“How can I praise you?” Trevor Hall asks at the beginning of the song “All I Can Do.” It’s a question he explores throughout The Elephant’s Room, his debut album from Geffen, an eclectic mixture of acoustic rock, reggae, and Indian music that chronicles his quest to connect with a higher power.
A self-described student of all religions, Hall, 21, does not see any difference between music and spirituality. “Music is a language of the soul,” he says. “When it decides to speak within me, I let it come out. If it doesn’t, I have to wait.”
Born in South Carolina, Hall first became interested in music when he started playing with his father’s drum set. “Soon I started looking through my dad’s CD collection,” he says. Hall’s influences range from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, from Ben Harper to Bjork. He started writing and performing his own songs when he was 14, and studied music at the Idyllwild School for the Performing Arts. “It’s an international school,” Hall explains. “There were kids from all over the world all in one place. I got to see how art and music transcends all boundaries of race and culture.”
Hall has previously released three independent releases: Lace up Your Shoes (2004), Trevor Hall Live (2005), and The Rascals Have Returned (2006). But it wasn’t before long that mainstream record labels started showing interest in the young artist. “I was just playing around town,” he says, “and then word started to spread. People from the labels just showed up and talked to me about record deals.” One night after talking to one such representative, Hall signed with Geffen records, and then headed into the studio to record his major-label debut.
Many of the songs on his latest album come from his recent trip to India, which had a deep impact on how he approaches life and music. “In India,” Hall says, “music is an act of worship, an act of praise. Most religions use music as worship, but for the people of India music is never just about themselves.” The influence of India can be heard throughout The Elephant’s Room, from the opening raga-like melody of the first track “When the Sun and Moon Collide” to the hidden bonus track “Hunuman Chalisa.” The latter is a traditional Indian hymn dedicated to the god Hunuman. Hall says, “Hunuman is the lord of devotion, service, strength, and humility. The hymn epitomizes perfect surrender to the Most High. It’s an invitation to give thanks.”
Other tracks such as “Ghosts” and “The Lime Tree” feature reggae-inspired rhythms, while “Sunny Sky” and “Liquor Store” are reminiscent of the talking-folk of early Dylan. Listeners might recognize the current single “Other Ways,” with its catchy melody and reflective lyrics, from the soundtrack to Shrek the 3rd. “That’s all due to Ron Fair, the president of Geffen,” Hall says. “He heard the song, and when they needed one more song for the soundtrack, he said, ‘How about this?’”
Keeping with the lessons he learned in India, Hall believes his music is not just for his own glory. “I hope that people will get inspired by my music,” he says, “and feel inspiration for a higher purpose; to look inside and acknowledge something greater that themselves.”
The Elephant’s Room is due to hit retailers April 15.