tracks live to see what the audiences responded to.

“We’ll write a song,” Schaffer said.

“We’ll start playing it, and I get to see how people react to it. If there’s a song that we’re playing, and people are chatting or eating and not really engaged in it, I will make a note of that. The flipside is when you will break out a song, and people just stop what they are doing and lock in. Especially with some of the quieter songs, you’ll start playing and there’s all the normal ambient chatter and noise in the room. And as you go, it gets quieter and quieter and quieter. And when that happens, you know you’ve got something good.”

Eric Schaffer & the Other Troublemakers “Dry Lightning” release party

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10
WHERE: Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile, Tucson
COST: $10 in advance, $12 day of show
INFO: 520-207-2429,

Radney Foster w/Eric Schaffer (solo)

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17
WHERE: 191 Toole, 191 E. Toole Avenue, Tucson
COST: $24; 21 and older
INFO: 520-740-1000,

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