Words & Photos || Chelsea Erin Wright : June 2015
Trevor Hall is an accomplished singer and songwriter, producing an eclectic mix of acoustic reggae, rock, and sanskrit chanting. He broke through the music scene very early in his music career, joining sold-out tours with top musicians such as Michael Franti, SOJA, Brett Dennen, Jimmy Cliff, Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, The Wailers, and Colbie Callait. Trevor projects a refreshing universal message, while also sharing his knowledge about the names and teachings of divinities through his music. Trevor travels to India annually to seek spiritual refuge, where he finds his creative inspiration. Trevor uses donations collected at his live shows to help support an Ashram in Allahabad, where underprivileged orphans are given the chance for a better life and traditional Vedic education.
In 2009, Hall released his Vanguard Records debut, which featured the single
“Unity,” a song written and performed with longtime friend, Matisyahu. His follow up album ‘Everything, Everytime, Everywhere’ debuted on iTunes Rock Chart at #3 and iTunes Top Albums at #12. The featured single “Brand New Day” was used as the music bed for the reformatted CBS This Morning Show. Hall’s latest release ‘Chapter of the Forest’ debuted at #3 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart and #17 on the iTunes Overall Albums chart. Trevor performed this year as the headliner for Wanderlust: Stratton, VT-an international yoga, arts and music festival.
To learn more about him, and preview his music: www.trevorhallmusic.com
Chelsea Erin Wright: What inspired you to share your recently released EP, ‘Unpack Your Memories’, with the world?
Trevor Hall: ‘Unpack Your Memories’ came about in a couple ways. I write so much music all the time, so I have so many demos on my computer. Sometimes when an album comes out, you can only have so many songs on an album – because of that, a lot of them get lost, you know…because then I write new stuff, and then those take the place of the old songs. So some songs kind of get a bad break, they don’t get to come out, so theres that side. And theres another side where some songs I write, I feel like I can’t share them yet, like they’re too personal – like they’re for me, to help me through whatever I’m going through – I hold those songs in. When we got the idea to do ‘Unpack Your Memories’, it was about digging into and revisiting old lessons, old experiences in your life. You know? I feel like every time you visit an old experience, it’s always going to be different because you’re always growing as a person, with different, new perspectives. With unpack your memories, I was looking back through my library, and was like “Man these songs are really important to me, I really want people to hear them-and if we don’t release them now, I don’t know when were going to be able to release them”, so it was a sweet project. And on the other side of it too, all of those songs that are on there-those versions are all from my own recordings, from my bedroom, with just my laptop.
Chelsea: So it’s more intimate?
Trevor: Yeah, its very intimate – there’s something that happens when a song comes through. And when you record a demo-even though it may not sound the best sonically or anything, it just has this thing on it – because its that moment, the moment when its first coming through. So I didn’t want to lose that, I wanted to let people in on what that’s like in that moment, you know? It was a sweet project for us. I just wanted to visit those and let those breathe.
Chelsea: That’s excellent. How influential have your travels and time spent in India been, on the creation of your music?
Trevor: Very influential, I mean….every song is about India in someway, directly or indirectly. An experience that I had there, a philosophy. That’s just the place where I kind of fell in, you know? I didn’t ask for that…I’m from South Carolina, and I never thought in a million years that I would be in India. So it was interesting, I became attached to one saint from there and that’s what lead me there and opened the door, and I just kept going back year after year. Its a huge part of my heart and a huge part of my life. And I sing about whats in my heart, so naturally those things comes out and the stories from there, all of the people I meet-they’re all very inspiring. Its to a point now where I don’t even view it as India and me-its just one thing. Its all melded together, so yeah…all of the music, everything. Very influential in my journey.
Chelsea: Is there something about the energy there that calls you?
Trevor: Its an interesting place. On one side – when I first went there, I was like “Oh my god, I’m home – this is the most amazing place I’ve ever been”, and just on the hairline, the other side, I was like “I’m freaking out, I cant stay here – this is too much”. Its a very intense place. But I liked that, I liked how it did that to my mind – it made me constantly confront my attachments in the world. And there are so many faces of India too – people go there for vacation, to do drugs, to trek. For me, I’m just so attracted to that spiritual side of it – the holy places-and how much the spirit is every day, every moment. Here in western culture, I feel that its hard to remember spirit…in our daily lives, in our cities – whereas over there, its hard to not recognize it, because its everywhere. Even in the big cities, there are temples everywhere – incense, cab drivers with the gods on their dashboards-I like it because its not hard to fall into that space. Yeah…so many things.
