Trevor Gordon Hall
Rated one of the top 30 guitarists in the world under 30 years of age by Acoustic Guitar magazine, Trevor Gordon Hall is an instrumentalist from Philadelphia whose compositions range in style from edgy driving rhythms to soft melodic phrases. Always on the hunt for new sounds, Trevor collaborated with various builders to design an instrument combining an african finger piano (kalimba) and an acoustic guitar dubbed the “Kalimbatar”.
Trevor discusses the uncomfortable places he puts himself in to find new ideas and how the Windham Hill label tapped into a generation.
AU: Do you write music that you can’t play yet? What is that about?
TGH: Almost all the time. Either I hear something or I visualise an idea that I want to convey, and a lot of time it’s really comes from working out the music first and then figuring out how to do it. And that’s where it challenges my technique because I’m constantly ill-equipped to play what I’ve composed you know, but that keeps me fresh and it keeps me from doing the same “guitary”, a-minor, pentatonic, blues scale. I’m constantly looking at the instrument in a new way that is pushing my experience of it. So sometimes that can feel uncomfortable because I’m constantly hacking through a new trail for myself, but it takes me to some cool places that I don’t feel like I would be able to enjoy otherwise. It’s a whole put yourself out there process where you say to yourself ’I can’t do any of this’ but I have the idea and I’m going to problem solve until I can execute.
“Not so much a guitarist as a master craftsman”Music Melting Pot
AU: Can you talk about the Windham Hill era and the part they played in all of this?
TGH: Aerial Boundaries came out in what 84 and that was up for a grammy that year and that propelled the solo instrumental guitar record to stardom, you know what I mean, and to the point where it created a category at the Grammys. They called it new age because it was just sort of like this bin they could throw all of that new stuff into this new age label. It was such a profound movement that it shook everything. Music was a very spiritual and meaningful experience in the 60s. That's when it really became alive and to the core of hippie spirituality was music, it was the expression of that. And a lot of people felt as they went through the years and grew up and got jobs and whatever, that they sort of felt that they were missing that connection with music again, and Windham Hill had a lot of those old hippies, you know now they were lawyers and they were doctors and so it was more of a higher cliental but they were coming from a scene that saw music as such a profound spiritual experience and there was enough of them to create a whole movement so now the Grammys have a category for it. So there was something there that they tapped into that was pretty unique. Whatever they had it was a pretty profound and deeply authenticate movement.
AU: It seems like pop music and hiphop are so dominant now and FingerStyle is the antithesis of all this bombastic big over produced culture. Where do you think what you do fits into the culture?
TGH: The core of what I want to do with my music is I want to be adverturous and I want to be accessible, and not accessible as in like to just to write a pop tune but to have something that someone doesn't need to be a musician to be able to appreciate but a musician can also find appreciation in it as well. We can't compare with the pop genres but there's still a lot of room for people to consume this. I also don't want to put both scenes at war with each other because I love cold play, I love radio, sometimes I'm a sucker for a pop tune but I still love something authentic. Sometimes I feel like going to McDonalds and eating that but sometime I think it's also good to have a gourmet meal that's made for you that you can enjoy and savour. And I think that maybe if FingerStyle can become a meeting place for all of those different things so people who are into pop tunes can find some of the familiar structure and some of the melodic content here, but also all of a sudden like "where did that come from?" and that sends them to like John Coltrane, you know like if this could be the gateway drug out of pop and into something else, that could be a real position for it to be in.