Not many 19-year-olds fresh out of high school would say they toured with major music acts like Steel Pulse, Jason Mraz, Ben Harper, Keb Mo, and the Wailers.
Then again, there are not many 19-year-olds like Trevor Hall. Originally from Hilton Head, South Carolina, Hall has been involved in music as both singer and songwriter since his teens. For his 15th birthday present by his parents, Hall was given studio time to record an album. The person who owned the studio was so impressed by this wunderkind’s talent that he became Hall’s manager.
With a distinctive and gritty, older-than-he-sounds voice similar to Dave Matthew’s, Hall is a poster child for the eclectic styles that has been influential on him: folk, hipo-hop, pop, and reggae. His songwriting also defies the notion of adolescent angst but reflects a maturity and worldwide view beyond his age.
Hall, who is now settled on the West Coast, has just released his four-song EP on Geffen Records titled The Rascals Have Returned, which was produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, and Liz Phair). It also boasts an impressive cast of players including drummer Kenny Aronoff. Not a bad start for a budding musician.
Currently Hall is in the fortunate circumstance of being on tour with the growingly-popular Hasidic reggae rapper Matisyahu, where both artists are playing to sold-out shows. He spoke to NewBeats via phone from New York to talk about his career and music.
Trevor, how has it been so far being a major label artist at only 19? It’s been an adjustment not going to college and trying to work straight out of high school. It’s interesting and a learning experience. It’s going good and I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m having a good time so far.
Does it seem like too much too soon?
It hasn’t been too overwhelming. There are some points where you have to make big decisions. You got to go with your gut and surround yourself with good people.
How did you hook up with reggae star Matisyahu? His manager and my manager talked a bit. We were both at Sundance Film Festival. I was playing in an art gallery and he came down. At the end of the last song I played, he was like, ‘Do you mind if I come up and sing with you?’ And I was like, ‘Hell yeah man!’ We sang together and afterwards we just talked and he said, ‘You should come and tour with us.’ It worked out.
Who were you listening to growing up? When I was 11, I was all about Whitney Houston and stuff—Earth Wind and Fire.Then I started getting into punk rock when I was 13. Then I grew out of that when I heard Ben Harper for the first time, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to do.’ Then I dove into reggae, that was big to me. That was like, ‘Man I should really write tunes.’ Then I got into Bjork and Radiohead.
What was it like touring with the Wailers?That was killer. I got to meet some of the original Wailers. It was cool to share the stage with them. It was definitely a blast.
At what point that you decided to make music a career?I never thought of it as a career. I was playing and writing songs because that’s what I loved to do. That was the last thing I was thinking about was a career. It just hit me. I still don’t think of that. I would still be doing it even if I was working at a gas station.
How did you approach to writing songs? When I write songs, I try to get out and play as much as possible. I used to take photographs, and then I would stare at them for 15 minutes, and then just start writing lyrics.
One of the interesting tracks on the EP is the socially-conscientious “Proof of Destruction.” How did that song come about?
I was in my dorm room and it was one of the songs that just came out. I wrote that song in 20 minutes. A lot of people are like, ‘It’s an anti Bush song.’ That was the last thing I was thinking about. I was thinking in a much larger scheme of things. It just happened it came out when the war was going on.
How did you get signed to a major record label? I was playing around town and I guess some people heard of me. The record companies started coming out, and I was like, ‘Man I’m going to go with my gut.’ I just really like the guys over at Geffen, and I was like, ‘Let’s go do this.’ It wasn’t an easy process. You might as well just try it. If it doesn’t work out, you just stop.
Trevor, how do you explain your distinct vocals. It does not sound like it was coming from a 19-year old. Did you have voice lessons? I hate voice lessons. I just sing, man, and from the heart. If you sing from the heart, than anything goes good—the spirit of the show, song, and voice.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? This tour right now. It’s the biggest highlight. To be on tour with another spiritual giant is really amazing to me. The tour has been selling out every place we play. We’re getting a lot of fans. The whole feeling of the tour has been really good. This is probably the best time I’ve had so far.
So what’s next? In a lot of ways I want to give back. If any good can come through, it will be that I have enough cash flow to give back some how. My family has been supportive. If I wanted to stop right now, they would take me back. Because of that, I kind of used that in a way that ‘you don’t have to worry about yourself, you should worry about other people and start giving back.