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 genressoul, reggae, pop, electronica, folkyet 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
company went 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 sightand 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
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.
Cas Haley is breaking out on his own terms.
Connection, his Easy Star Records debut, is aptly named. It's all about those deep-running connections that make him what he is—those unbreakable links between artist and audience, between styles of music, between art and life, and most of all, between all people. As Cas points out, reggae's core message is, after all, "one love."
His crystalline voice and funky, easygoing beats earned Cas a second-place finish on America's Got Talent, which in turn netted him a measure of fame and a following. But the contest also locked the Texan singer/songwriter/guitarist into a major label deal that didn't feel right. So, not wanting to be turned into a manufactured product, he struck out on his own. The superb result: Connection, a collection of songs basking in the philosophical and musical maturity that comes from staying true to his artistic vision.
Raised by musician parents, Cas grew up surrounded by the sounds of blues and 60s-70s rock. He got serious about the guitar at age 12 and was "taught by the tribe" of musicians passing through the house. "The kitchen would be turned into the practice room or for jam sessions, so I was pretty much born into that lifestyle," he says. And from the very beginning he was more inclined to create his own music than to slavishly learn covers.
Also prominent at home were the Bob Marley records his mother would play, which made a profound impression. After a period of heavy immersion in the sounds of the ska/punk/skateboard culture, Cas was blown away by the classic reggae-pop of bands like UB40 and Sublime, and his mature style began to take shape.
Those pop-inflected island grooves and his joyful, versatile voice helped bring Cas to the brink of stardom on America's Got Talent and sell 30,000 copies of a debut album with virtually no promotion. And they're fundamental to the soul of his music—what he calls the "relaxing, effortless playing where everything fits together." Elements of soul, blues, and pop swirl through Cas's strong reggae beats. Just like disparate musical styles, "we're way more connected than we think," Cas says. "We separate ourselves in so many different ways, but the whole theme of the album is that we're all connected."
"Every color," he sings in the title track, "is created from the same light."
Easy Star, the leading U.S.-based independent reggae label, is the ideal home for Connection. The label has been stretching beyond its strictly roots-reggae format, signing progressive bands and artists like John Brown's Body, Tommy T, and The Black Seeds. "Cas's sound is unique, accessible, and a great way to keep expanding the Easy Star audience," says CEO Eric Smith. "And it's not often we come across a singer-songwriter this talented, regardless of genre, so we had to work with Cas."
Mixed by Danny Kalb (Ben Harper, Beck), Connection bristles with chill grooves, rocking guitars, and funky horns, all fueling Cas's irresistible melodies. Meanwhile his lyrics effortlessly balance simple, spiritual truths with thoughtful reflection. Cas's songs recognize the complexities of life—love, family, worldly troubles and uncertainties—but always come back to the central message of connection.
It's the journey that matters; Cas is aiming for success on his own terms. "If I'm not doing it authentically then I don't want it," he says. His only goal: "To authentically express myself and help others do the same. Because it's a sweet life to be able to do that."
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