For Trevor Hall, the music comes first. It creates a vibe, a mood, an energy— his words born from that emotion.
And, in the case of his most recent album, from his astrological chart, too.
In early 2017, the singer-songwriter was navigating his Saturn Return, a period from age 27 to 30 when the planet returned to its exact position at the time his birth, he explained. It can be a time of intense learning and growth, he said, and a difficult one at that.
“But we really learn about who we are,” he said, “and figure out what we need to learn in this life.”
A serendipitous move during this phase led him to the book, “The Fruitful Darkness” by Joan Halifax Roshi — three words that best described his current state of being, he said, and the only logical title for his latest effort, which he will pull from and discuss during a concert on Friday, July 27, as part of G. E. Smith’s “Portraits” series at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
“I’m just so honored and really taken that I was invited to play with Mr. Smith, I just don’t know what to expect,” Hall said from his home in Colorado, fighting off jetlag after flying in the night before from an international tour in Europe. “I think it’s gonna be a really cool bridge of worlds, and be nice and intimate and storytelling — things we don’t get to do when we’re playing a band show. It’s a lot more space around each song to talk about each song, and talk about his perspective on music. I think it’s going to be really beautiful.”
It is a dialogue Hall has explored from his earliest memories, growing up in South Carolina with a music-addicted drummer for a father. There were always instruments lying around the house, not to mention a larger-than-life record collection, he said.
“There wasn’t a time when I was like, ‘I want to be a musician.’ It sounds weird, but music was always a part of me from the very beginning,” he said. “It was inseparable and it was who I am.
“I always had a deep hunger for something not of this world, and I didn’t really know what that was, and I think that music was the thing that really satisfied that longing and that space within myself, and it was the only thing that could satisfy that space,” he continued. “But it was also a tool for me to express myself and explore my own consciousness and creativity and potential. It was just that hunger, that deep hunger, that couldn’t be quenched by anything else but music.”
At age 16, he followed it, taking up residency at Idyllwild Arts Academy, an international boarding school east of Los Angeles. They were some of the best years of his life, he said, focused on music, art and creativity alongside his peers.
“I was seeing how kids expressed themselves from all over the world and seeing how music and art was a universal language, and something that could really unify people of all different cultures and colors and backgrounds,” he said. “It was a really mind opening time for me, those years.”
Fast-forwarding a decade, Hall found himself with “The Fruitful Darkness” in hand, his mind open once more.
“I was in a period of undefined-ness — and that’s what I look at as ‘the darkness,’” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing, like an evil thing. The darkness, to me, kind of means the undefined. I feel like, as a culture, especially as a Western culture, we’re so obsessed with knowing things. And we’re so obsessed with explaining things and defining things, and the things we can’t explain, the things we can’t define, we’re scared of, and we push it away.
“In other cultures — and this is something Joan talks about in her book a lot — they turn into the dark, they turn into those undefined spaces and they invite that darkness into their lives and face it head on, and look on that darkness as a teacher,” he continued. “They say that when we do that, when we turn into those spaces that scare us, or we turn into those spaces that we don’t know or are undefined, those spaces can be our greatest teachers. Those spaces can be our greatest lessons.”
Out of that sentiment, he wrote the single “What I Know.” In the chorus, he sings, “What I know/is that I don’t know/And now I dance and I sing/and I live full.”
“That song is about how we’re so scared of not knowing, that space of not knowing. That song is about celebrating the not knowing, and not being scared of it — and surrendering to the not knowing, and the bliss of that surrender, the jubilation of that surrender,” he said. “When we let go of all the stuff we’re holding so tightly and trying so hard to control, when we let go of that, we’re free. You have a different kind of bliss.”
GE Smith will present his “Portraits” series on Friday, July 27, with Sophie B. Hawkins and Trevor Hall at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Tickets range from $55 to $150, or $53 to $145 for members. For more information, call (631) 324-4050 or visit guildhall.org.