Music and Movies Caroline Klibanoff

Trevor Hall is a calming presence. This is immediately apparent from his reggae-acoustic tunes, his earnest, distinct voice and his eyes-on-the-cosmos lyrics that imply wisdom beyond his young years. Though he’s been making music since he was a teenager, his career took off this summer with the release of his self-titled album, featuring 13 easy, breezy tracks about his philosophy, world unity and personal salvation.

When I had the chance to see him perform a short acoustic set at the Paste Magazine offices this summer, it became clear that his lifestyle reflects his down-to-earth, rootsy, sanctified brand of music; he wailed thoughtfully about the serious state of the world as he stood barefoot, strumming his guitar, completely at ease. Trevor Hall, the album, is a pleasant set of well-crafted songs, from the galvanizing single “Unity” to the pining “Who You Gonna Turn To,” to the gentle, lovely “Lime Tree.” Recently, The Guide got the opportunity to chat with Trevor over the phone about his upcoming show at the Jammin’ Java, his travels in India and life on the road. Make sure to check out his show next Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Jammin’ Java in Vienna (Orange line). Tickets are $12 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

The Guide: How’s your tour going so far?
Trevor Hall: It’s going good … We’re in the mountains now, we just played in Wyoming. It’s a little cold, but good.

The Guide: Have you played in D.C. before?
Trevor Hall: Yes, yes, a few times.

The Guide: So what influenced and inspired your latest album?
Trevor Hall: That record, I was at an interesting place, because before that I was on a different label and had recorded a few CDs under that label, and none of them came out. Then they dropped me from the label, so I wasn’t able to use those songs … so for a long time I was kind of being suffocated as an artist, not being allowed to express myself. So when I got in the studio for this latest album, I had a lot of inspiration from over the years; it wasn’t like a specific moment, just a culmination of a bunch of different experiences that happened before that, at that time, so it was very fresh — it was like I finally get to share these things, let these things out.

The Guide: How has the new label been working out, are you liking it?
Trevor Hall: The new label has been great, it’s been really great. They’re a lot smaller than the last label, which I like, because it has more of a family vibe. I can call them anytime, it’s not an issue. So they’ve been really supportive and helpful in all areas. I feel very lucky.

The Guide: What’s your songwriting process?
Trevor Hall: It’s usually no process at all. [Laughs.] It’s all over the place. It comes when it comes, I can never sit down and say, “I’m gonna write a song, right now.” Then I’m thinking too much, and I just have to wait for it, and when it comes through, it comes through. Usually for me, the music comes first. I’ll play a melody or something and then write words over that. But sometimes there’s a theme, sometimes there’s something that’s been going on in my life that kind of molds it. It’s really all over the place; I don’t have any exact method of writing a song.

The Guide: What have you been listening to lately?
Trevor Hall: Well, I just got back from India a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been looking into a lot of Indian music and folk music … but the other day I was listening to a Ray LaMontagne album, some folk stuff, some soft stuff. Give it a couple weeks and I’ll be back into Lil Wayne or some hip hop or something like that. [Laughs.]

The Guide: Do you find yourself playing new or oldsongs on this tour?
Trevor Hall: We try to mix it up, play some new songs, play some old songs and there’s some songs we’re playing that we haven’t recorded yet. The majority of the songs are from the new record, you know, give the fans what they want. But we’re trying to test the bounds and experiment with this newest stuff and see what people think about it.

The Guide: Do you have any preference between doing live shows versus recording an album?
Trevor Hall: They’re just two different flavors of the process. The recording process I really like because you’re getting everything fresh off the press, you’re the first listener; you get to listen to all this stuff before anybody else does. It’s kind of a cool thing, a cool privilege. And it’s fun to create and paint and experiment with things. But also, when you play live it’s so wonderful because you get that energy of other people, and other people feeding back to you, and you feeding other people … and everybody’s having a good time sharing energy. It’s just different sides of the same thing.

The Guide: So what’s next for the Trevor Hall Band?
Trevor Hall: I’m just trying to get through this tour, trying to survive the road [laughs]. That’s what’s on our minds right now. When we get done with this tour we’ll probably take a little bit of time off and start thinking about getting back in the studio and writing another record. But nothing’s really set in stone yet.

The Guide: Is there anything else you want your fans to know?
Trevor Hall: I just got back from India, and there’s an orphanage there that I kind of support, send some money to and while we’re on the road, we have like a little donation box to collect donations for this orphanage in India. It’s been a really wonderful thing. But because I was just there, I was able to take a little video, a little tour of the temple [and] of the orphanage to show people where their money is going, and that’s on our Web site for people to check out.

Note: You can watch the video of Trevor’s travels in India on his Web site,