Chelsea: Your album, “Chapter of the Forest”, contains many rich messages-can you
explain what this title represents for you and your journey?
Trevor: Yeah, there’s a few things. It’s funny, because a lot of those songs in ‘Chapter of the Forest’ were written here, just down the road here in Stratton. Our family has a house here in the woods, and that’s where I spent a lot of time with those songs. There’s that, being in the forest and listening to her – to what she has to say, and all that, you know? The forest is a special place for me – in India one of their main ethics is called the Ramayana Tulsidasand its the story of Sita and Rama; Rama is the incarnation of God, and Sita is the divine mother. And their story on earth, of what they did – their past times. One part of the story, is that they get exiled from their kingdom and they have to stay in the forest for 14 years. And while they’re in the forest, they meet all of these different sages, saints, and hermits-and have all of these really amazing conversations. And during that time, the creation of Chapter of the forest – I was really meditating a lot on that scene-imagining them there in the forest, dressed in bark, the universal spirit personified, you know – how simple that was? Eating roots and fruits, in a thatched hut. I was obsessed with that part of the story – I was rereading that over and over, and I tried to put my whole being into that space of what it was like for them there. So again, a lot of the songs carry that message – those meditations on that part of the story. So there’s that element, and then there’s also the element of me going through a tough time at that point. I was really overworked, really burnt out. Really tired of just touring, kind of all things music and music business. And I didn’t even know if I wanted to keep going – it was a really confusing time for me. A great saint Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa said, “One cant live in the world continuously”. From time to time you have to go into solitude, whether that be the corner of ones room, whether that be a forest, or whatever – for an hour, a day, or a year. So I took that really literally…I just came up here to Vermont to be in the woods – to not listen, not have any noise around me, and really let my psyche calm down. So in that, chapter of the forest was like that chapter of my life – the forest really healed me, and gave me all of these songs that healed me, which are really special to me.
Chelsea: When you say healed you, do you mean physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually?
Trevor: Yeah, just overall. Definitely more mentally and spiritually – my psyche.
Chelsea: Nature surely is a beautiful, powerful force. Can you tell me how the song ‘Obsidian’ manifested, and what influence Nahko Bear had in the creation of it?
Trevor: Nahko and I have been friends for so long, were like brothers really. I had known him for a few years before I had ever seen him play live. I had listened to his music, but I had never seen him in his element on stage, you know? So that song came about when I saw him perform in L.A. this one time…I had a vision – a crazy feeling of what he was channelling, and it really affected me – I left the concert early and went home, got home at like 3 am and wrote that song. Nahko has a fierce energy, like fire you know? And hes a warrior – a spiritual warrior. And that song was paying tribute to that spirit that was moving through him that I saw and felt, and calling that spirit in on a grander scale, for the righteous warriors of the whole earth. I feel a lot of grandfather energy when I sing that song, and when I listen to it. Nahko…my meeting with him…he really tapped me into that spirit – so its an ode and a thank you, like an I remember you, you know?
Chelsea: That’s beautiful. And its amazing too that it came at the time that you were creating that album about the forest, and nature – the connection to grandfather and the great spirit.
Trevor: Yes, yes. Its all the same really.
Chelsea: Your song ‘Promised Land’ holds a powerful line; “Sometimes I don’t feel at home, like exodus in my own soul”. What does this mean to you?
Trevor: Yeah, that song is really emotional for me. I feel like when you get a higher taste of something, especially from a spiritual sense, you’re constantly craving that again. You’re like, “Man, I’m never going to feel at home until I find that place that I touched”. And for me, I’m always trying to find my way home, because I ask myself, is this my home? Is this body my home? Who am I? I know my names Trevor, but who am I? I know I’m a male, but does that tell me who I am? I’m from South Carolina, but is that who I am, you know? I’m a musician, but who am I? And sometimes, in that journey of the self – you get down, because its a lifelong journey – many lifelong journeys, where everybody’s trying their best – but sometimes I don’t feel at home, like exodus in my own soul-like even if your sitting in your own house, it doesn’t matter whats on the outside, it matters whats on the inside. That song is about, on two levels – internally not feeling at home, and then externally, not feeling at home with whats around us – like corruption, propaganda, evil, no kindness, no love – its just sad. So for me, that song is about finding my home, our home. And I know that our home lies in the greater spirit, the self that’s talking through all of us…yeah, how was that? Was that good?
Chelsea: Yeah that was great! That leads me to this question – what is your best advice for living as a spiritual being in this world?
