Trevor Hall is not your typical troubadour. The South Carolina native has spent the last 15 years wooing crowds with his roots, folk, and reggae, but he has also been on a spiritual journey, writing explorative lyricism, and searching for a more enlightened and peaceful existence.
We caught up with the singer/songwriter ahead of his upcoming Australian tour to talk stepping out of his comfort zone , letting go of fears and diving into new territory, playing at Bluesfest, and helping audiences tap into “a place of the heart and not of the head”.
Before he returns to Australian shores and Bluesfest 2019, we grabbed the latest from folky explorer Trevor Hall.
HAPPY: You’ve been announced to play Bluesfest yet again. How does it feel to be coming back down under?
TREVOR: It’s awesome, it’s honestly one of my favourite festivals that I’ve ever been able to play so that’s always a plus. It’s amazing to come and play it of course but honestly I’m a fan so I get to see all of these musicians and bands that I love. But, the most sacred thing for me is coming back to the land there, it’s such a powerful country, and it’s always so inspiring so we’re grateful to be returning.
HAPPY: What’s your favourite thing about playing to Aussie crowds?
TREVOR: Again I think for me it’s the land, being in a place that has such a strong energy and vibration coming from the land. It’s an ancient place and I feel it’s a privilege and an honour to share song in a place where so many song lines were born, it’s just really special. Particularly the Aussie fans are such great music lovers, they’re so passionate about music and I always feel again so privileged to come and play for them because they just appreciate it so much and that’s really special for us as performers.
HAPPY: 100%. For those who haven’t seen you live, what can one expect to see in your live shows?
TREVOR: It’s going to be the best show of their lives of course [laughs]. No, we’re very spontaneous and we like to just go with the flow and see where the energy of that particular show is taking us so it’s always a journey. Depending on the vibe of the room, or the crowd, or the space, it influences how we navigate the show but we like to rock out, and we like to have quiet and meditative moments, so I like to think of it as a full spectrum of experience for people.
HAPPY: Great! So, you released your latest album The Fruitful Darkness last year and you raised the money for it using a Kickstarter campaign. What inspired that idea?
TREVOR: Well, I had been on a label my whole musical career and it was an amazing experience but times have really changed in the music industry with the effect of the internet and streaming and all of those things, it makes it easier for an artist to take the independent route if they want to. I had finished my contract with the label and I had a choice I thought ‘Do I want to try and get on another label and see how that goes? Or do this on my own?’ and it’s just where the energy led, and we decided to take a risk and do it on our own with the help and support of our fans and it was really just an incredible experience.
It was really rewarding for me to have this album where I own all of it and I put the blood, the sweat and tears to say ‘hey this is mine’, after being a musician for 15 years and having record labels own my music it was really special for me. It was a beautiful journey, and I don’t know where we’ll go next time if we’ll do it again or what but I’m grateful we had that experience.
HAPPY: I can imagine. Tell me about the album, the writing and recording process.
TREVOR: This album was quite different for me because the last two albums before this were very acoustic and very stripped down, very folky. I had always been into electronic sounds, and I would make songs at home but I never released them because I thought ‘that’s not really my vibe, that’s not what people know me as’, I got caught in this egotistical story in a way, I was always scared to release this stuff because I was worried what people would think. This was the album for me to face that fear, it was time for me to do it, I thought ‘if this makes me feel good and this is what I’m inspired by I have to just go with the flow’, and that’s what we did, we really tried to step out of our comfort zone and experiment with sounds that we normally don’t get to, and it was a great experience for me, uncomfortable but great. I felt like I was growing and not really worrying about what people would think, just doing it if it felt good, so yeah it was special.
HAPPY: Nice. Where else were you drawing inspiration from when recording the album?
TREVOR: I got really into astrology, these last couple of years I was going through something called the Saturn return which is a period in one’s life when the planet Saturn returns to its exact position of when you were born and its meant to be a hard two years of lessons and growth. So, the album is really inspired by those couple years and the lessons I was learning, the teachings of astrology and how they related to me and that’s what the songs are about. The album is about facing the dark and facing the things that scare me, but musically at this time I was very much inspired by Bon Iver’s latest album 22, A Million, he’s always been a hero for me, somebody who has taken that folky sound but has had the freedom to experiment with these electronic sounds as well but it’s still him. So that was a big influence for me on this record because he paved the way and just did it, so I’d say that was the album I was listening to most while recording this album.
HAPPY: Great, and where did the album name come from?
TREVOR: It actually stemmed from a book called The Fruitful Darkness. It’s a book by A Zen nun named Roshi Joan Halifax, and I was reading this book during a difficult time in the Saturn return and the book is all about facing the dark and the things that scare us and using those things to grow rather than destroy us. It was really, really powerful and I was taking a lot of lessons about meditation from that book and applying them to my own journey and putting them into song and it was really magical. So that’s where the title came from, I actually wrote the author and told her about the project and that the album was inspired by the book and she gave me permission to use the title, so yeah it’s super cool.
HAPPY: That’s awesome. What pushed you to start writing and singing when you were younger? What inspired that whole musical journey for you?
TREVOR: Well, my dad was a musician so growing up in my house there were instruments all over the place, and a stereo system and everything so I think being in that environment from such a young age I naturally just went to those things. Music was just this way for me to be in my own world, and express my own world and it was something I was so hungry for, and it just stuck with me from the beginning from the influence of my family and my household.
HAPPY: Aside from writing music, you’ve also written a little poetry book that you sold exclusively at shows. Are there any more of those in the pipeline?
TREVOR: I don’t know. That book was really an experiment for us, I haven’t really written too much poetry since that time. I was really in a poetry phase, I was writing a lot of poems and then I was like ‘oh man, I have enough! Let’s make a book’ so hopefully down the pipeline we’ll have some more ideas like that, it’s another way of expressing myself and I hope that I can continue to do that but we’ll see what the future holds.
HAPPY: Well I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with. As for now, what’s next for you and the band?
TREVOR: We have a really big tour coming up in a month all through the states, and international festivals and when that tour ends we head down to Bluesfest so that’s the big thing on our radar now. After that’s done I’ll start thinking about the next album and how that’s going to take shape. Just taking it down by day, little bit by little bit.
HAPPY: Cool. I have one last question, clearly your spirituality influences your music hugely, what is the message you’re ultimately trying to get across to people?
TREVOR: For me it’s not like ‘oh, I want to convey this message’ because I feel like that thought and feeling comes from my ego and music has always been a listening process for me, where I’m playing what I’m hearing, I don’t like to get involved, it’s a chance for me to get out of the way, quiet my mind and let it flow but like you’re saying obviously I want listeners to take something away. For me I hope that the music makes them look into something deeper, whether it’s looking into themselves or their own journey, just tapping into a deeper place, a place of the heart and not of the head. That’s my main objective.
Also appearing at Byron Bay Bluesfest: April 18-22, 2019 – Tickets