Trevor Hall's self-titled Vanguard debut embodies a soulfulness, depth and passion far beyond the artist's 22 years. His youthful exterior belies the depth and intensity of an old soul. Trevor's music is an unconventional mix of acoustic rock and reggae that serves as a vibrant landscape for his thought-provoking, inspiring lyrics. Produced by Marshall Altman (Matt Nathanson, Kate Voegele, Marc Broussard), Trevor Hall encompasses the entire cosmology of this one-of-a-kind young artist, from the opening "Internal Heights," with its sitar-accented electro-groove, which recalls Peter Gabriel at his most expansive, to the meditative and intimate closer "Many Roads," in which Trevor seems to be channeling his primary inspiration, Bob Marley. Indeed, "Many Roads" could stand as Trevor's "One Love." "We've heard there are many paths, but it turns out they all lead to the same place," he says of the song's ultimate point.
"These songs are not all where I'm at presently," Trevor explains. "Many of them are where I aspire to be. With some of them, I feel like it's somebody else talking to me. When I sing the line ‘Maintain internal heights,' for example, people might think I'm talking to them, but I'm also telling myself to remember that. ‘Internal Heights' came about because I have a lot of Rastafarian friends, and they'd always say ‘Maintain internal heights' as a pick-me-up or a greeting. I really thought about that, because it's the sum of everything, really, in my life: to try to maintain that internal place where you're very light, very high on spirit. So I took that idea and went with it. The demo I recorded was very calming, but when I brought it in to Marshall, it went in this uptempo, rocking direction, which I hadn't expected, but I love it in this form. It's one of my favorite tracks on the record. It's also the calling for the record. Every song points back to that one line: maintain internal heights."
"Trevor's musical perspective is really his emotional perspective," says Altman. "Hope, positivity, persistence, faith, joy, love for his fellow man, kindness and a beautiful sense of reckless abandon all embody him as a person and as an artist. Musically, Trevor Hall spans several genres—soul, reggae, pop, electronica, folk—yet the record feels singular in its origin, really. It's not a sum of its parts; it's the sum of Trevor."
He infuses his songs with a deep sense of spirituality, as evidenced in the lead single "Unity," written and performed with his friend (Hasidic reggae artist) Matisyahu. The two artists were on tour together when news of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India hit the media. Trevor had made two trips to India, one a pilgrimage with two monks from a Southern California temple where he still lives, the second on his own in celebration of his 21st birthday. But the sectarian violence hit closer to home for Matisyahu, who knew some of those who'd been murdered in a synagogue that had been targeted by the terrorists.
"On the external level, it's obviously about the unity of all beliefs," Trevor says of the song. "We call it by many names but there's only one truth. But on a much deeper, internal level, it's about the mystical place in your own heart where all these things merge into one thing. So the song works on both levels. Matisyahu is Jewish, and here's this incomprehensible incident that happened in India. So we were talking about it, reading about it and meditating about it and writing lyrics back and forth. And the last night of the tour, I'd just come up with the chorus to the song and was playing it in my dressing room. His dressing room was right next door, and when he heard me singing the part—‘I just wanna melt away in all Its grace, drift away to that sacred place where there's no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity'—he came in and jokingly said, ‘Where'd that come from?'"
The album contains one captivating song after another. "The Lime Tree," a serene ballad that has become a fan favorite, features a guest vocal from Trevor's friend Colbie Caillat, while "Where's the Love" marries a buoyant midtempo groove to a call for people to cast away the prejudices that divide them and come together in a global community. At the other extreme is the blazing rocker "Volume," which turns out to be about meditation. "Sometimes when you're playing music, there's a silence in the sound," he points out. "Even when it's externally really loud, internally it's very still." The summery, easy-going "31 Flavors" is the closest thing here to a traditional love song. "It was inspired by an old crush," he says. "I used that juice to write it."
Trevor spent his first 16 years in Hilton Head, S.C., and started playing music early on, with his parents' encouragement and support. "My dad was a drummer and a musician himself," he points out. "For my 15th or 16th birthday, my dad got me some time in his friend's recording studio. I made my first record, which was mostly sold to my friends and family. In 10th grade, Trevor headed to California to attend the Idyllwild School for the Arts, an international boarding school in the mountains east of Los Angeles, to study classical guitar. Trevor soaked up everything in this rich new environment. "I was craving a higher taste, and the food was there for me," he says.
Before graduating from high school, he was signed to a record deal with a major label. The companywent through a reorganization and only released a sampler EP. Trevor who had already toured extensively with many artists including Steel Pulse, Rusted Root, Matisyahu, Colbie Caillat, Stevie Nicks, Ziggy Marley and Keb Mo, never stopped touring. He also never stopped writing and during this period he wrote some of his best work. After being released from his contract, Trevor and his touring percussionist / drummer, Chris Steele, recorded 14 of these new songs, and self-released the resulting album, which he titled This Is Blue and an accompanying live album entitled Alive & On The Road. "It was a wonderful, liberating experience," he recalls.
Not long afterward, Trevor brought his acoustic guitar to the Vanguard offices in Santa Monica and played some of his new songs for the staff. It was love at first sight…and first listen. "I really liked the vibe there," he says. "It was so different from what I'd experienced." So Trevor signed with Vanguard, and label head Kevin Welk suggested he check out Altman. They decided to work together, and Altman helped him shape the material into its present form. "Marshall was able to take what I had and make it more accessible," says Trevor.
It's fair to say that every one of these dozen tracks conveys a message, but Trevor's only agenda is the desire to express the sheer joy of being alive and on a journey toward wisdom. The message of "Sing the Song," in which jubilation is cranked up to 11, could represent the album as a whole. Trevor describes the lyric as a call to "Wake up, join in and celebrate. It's a song of life." So are they all.
Hall's previous recordings have appeared in numerous films and television shows including his recording, "Other Ways," which was in the Shrek the Third feature and soundtrack. Trevor also covered the Band's "Life is a Carnival" for the star-studded tribute album, Endless Highway: The Music of the Band.