In June Hilton Head-raised singer-songwriter Trevor Hall unexpectedly released his new album “Chapter of the Forest.” Although his team had dropped hints to fans online, he’d never revealed a release date which ended up coinciding with the launch of the Soulshine yoga and music tour. Hall teams with Soulshine creator Michael Franti and Spearhead, singer-songwriter Brett Dennen, reggae band Soja, and singer Sonna Rele (who guests with Franti following her own set). The tour stops at Uptown Amphitheatre Sunday.
Hall, who has aunts, uncles and a sister that's attending college in Charlotte, found success early on seamlessly blending reggae and world music with his soulful vocals, acoustic guitar, and knack for pop arrangements. But he almost didn’t make “Chapter of the Forest.” He recently shared the story behind the very personal, beautiful new album while on a tour stop in his current home of Connecticut.
How was this album sparked by your time in India and the retreat that followed?
Hall: I’ve been traveling to India every year for the past 7 or 8 years. It’s the place I go to clear my head. Obviously it’s a huge part of my music and inspirations behind my song. I took a year and a half long sabbatical because I was really burned out. I’d never taken a break from music. I was in such a low place I didn’t know if I’d come back. I was tired and exhausted. Music had become such a job for me and that part was overshadowing my love for it.
I decided I’m going to take a break and go back to India and see what happens. I didn’t have a return flight home. I stayed there for three months. It was the longest I ever stayed. I started to get my strength back and clear my head and slowly I began to pick up the guitar again - not out of the place of I need to write a new album, but helping me navigate my internal world and because I loved it.
I came back and wasn’t ready to jump into the scene again. I decided I’d take the whole year off. My wife and I went on a retreat up here in the forest in Maine and Vermont. I was just writing here and there not to make a new album, but to write songs I guess.
But it turned out you were actually writing an album?
Hall: I was like, you know what? These songs have been so healing for me. It’s been such a good experience. I need to share these songs. Or else the circle wouldn’t come around fully.
So did you use those demos for the basic tracks that we hear on the album?
Hall: Over that year and a half I’d just recorded the songs on my computer, really basic. So when the time came to do a new album. I’d taken all those demos and went into a studio in LA and refined them. It’s a much different record in that respect too. (Before) I’d have a few songs here and there and I’d have ideas that weren’t finished and I’d work with a producer and make a record. Whereas with this I’d already recorded all the songs on my computer. I’m not that good at recording so I needed someone to refine them and make it clean. That’s when I met Warren Huart through the label. A lot of the songs are in the same framework as my demos and we used a lot of instrumentation from my demos. We redid all the guitars and the vocals to give it that clean sound. That’s also why this record is so special, because it really came from me. I felt I was being honest and true to myself. I wasn’t going after a hit song. I wasn’t like I need to make a bunch of popular songs to get on the radio. These songs were really coming from my heart to help me heal. That was my intention. I’m not trying to go for that hit thing and massive record. It’s a much different experience than any of my previous albums.
It seems like a lot of times those are the albums that really resonate with fans. Even if they don’t know firsthand what you’re going through, they can just pick up on it and pin their own stories to it.
Hall: I was obviously a little nervous. It is a little different. The feedback that I’ve been getting from fans and people at the shows has been over and beyond any album that I’ve done. They’ve been so grateful that I was honest and opened my heart. And I think that says something. As long as we’re true to ourselves and true to our hearts, you can’t go wrong. People are going to see that and respect that. Again, the album is not going to be a No. 1 album or blow up to radio. To me it’s my most successful album because I stuck with my guns and went with my heart.
I was reading a quote somewhere recently that said we as a society focus on how we’re different, instead of how people are alike but the likenesses outweigh the differences.
Hall: In our deepest being, our deepest self we are all one thing. Everybody goes through sadness and happiness and joy and sorrow and pain and pleasure. The subject material may be a little different, but in a deeper sense they’re the same emotions and I feel that’s what ties everything together. What’s in your heart and what you’re doing. Even though content may be different. It still resonates.
How did this idea to do an unannounced release come up?
Hall: We obviously wanted the album to be available on tour. It’s a great way to get the word out there. The way things were going we were losing time as far as promo and all that stuff goes, but we wanted the album to come out. The label suggested a surprise release. I was (apprehensive) at first. As time went on I liked the idea. It was actually super fun to put out teasers and we released it two days before tour started. We just woke up one morning and (posted) on Facebook and did a live feed that night up to the actual time it was released. I really enjoyed it. (Fans) thought it was fun as well.
Well if it worked for Beyonce`.
Hall: People kept saying “You pulled a Beyonce`.” I was like, "I did a what?" I didn’t even know Beyonce` did that. Of course she can do it. She can walk out of the grocery store and she’s going to have millions of hits.
The Soulshine Tour hits Uptown Amphitheatre Sunday with pre-show yoga instruction scored by an acoustic set from Franti at 3 p.m. followed by the concert at 6:30 p.m. Tickets include the yoga session, but yoga only tickets for those that don't want to stay for the show are also available. Purchase tickets here.