Trevor: I haven’t really figured that out, you know? I think its different for everybody, I don’t think I could say one thing and then everybody can fall into that. For me, music is my real house – the songs are my real house. When I sing the songs that’s when I feel most at home. That’s when I feel the world stop around me, when I feel no more chatter inside or around me – there’s just nothing. But for some, its yoga – some people walk in the woods. It just depends, you know? Whatever helps you get into your inner space, which is a universal space. A healthy way to get into that inner space – that’s what you have to do. And these days we have so many gurus, its like a business you know – its like guru business. But you have to look to the guru, but the guru is not external – the guru is internal. What is not guru? Right now, you are my guru – right now, the grass, the wind, the leaves – this situation. Everything around you is telling you how to tap in, we just have to lift our sails and let the wind come in and take us. The wind of grace is always blowing, we just have to lift the sails and find out what that is for us. I’m still trying to figure that out. Your life is your guru, your journey. You can’t get confused by all of the chatter outside. Its interesting – its something I struggle with all of the time – in this day and age, we have so many choices…in the past, if you were born in Africa you don’t know about Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Christianity. You’re going to fall into what your ancestors teach you, what your parents teach you – and that’s it. If you grow up in medieval Europe, its Christ. And that was it, you know – you didn’t have a choice. These days, in some ways, hearing about all of the different religions of the world is really beautiful, but its really confused a lot of us. It’s tricky.
Chelsea: Yeah, it seems to me that there are pieces in all religions that make sense – that are right. But discerning one to be the one, seems to be quite difficult.
Trevor: Of course. Sri Rama Krishna said that all paths lead to God – everybody’s path, sooner or later there’s no choice. When you die, you will be confronted – and were being confronted all of the time, but every path has to die. Its like rivers that merge in to the ocean – when a river merges into the ocean it loses its name and form. You can’t call it the Mississippi river anymore, you cant distinguish that that was the water from the river, and this is the water from the ocean. Its all water, were all just trying to get to the ocean. I think that whatever path you practice, as long as you do it with sincerity and a sincere calling to realize the divinity of everything, then you can’t go wrong. That’s my belief, no matter what you do – if your sincere then the spirit is going to guide you perfectly. If you’re practicing something for power, for evil – you’re going to get that result.
Chelsea: Is there anything that you’d like to share about your upcoming album, ‘KALA’?
Trevor: Yeah, KALA means time in Sanskrit. It goes along with everything that were talking about, with the spirit giving you what you need. Neem Karoli Baba said that God will give you everything for your spiritual advancement, but you must hold onto nothing.
Trevor: Yes. About a year and a half ago – my grandmother, shes very old…we were walking her in her wheelchair. And she doesn’t say much, but when she does, you listen. And she just looked up at the sky, and said “Isn’t time such a wonderful gift?”. And I was like whoa…because time for me, my whole life, has always been a pressure, an evil. It’s something I’m always running out of, something that has always pushed me to feel I have to realize everything right now – it’s ridiculous, you know? It’s just been this negative thing for me. So when she said that, I was like wow, what is that? And I didn’t know, but at that time she planted a seed in me, and that seed has been growing this past year and a half. My attitude has started to change slowly – I’ve started to look at time as space, and time as growth. Time is a healer, time is knowledge – a circle, rather than a beginning and an end. In the East, they look at time as no beginning and no end – it’s a continuous body. My journey with KALA, is my journey with changing my perception with time, and looking on time as a divinity – a divine spirit, rather than a pressure. In America were so controlled and pressured by time, but it’s not like that everywhere. And I’m trying to slowly break my conditioned patterns towards time, so the songs have to do with that.
Chelsea: I’ve always felt the same about time, but haven’t truly understood why.
Trevor: Time is the only thing that separates us. Really, the only difference between you and me is that you came into this world at a different time than I did. Time is the thing that creates diversity – it takes from that universal space and makes two. The only thing that separates those two, is one came before the other. So if there’s no time, theres no difference. Time is a powerful thing – very powerful. I just don’t think were looking at it right. So thats what KALA is about – looking at it differently, we just have to flip the coin.
Chelsea: That’s beautiful.
Trevor: Thank you!
Chelsea: Thank you, so much, for sitting with me and telling your stories. It was a pleasure to meet you. The world will surely be looking forward to receiving your messages in your new album KALA on August 21, 2015.
Trevor: Yes, thank you very much.
Chelsea: Enjoy the rest of your time here at Wanderlust