A fresh take on reggae, world music
Hilton Head-raised Trevor Hall doesn't look the part, but his music is worthy of the genre.
By Courtney Devores
Special to the Observer
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 25, 2009

Lanky, blonde, South Carolinian. It isn't exactly the first description that comes to mind when broaching the topic of blending reggae and world music with radio-friendly pop and rock.

The same could've been said 30 years ago of a lanky blonde Englishman named Sting.

At 22, Hilton Head native Trevor Hall may not look the part, but visuals won't matter once his self-titled Vanguard Records debut is released Tuesday.

Equally fit for jam-band festivals or VH1, Hall's soulful and subtle musical melding is introduced with his single “Unity.” It was written with and features another unlikely reggae star, Hasidic Jew and hip-hop reggae rocker Matisyahu, following the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

“I was on tour with Matis at the time,” says Hall. “There was a Jewish temple that was shot at and (Matisyahu knew) people that were living in there who had died. (The attack) was heavy on our heads. It sparked all sorts of conversation about religion and God and fighting.

“I have a particular affection for India. I'm influenced by a lot of teachers from India and singers that got me into the culture, and the beliefs and eventually brought me over there. It's very influential on my music and the way I live my life.”

Hall, who plays the Double Door tonight, describes the vibe that attracted him to Indian culture: “It's so full of life. There's a lot of love. Just like anywhere, there are radicals. Then there's (also) openness. Everything is kind of there on the streets, the rich and the poor, the religious and atheists. People just learn to get along in some ways,”

It was a bit of a contrast to the ritzy tourist town where Hall grew up “hungry for inspiration” but didn't quite fit in.

“I went to a prep school,” he says. “It was a little hellish sometimes just because there's not a lot of open thought. You're kind of being molded into something, but at the same time it's all you know because you grew up in that environment.”

Then he discovered reggae.

“In Hilton Head, where it was a little bit parochial, Bob Marley and that kind of thought was very radical. They were rough guys. They were gangsters. They had dreadlocks and smoked a bunch of weed. Especially in a prep school, I was like, I want to be like those people.”

In 10th grade, he moved to Southern California to attend Idyllwild School for the Arts, a boarding school that expanded his world view.

“There were kids from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, which was amazing. I was introduced to a lot of different music and ways of thinking,” he says.

He signed with Geffen Records during his senior year, but his two Geffen albums were shelved and he was dropped by the label last year. After releasing two independent discs and touring, he signed with the songwriter-focused Vanguard and recorded his official debut in four weeks.

After six years away (he returns for holidays), his current tour brings him home, where he's ready to embrace the beach lifestyle that's such a contrast from his nomadic day-to-day existence.

“People go there to relax, and I look forward to what people do there,” he says, laughing. “Going to the beach and watching TV, being a couch potato and vegging out.”