In his jeans and red Reeboks, Jon Troast is relaxed on stage. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. He’s not actually “on stage;” he’s performing in my living room. He’s playing his acoustic guitar, as well as the very piano that my mother struggled to keep me at when I was a child. Obviously someone had more success with him than my mother did with me.
On his living room concert circuit, singer-songwriter Troast gives a one-hour concert for as many friends and family as you can pack into your living room. Or dining room. Or wherever. He comes with a flexible set list, a table of CDs for sale, and a quiet sense of humor. Putting his audience at ease, he entertains with a mix of folk-rock ballads and pop songs, influenced by the likes of Jim Croce and James Taylor. He sings love songs, but his reach extends to other topics as well. “Was It Ever Really Mine?” contemplates the meaning of ownership and stewardship, while “Wedding Ring,” is a tribute to his parents’ adoption of a daughter from another country.
Much of his music is inspired by the stories of other people. He hears a lot of them during his unique concert tours. In 2009 he completed 100 concerts in 100 days. He accomplished this feat by driving 20,000 miles across 25 U.S. states in his 2003 Ford Focus station wagon, with only one flat tire to slow him down. Often a living room booking means Troast will be sleeping on the couch or in the guestroom at the venue, so he literally meets people right where they live.
He started his music career six years ago. A Calvin College grad with a degree in business communications, he decided that his true calling was music. He spent a few years performing wherever he could. Then he had, as he describes it, “one of those moments when you’re falling asleep, wondering what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” He realized that he wanted to play music for people and that he enjoyed making a connection with his audience. Thus began his living room concert career. He figures he’s played more than 400 of them now. One of the highlights so far has been his performance as a musical guest on “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor a few years back.
Last year, Troast moved to Nashville, Tenn. to make and maintain connections with the music industry. He’s also making a home there, including finding a place at Midtown Fellowship Church. This has been an important find, because, as he says, “one of the major challenges of being a traveling musician is the lack of regular Christian community.”
Since his move, he’s realized how blessed he is. Most music hopefuls who move to Nashville spend their days waiting tables, hoping for a break. Troast has a “day job” that he really loves, which gives him an audience and plenty of experience. He has a growing network of friends and fans around North America. He’s made forays into Canada, and he’s played in all of the contiguous 48 United States, with the sole exception of North Dakota. So . . . does anyone in Hull, N.D. have an open living room next Friday night?