Man of the Moment: Trevor Hall
with Melissa A. Bartell

Our February Man of the Moment, singer/songwriter Trevor Hall, may be young in years (he’s still in his early twenties) but he definitely has an old soul. Two days after his apartment was flooded, and an hour after visiting a doctor for a sore throat (don’t worry, he’s fine), he sat down to have a telephone conversation with me, about his life, his music, and his belief that good works are the way to spiritual enlightenment.

Tell our readers a bit about yourself - where you come from, geographically and musically. You grew up in South Carolina, didn’t you?
Yeah. I grew up in South Carolina. My dad was a musician; that’s kind of how I got into music. And I went to a boarding school, an arts boarding school in California - Idyllwild. It was some of the best years of my life. It was a really amazing place, and I was there for about two and a half years, and that’s where my music and writing really took off.

My senior year, I signed a record deal right as I graduated high school, and after that I was on this record label for about two years - three years - and I recorded two albums for them but none of them came out and at the end of that process they told me they were going to drop me from the label, and at that time we kind of just did our own thing, and made a record on our own, and that’s when Vanguard picked us up, and we just finished our first record with them, which came out this past summer - so that’s kind of the gist in a very quick form.

Your first Vanguard album is the self-titled one? “Trevor Hall?”

I’ve been listening to it as part of the prep for this interview, and I’ve really been enjoying it. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of different musical styles that inform your work. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Wow, thank you.

Well, the big influence is reggae music, just because ever since I was a kid that’s the music that’s stuck with me the most. So that’s kind of the foundation of it all, but I’m influenced by a lot of world music and hip-hop and rock - kind of a fusion of all those, but the reggae is, for me, the foundation for it all.

Various reviews of your music have compared you to people like Peter Gabriel, Bob Marley, and even Jack Johnson. Do you count any of those people among your influences, or do you feel you’re truly your own person, musically?
I’d like to think I’m my own person, but one influence that I grew up with, and sometimes people also compare me to is Ben Harper. When I first heard him, I remember telling people, “I want to make music like this.” So he was a really big influence, and it really kind of molded me early on. In the early stages of my songwriting, he was a main influence for sure.

I’d like to talk about two of the songs on the “Trevor Hall” album. The first one is the very first cut - “Internal Heights.” Do I hear sitar music in that? And the second is “Unity.” Tell me a bit about each of them?
“Internal Heights” is a song that is kind of like the theme of my life. I try to live a righteous life, a spiritual life. I’m really influenced by Indian music and Indian culture, and at some point in the album I wanted to bring that kind of sound in, and it just worked out that we did it in that song. It seemed like a good song to start the album with because it’s just… it’s a good theme - stepping into the light. It’s one of my favorite songs on this record.

As far as “Unity” goes, it was a song written with Matisyahu, a friend of mine. We were on tour together, and it was the time of the terrorist shootings in Mumbai, India, and he had some friends, or people that he knew there who had passed away, and we were on the road together at that time, and it affected us greatly, so while we were on tour we were always talking, reasoning about all this fighting in the name of God and how upset that that made us. So that song was born out of that tour, and those experiences.

You’ve mentioned spirituality, and your lyrics certainly have a sense of spirituality that comes out of them; is that something important to you? Do you consider yourself more spiritual or actually religious?
I think kind of both. I mean the music is obviously heavily spiritual. The music is a way for me to explore that realm, that world. I mean…people do it in different ways. People do it through religion, or reading, people do it through, I don’t know, quotation - but I do it through music. So I guess music is my religion in a way. It’s my practice. It’s how I talk to that side of myself.

You’ve been chosen by MTV as one of 20 emerging artists for 2010. What does that mean to you personally and professionally?
Well I didn’t really… I was out of the country when that happened - I just got back Sunday. I was in India for a month, and my sister actually sent me an email while I was over there that said, “Oh, you were on MTV.”

And I was like, “What?” But I didn’t really get to watch it, or see anything happen until I got back. I haven’t really been able to see the results of it, but I feel very honored to be one of the artists that need to be known, I guess, you could say?

Hopefully it will help the career and help people learn about the music.

