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This summer, July 4-7, Dave Trout and Under the Radar (UTR) are hosting their first-ever annual conference/music festival called Escape to the Lake on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. I wanted the Rabbit Room community to know a little more about this Hutchmoot-ish event so I’ve taken the opportunity to interview Dave about it. I hope our conversation will allow you to get to know him a little better as well.
EP: For those who haven’t discovered UTR, what is it that you do for living?
Dave: In short, K-Love (mainstream Christian radio) isn’t for everyone. And Rabbit Room readers already know this, but CCM Top 20 lists are not a really good reflection of the best art being made by Christians. So UTR began about four-and-a-half years ago to discover and share some creative, thoughtful, and truly under-appreciated songwriters who are doing their thing without much support and radio fanfare. We offer a one-hour weekly podcast of “gourmet music”—which also is syndicated on over 225 radio stations every week. But it’s really more of an anti-radio program.
EP: Music is subjective. Are you trying to get people to buy into your tastes in music?
Dave: Well, I do wish that upon people, but only because of the spiritual effect good art has had on me. Overall, no that is not my intention. UTR is not a pet-project by an indie music mogul. My passion for well-crafted music is really a new thing for me, and UTR is just an invitation to come on that journey. At the time UTR launched, I had never heard of you, Jeremy Casella, Randall Goodgame, Andy Gullahorn, and some of the common favorites between us and the Rabbit Room. But I do remember looking at the Square Peg Alliance page in 2008, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if one day I was friends with these people?” I have become friends with these and many others, which doesn’t always happen for radio people.
EP: These days, there are myriad ways to discover new music. So, at the risk of being blunt, how on earth did you find me?
Dave: When UTR started, I knew nothing about you or your music, other than seeing your name as a Square Pegger and as a Rabbit Room contributor. I actively searched out your website in early 2009. I was greeted by a blog post that read more like a cry for help. You had just welcomed Monroe (child #2) into the clan, and the economic crisis of 2008 left you with little to no work. I then sought out some of your music, and looked for other links about you. There were hardly any photos or videos of you on the web in 2009. I asked you to have lunch with me on an upcoming trip to Nashville—I had never made a request like that with a recording artist before. Funny enough, I was there for GMA (Gospel Music Association) Week. In the midst of this frantic world of Christian music celebrityism, I have this true heart to heart with an indie artist, and it was the highlight of that week—a truly defining moment for me.
EP: Ah yes, I remember it vividly. I took you to The Pied Piper Eatery, hoping that you weren’t opposed to greasy diner-esque food. Just recently, you invited me to be a part of a your latest pet project. Care to share?
Dave: Yes! It’s called Escape To The Lake. It’s basically the K-Love Cruise, except you stay on land, and it’s with indie artists that K-Love would probably never play.
EP: You’re on a roll.
Dave: It actually is an easy analogy for this event. It’s a music fest, but we want it to be more than that. It’s a retreat on a scenic lakefront, but it’s more than that. An easy descriptor could be a “gourmet music vacation.” We want to create a space for people to enjoy nature, take advantage of the campground recreational activities, make new friends—and oh yeah, mingle with and hear performances by some of the best indie/acoustic artists on the planet, people who are “under the radar!”
EP: You almost make it sound a little like Hutchmoot.
Dave: Yes, that’s intentional. I’ve been to the last two Hutchmoots, and even though this event will be primarily music focused, we hope to foster the kind of genuine community that exists at the Moot.
EP: What are some of the things being offered at Escape To The Lake?
Dave: We have a terrific roster of artists. Fellow Rabbits will likely be familiar with Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Nick Flora, Jon Troast, and yourself. We also have The Vespers, Christa Wells, Randy Stonehill, Tim Coons, Nicole Witt, and The Farewell Drifters. There will be some planned sessions, like artist Q&As, some unplugged performances, and the makers of the upcoming Rich Mullins film project will be giving us a sneak peek. I’m sure there will be some unplanned moments too, like sharing a meal, roasting s’mores, or a campfire singalong with a favorite artist.
EP: Okay, we got the What. How about the When, Where, and How much?
Dave: It’s July 4-7 on the beautiful lakefront property at Conference Point Center near Lake Geneva, WI. Registration is open now for as low as a $25 deposit (for folks who don’t have all the money in hand right now). Adult registration is $230, which includes 3-nights indoor lodging, all the meals for 3+ days, campground activities, sessions, and all concerts. Folks can register online here.
EP: Since you are a lifelong Chicagoan, and I share your uncanny knack for eating tasty food, can you please tell us what the best pizza is in Chicago?
Dave: Wow, it’s an impossible task, but I’ll try. My personal favorite deep dish is Gino’s East. Andrew Peterson swears by Giordano’s. And Lou Malnati’s gets a lot of votes as well. Those are the big 3. However, Chicago has some stellar thin crust too, and the best, hands down, is Aurelio’s Pizza.
EP: Thanks for your time, Dave. You’re a good man. Thank you for caring about music and the arts, and seeking to encourage artists in their endeavors, and to make known their work(s) to a broader audience. Personally, I can testify to your immense generosity and hard work. I hope folks from around the country will consider joining us at Escape to the Lake! I’m looking forward to it.
Eric Peters, affectionately called "Pappy" by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He's a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he's not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he's touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.