The Spaces Between The Ripples: An Interview with Trevor Hall
Indie artist Trevor Hall balances his charity work on behalf of orphans with his burgeoning career.
Posted by Heather Jacks on Thursday, June 17, 2010

If Bono, Mar­ley and Cobain had a love child, his name would be Trevor Hall.

With a deeply soul­ful sound that far ex­ceeds his 23 years, Trevor Hall has al­ready racked up some il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer points. He signed his first ma­jor record deal as a se­nior in high school, he’s toured and played with the likes of Ma­tisyahu, Los Lo­bos, Ben Harper and Ste­vie Nicks, and his song “Other Ways” is fea­tured on the Shrek The Third soundtrack.

Be­sides raw tal­ent, pas­sion and mad song writ­ing skills, one of the most no­table char­ac­ter­is­tics about Trevor Hall is his gen­uine love and humility—for his craft, for peo­ple, for the world and for his abil­ity to play in it.

“My mu­sic is acoustic, folk, reg­gae, hip hop and lots of other things, and it’s meant to in­spire and up­lift and just make the world, you know, a bet­ter place,” he says.

For Hall, the jour­ney be­gan in South Car­olina, where he was born and raised. “I would come home (from school), pick up my gui­tar and write songs for a cou­ple of hours. It was my fa­vorite time of the whole day,” he recalls.

He be­gan play­ing for his par­ents, who sup­ported his pas­sion. And then, on his 16th birth­day, his fa­ther sur­prised him by pay­ing for a record­ing ses­sion. “Some­thing low key, not like ‘we’re gonna sell it to the masses.’ Just friends and stuff,” Hall says. “Then I sent one to a friend in L.A., and he told me to come out and play a show and that’s kind of how every­thing started.”

At age 16, Hall moved to Cal­i­for­nia and at­tended Idyll­wild Arts Acad­emy in the San Jac­into Moun­tains, east of L.A., where he stud­ied clas­si­cal gui­tar and got se­ri­ous about music.

Hall signed with Gef­fen be­fore grad­u­at­ing high school, and he recorded an EP, The Ras­cals Have Re­turned for the label.

“Un­for­tu­nately,” says Hall, “Other than the EP, none of the records I made with Gef­fen came out. They dropped me from the la­bel in 2008. But, that didn’t de­ter me.”

Af­ter be­ing dropped, Hall’s song­writ­ing skills flour­ished. He part­nered with his good friend, per­cus­sion­ist Chris Steele and recorded and re­leased a 14 song al­bum called “This is Blue” in that same year.

“Its kinda in­ter­est­ing be­ing so young in such a big, mas­sive in­dus­try,” he says. “But I haven’t had too many chal­lenges be­cause mu­sic is a joy for me. It’s my job, it’s work, but it’s also what I love to do. When you love some­thing there’s re­ally not any con­fu­sion in­volved. The biggest chal­lenge is try­ing to take that love for some­thing and try to make it a job as well.”

Hall’s eclec­tic mix of reg­gae, acoustic rock and pro­found lyri­cism quickly earned him fans across the country.

One day, he took his acoustic gui­tar to Van­guard Records, played some tunes, and they lis­tened. Hall signed his sec­ond record deal and re­leased his self ti­tled al­bum in July 2009.

The first sin­gle from the al­bum, “Unity” (which he co-wrote with his good friend Ma­tisyahu), de­buted at #7 on the Bill­board Heatseeker’s chart.

“A song says a lot of dif­fer­ent things, and not just from one place. But there are just themes that are re­ally preva­lent. I was just think­ing about the Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tacks, and Is­rael and Pales­tine, and think­ing a lot about all this fight­ing. And that isn’t re­ally any­thing new, but like I said, some­times themes are just preva­lent. And it all just kinda erupted in this song,” he says.

For Hall—who cites Bob Mar­ley, Ben Harper, Bob Dy­lan and Bjork as his main influences—not all of his in­flu­ences come from music.

“I’m re­ally in­spired by cer­tain lit­er­a­ture, cer­tain po­ets like Hafez and Rumi. I read a lot of mys­tic po­etry, and it def­i­nitely has a heavy sway over my lyrics. I get in­spired by day-to-day things I see. Pos­i­tive things. Peo­ple try­ing to do good things. That’s what in­spires me most.”

Trevor has been to In­dia three times, and in­cor­po­rates med­i­ta­tion and veg­e­tar­i­an­ism into his life. “I have a place that I go in In­dia, a lit­tle ashram there. I’m in­volved in a lot of things for chil­dren,” he says.

“In par­tic­u­lar, a char­ity called Baal Dan, started by my friend Tanya Pinto. Ba­si­cally, [Baal Dan] feeds chil­dren, builds schools and builds or­phan­ages in In­dia. I raise money for those kids. It’s a small thing, I know, but some­thing very per­sonal and close to my heart.”

When not de­vot­ing time and en­ergy to help­ing India’s less for­tu­nate, Hall is work­ing hard to rise to even greater pro­fes­sional heights. Cur­rently, he’s get­ting ready to hit the road with reg­gae leg­end Jimmy Cliff in sup­port of his up­com­ing al­bum, Chas­ing the Flame, which will be re­leased on June 29.

“My fa­vorite part of the whole thing thus far,” says Hall, “is meet­ing new peo­ple on the road. It’s funny how peo­ple come to­gether, con­nect and es­tab­lish friend­ships. I never knew that I would have friends in Peo­ria, Illi­nois, or in Vail, Col­orado. Through mu­sic, we have all been able to come to­gether, share our ideas and love and move on. I am eter­nally grateful.”

This au­thor re­mem­bers when, years ago, as a lit­tle girl grow­ing up on reser­va­tion land, Chief took me to the Reser­voir. It was a sa­cred place, re­served only for ‘real’ In­di­ans, which I was not (due to my mother’s fair Irish skin).

Chief picked up a peb­ble and dropped it into the glass-like sur­face of the wa­ter, and we silently watched the rip­ples as they ex­panded, one from the other, even­tu­ally dis­ap­pear­ing into the void.

“To un­der­stand that is di­vine,” was all he said.

Chief has long since re­turned to the earth from which he came, and I have long since left reser­va­tion land and grown into a woman. Still, as I find my­self lis­ten­ing to Trevor Hall’s mu­sic, I am re­minded of this sim­ple ex­change be­tween a white girl and a full-fledged In­dian Chief—a big mes­sage of few words and lots of silences.

Ul­ti­mately, that is what I love best about Hall’s mu­sic; his abil­ity to cre­ate mean­ing within the si­lences, like the spaces be­tween the ripples.