You start a new tour on January 27. Am I correct that this is the first tour that’s really just YOU?
It’s actually the second, but I feel like it’s the first really big one, and the first we’re really focusing on doing what I want to do.

Do you like touring, or do you consider it just something you have to do - and how do you keep yourself grounded when you’re on the road for a long time?
Oh, staying grounded is…something I’m still learning to practice, myself, really. But touring…it’s such a good teacher, and it is hard, there are negative points, but there are also a lot of positive points for me. A couple of those are - you’re in a different city every night, and you’re always moving, moving, moving, and you can’t have any attachment to a certain place or certain people. You just have to keep moving - go with the flow.

And I think that’s a good teacher for me, to not get attached to anything. It’s like you’re going through a market place but not as a buyer. You’re just kind of observing life, and seeing all these different people and how they live and how they communicate their ideas, and - it’s just a wonderful teacher.

The other high point of it is, now whatever city I go into, I know people. It’s like I have friends in almost every city, and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for music. That’s been a really nice thing to see over the years - how friendships have grown.

But traveling so much - it does wear on your health, and it can get really tiring, and you do lose your ground sometimes, but it’s important to talk to loved ones, or keep up with your meditation, or whatever you do and just try to stay healthy and remember your goal. You just try to remember that you’re doing this for people. That you’re serving people.


Speaking of serving people…y You’ve used your music to support some important charities, like the Rainforest Action Network and The Hunger Site. Talk to me about your involvement with those organizations. Is social action important to you?
I really inspired by one saint who always said that the way to God is by feeding people and serving people, because God exists in everything you are, and so if you’re feeding one person, than you’re feeding God.

I feel very blessed to be able to use my music to not only entertain people, but also to raise money for this cause or that cause…

The Rainforest Action Network is something that happened through my manager. My manager’s friend was on their board, and we ended up doing a concert for them, and I was really taken by all the good work that they’ve been doing for the environment, so I said, “Hey, let’s try to do something with these folks.” It’s been a real pleasure working with them, and supporting each other.

The big thing, though, that I love and am inspired by is children. I love kids, and I love serving kids that are in need. And by going to India - I stayed in one temple over there, and it was kind of like an orphanage, and I became really attached to these kids and seeing how pure their hearts are, and I just wanted to help in any way I could, so I’ve started a little thing - a very small thing - where I’ve been trying to raise money at shows for their clothing and food, and stuff, and this past trip I was able to go back and see what the donations have done, and it’s just been such a wonderful thing to see over the years.

It’s just…it’s just such a blessing to be able to serve.

How wonderful that you’re doing something so personal and meaningful. Speaking of doing things, though…you’ve got this tour about to start, an album that just came out…what’s next for you? More trips to India…or…?
I hope I to go back [to India]. I hope to go back next year around this time, just to sort of check up on the kids. It’s also a good place for me to refresh myself.

After this tour, though, we don’t really have any set plans, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio and making another album with lots of new songs, and just…keep on pumping, keep on getting the people to sing.

We’ve talked about music and good works and your plans for the future. Is there anything else that you’re really passionate about that you want to share with us?
One thing is…I really feel like there’s a sort of hunger in today’s youth, and it’s not like a physical hunger for actual food. I feel like it’s a spiritual hunger, and that too many youth don’t have anyone - or not a lot of people - to look to get this food from. There’re just not a lot of people cookin’ - you know?

I feel like it’s really unfortunate, and I hope that in the future, maybe through God’s grace, that there’ll be some cooks, and that it will be easier for kids to find that spiritual side of themselves, and get out of this physical, material life that is kind of engulfing us - especially America.

I feel like there’s another whole world out there that is incredibly beautiful, but right now, I don’t feel like there are many ways for youth to tap into it. My one prayer is that this will change, and I believe music is one of the ways to transmit powerful messages, and to make people feel something.

So, I hope that it will come from music - not necessarily me - but anybody - as long as it helps youth with their spiritual connection.

Trevor Hall can be found on the web at his myspace page. When I asked if he had any kind of donation system set up for the orphanage in India, he said he preferred to keep it personal and intimate, collecting donations only at his shows. His current album, “Trevor Hall” was released by Vanguard in August - look for a review of it later tis month in our blog.