Trevor Hall: Awakening Your Spiritual Consciousness ... a Powerful Form of Activism
I'm a huge Trevor Hall fan so when I saw he was playing in my hometown of Cleveland, I was stoked. I knew seeing the show would be fantastic, but I was also thinking an interview with Trevor would be something really cool to give EcoWatch readers. So, lucky enough, I was offered an interview and was able to hop on my paddleboard from Whiskey Island on the shore of Lake Erie, head up the Cuyahoga River and get to the Music Box Supper Club just in time to chat with Trevor before the show.
"My dad was a drummer, so most my musical influence comes from my dad," Trevor said during our nearly hour interview. "Growing up, my dad had this CD collection in the hallway and I was always fascinated by all the CDs. My hobby was pulling out a CD that looked cool and I'd put it on the stereo and pretend I was rocking out. My dad was really into The Doobie Brothers, Allman Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Simply Red, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young."
Trevor grew up near Hilton Head, South Carolina, and spent a lot of time surfing. He said he had "a natural affinity for music at a very young age." He tried multiple instruments, including drums, bass, trombone and harmonica, until he finally decided, at age 13, to focus on the guitar since he also wanted to be a songwriter. He explained how his mom would drive him to the nearest music shop in Savannah, Georgia, about 40 miles away, to rent him the many instruments he wanted to try.
"I taught myself," Trevor said. "I had a few lessons in town, but I would just learn over the internet. Then I went to a boarding arts school for high school and majored in classical guitar and that was my real formal training. I learned how to read music and music theory."
When I listen to Trevor's music, I definitely feel the reggae vibe, so I wasn't shocked when he told me that Bob Marley was a huge influence in his music. He said, "One of the biggest things for me was when I heard Bob Marley for the first time. It wasn't just music, there was this thing behind it. I then got interested in his life and began reading books on his journey and Rastafari. I realized this isn't just a music thing, it's a life thing."
Trevor and I chatted a bit more about the power and message of reggae music. He mentioned the time he first met Ziggy Marley and when he opened for him in Cleveland at the House of Blues. "Being inspired by Bob and then getting to open for Ziggy, I was just like OMG," he said.
So now that I had the scoop on where his cool vibe and irie beat comes from, I wanted to better understand the spiritual aspects of his music.
"When I was in high school I became best friends with this kid," Trevor told me. "One night I went to his dorm room and he had this picture on the wall of this Indian saint named Neem Karoli Baba, and when I saw the picture I felt like I knew this person. I asked him if that was like his grandpa, or who is that, and he said, no, it's this saint named Neem Karoli Baba and my older brothers and my dad were with him in India in the 1970s."
Trevor wanted to learn more, so his friend told him about this book, Miracle of Love, that has stories about the saint. "That was a huge turning point for me," Trevor said. "I got really into reading about him and since he was from India, I wanted to learn more about India, so it really stemmed from there."
"His message and his life and his overall ora and vibration is probably the other biggest influence, if not the biggest influence, in my music," Trevor told me. "My music took a turn at that point, it took a turn into this navigating tool of my spiritual world, because before that it was about the girl I had a crush on or something."
Trevor's music embodies a deep appreciation for the natural world. You can hear it in so many of his tunes, including Green Mountain State from his album Chapter of The Forest and Mother from his album Kala, which he performs with Xavier Rudd and Tubby Love. I wondered what drove his environmental consciousness.
"For me it was getting on this spiritual path and being inspired by all these saints and people that had such a connection to the earth and who spoke about the earth as a living being, as the mother of all of us," Trevor said. "And, seeing their relationship to the land as a real living relationship and not just that this is a tree, but that the trees are our ancestors and the river is a goddess and this mountain is a king. Seeing the landscape as all our relations. It was a gradual process. The deeper I got on my spiritual path the more I started looking upon the earth as my mother. And, you don't want anybody to mess with your mama, so ..."
Trevor went on to explain that "I'm really lucky to be in a group of friends and a community of musicians who are also very passionate about the earth, like Xavier Rudd, Nahko Bear, Xiuhtezcatl from Earth Guardians ... Each one of us, in our own unique way, are doing what we can ... We're all working toward the same thing, respect for the land, preservation of the land."
"For me, I look at my activism towards the land in the way I was brought to caring for the land, which was working on my soul and my heart, and seeing the spirit in everything and trying to subdue or get rid of our bad seeds, like selfishness and greed," Trevor explained.
As far as an environmental issue Trevor feels most connected to, he explained that: "I find it really important to focus on one thing, or else you're just going to be digging small holes everywhere and you're not going to be going deep ... One of the most important issues for me is water. The fact that there are human beings on this planet that don't have clean water, I think is so outlandish. I think water hits home the most because it's the biggest necessity of our life. I'm passionate about water because it's so universal."
Trevor has worked with Surfrider Foundation where he has played benefit concerts in support of the group's work.
"I feel there are different ways of being an activist," he said. "The root of all of us desecrating the earth is just greed and power. I think one of the ways of being an activist is inspiring positive qualities and learning to see the one in the all and the all in the one, and developing compassion and selflessness."
For all those fans wondering about Trevor's next album, which will be released Sept. 15 (see tour dates), I was able to get the lowdown.
"The title of my new album is The Fruitful Darkness," he told me.
"The Fruitful Darkness is actually a book by Joan Halifax Roshi. This is a perfect example of what I'm taking about with being an activist through working on your own consciousness. She is a total badass warrior zen nun who has done so many things in her life, but she's worked with a lot of tribal communities and shamanism in particular with different indigenous culture throughout the world and through her travels and through her journeys and being an apprentice to these carriers of such an ancient knowledge who have such a strong connection with the earth, it's really amazing," he explained.
"Each chapter goes through the way of the mountain, the way of story, the way of non-duality ... She tells the stories of all these different shamans and how they relate to the earth and why it's so important for these connections to be sustained and when it's broken, when you break your spiritual umbilical cord, when you break your way of tradition, these traditions have a meaning, these traditions are very powerful to transform our consciousness to see the earth as it really is, which is a living, life-giving mother."
He told me that he's "very, very excited" about the new album. "It's very different, more of a creative journey, kinda stepping out of my comfort zone sonically, which is scary but fun," he explained. "I'm very eager to let people hear it."
I know I'm looking forward to its release and was super appreciative of the time Trevor was able to give me for our chat. It was now time to hop back on my paddleboard and go get ready for his show. Trevor and his band played an incredible set, which had people dancing all night and connecting on many spiritual levels.
Here's to the power of music!