Return to Trevor Hall

Trevor Hall's Jefferson Theater show explores an enlightenment worth waiting for

Posted: Thursday, September 3, 2015 5:49 pm
By Jane Dunlap Norris

Like many people leading busy modern lives, Trevor Hall hasn’t always had an easy relationship with time. Luckily, he has close bonds with music — and his grandmother.

His latest album, “KALA,” takes its name from the Sanskrit word for time, and a close listen makes it clear that he and time finally are on a first-name basis.

Hall will share new songs from “KALA” — inspired by an extended spiritual pilgrimage that took him to India, Nepal, Maine and Vermont, written in Hawaii and recorded in Los Angeles — during Friday’s show at the Jefferson Theater.

The South Carolina-bred singer-songwriter took a year and a half off after a decade of performing “because I was trying to beat the clock,” he said. He’d been on overdrive since he was 16 and his song “Other Ways” landed on the “Shrek the Third” soundtrack, launching national demand for his comfortable but challenging blend of rock, reggae and Sanskrit chant. Though grateful for the chance to live a musical life, he never seemed to have the time he needed to reflect, to put everything in perspective.

“KALA” is the final album of a trilogy in which Hall pursued spiritual enlightenment; it follows his “Chapter of the Forest” album and “Unpack Your Memories” EP.

And the secret to fitting all the pieces together turned up in a gentle question from his grandmother: “Isn’t time such a wonderful gift?” she asked.

Before long, Hall realized that he’d found an elusive answer he’d chased around the world.

“The whole thing about time was quite unexpected,” he said. “I just wasn’t seeing it at the moment.”

Instead of trying to beat the clock, Hall realized he had to turn around and embrace it.

“In the Western world, we’re on the side of trying to beat time,” Hall said. “But we also need to balance that with the other side and let things happen. Acceptance? That’s something I’ve always struggled with, that we’ve all had our struggles with.”

Enlightenment can’t be rushed. But at the same time, if time is precious, it can’t be wasted. In his song “Forgive,” Hall makes a gentle, heartfelt argument for hurrying when it’s appropriate.

“We shouldn’t wait to forgive,” he said. “Forgiveness should happen now.

“We don’t want to waste time, and we want to make the best use of our time. But we don’t want to fight time; there’s a right moment for certain things. We want to bring certain seasons before those seasons are supposed to come.”

The dynamic between recording songs and performing them live reflects that idea. Recording has an insulated purity to it; letting someone else in and creating a conversation between performer and listener allows more colors and textures to show.

“It’s interesting when you’re recording; it’s just coming out,” Hall said of his music process. “It’s an amazing feeling — a very fresh feeling.

“When you’re recording it, you’re alone. There’s not a lot of other energy to distract you. ... It’s a very intimate feeling.”

Add a listener, or a room full of listeners, and “it’s a different kind of intimacy, because you have a collective energy,” Hall said. “It’s like a mantra. All the songs are like mantras. When you play it live, the song is much more dynamic. It can take a lot more directions.”

On the road, “you’re experiencing so many things so very quickly that you don’t really have time to digest them,” Hall said. Even when his grandmother made her meaningful comment about time, “I didn’t really think about it at the time, because, boom, boom, boom — everything was happening.

“The things you’re really supposed to learn keep coming back to you.”

One of those things was the realization that everything was unfolding exactly when it was supposed to, in precisely the right ways.

“With ‘Chapter in the Forest,’ that was an important album for me. I was coming into my own sound,” Hall said of the trilogy’s more meditative first album. “ ‘KALA’ has a little more movement.”

Just like life, in fact. There’s no need to embark on a long pilgrimage to discover the secret of life, because “every day is a journey, and every day has a new quest in it,” he said.

That being said, he’s grateful for all his travels, because every new step helped lead him to the answers he was seeking. He’s better prepared now to wait for whatever else time will bring.

“The whole universe is in a perfect cycle if we try not to rush it,” Hall said, adding that “stepping back and seeing the big picture” helped him realize how right his grandmother was.

“Time is arranging everything perfectly, perfectly,” he said. “She was giving me the seed, but she was also giving me the fruit.”

Jane Norris is the features editor for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7249 or