Humans have an innate desire to seek deeper understanding in life—to achieve inner peace and have a working model for stewardship. This hunger often manifests itself in the form of spirituality. Acoustic rock and reggae artist Trevor Hall found guidance through practicing Hinduism. The spiritual performer—who recently played alongside Michael Franti as part of the Soulshine tour at the USS North Carolina Battleship—will return to play Wilmington at Ziggy’s next Wednesday.
Growing up in South Carolina, Hall discovered his musical prowess when he first picked up the harmonica at 11 years old. His father was a drummer, and together they would jam among the serene Southern landscape. These familial bonding sessions, paired with countless hours perusing his father’s expansive vinyl catalogue, instilled in him a great appreciation for music. His thirst for musical inspiration knew no bounds, as he would put any record with a cool cover on for a spin and soak up the tunes.
Hall recorded his first album, “Lace Up Your Shoes,” in 2004 at only 16 years old.
“It was amazing, but at the same time it seemed totally natural,” Hall says. “At that time I was a big surfer, so most of my songs were inspired by the ocean and surf films.”
The following year, Hall moved across the country to attend the Idyllwild Arts Academy near LA. “The South provided me with a great foundation,” Hall details. “My parents brought me up well and definitely trained me in that Southern hospitality flavor. However, being in the South didn’t provide me with enough artistic inspiration. Once I moved out to California, my creative self exploded. Those were some of the best years of my life.”
While fostering his blossoming musical talents, Hall became versed with yoga and other spiritual traditions of India. It filled a void that he’d always been searching to satisfy. In particular, he was influenced by a saint named Sri Neem Karoli Baba, who Hall describes as his door to the spiritual world. The saint once said the world was his family and lived by the creed “Love all, serve all, feed all.”
Learning of this Hindu guru led Hall to move into a traditional Hindu ashram in Southern California in 2008. As a senior at Idyllwild, the artist signed a deal with Geffen Records. Though he was not touring, he devoted himself spiritually by living as a monk.
Hall’s musical career began to rise with the same fervor as his spiritual life. His song “Other Ways” was used in the 2007 movie “Shrek the Third.” As well, he’s traversed the country with sold-out tours alongside Steel Pulse, The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Matisyahu, Michael Franti, and Colbie Caillat. Though he was dropped by Geffen, Hall’s self-titled 2009 album, released by Vanguard Records, hit the Billboard’s Heatseaker chart in the No. 7 spot. His quick rise to notoriety captured MTV’s attention, as they named him one of the top 20 emerging artists in 2010. Despite such accomplishments, Hall maintains the journey is ongoing.
“It definitely didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still learning and growing as I go,” Hall says. “My main thing is to remember the Spirit. Everything is accomplished by repeating the Divine Name.”
His music, which blurs the line between acoustic rock and reggae, pulses with positive energy and truly capture his spiritual finesse. Upbeat guitar strums sound over his cheerful words in songs that implore listeners to be overcome with life’s majestic beauty. Whether containing lyrics about relationships, nature or spirituality, his songs come chockful with themes of love, understanding and compassion. Viewing the stage as a moving temple, his tunes are often tinged with Sanskrit chanting. “The words and lives of the saints provide the inspiration [for my music],” Hall describes.
“The songs help me speak with them.”
His religious pursuits have resulted in annual trips to India. Since 2011 Hall has been collecting donations at his shows to support an ashram in Allahabad, India. The ashram gives underprivileged orphan boys a traditional Vedic education, a system grounded in the teachings of Hinduism.
“Collecting funds for the ashram is my duty as a servant to my guru,” he says. “The ashram is my spiritual home and everyone there is my family. Whatever I can do to help is a blessing on me.”
Hall embarked on an extended pilgrimage to India in 2013. There he studied under classical Baul musicians in the villages of Bengal. Upon his return to the states, he secluded himself in the lush mountains of Vermont and Maine and took pen to paper, pouring out the vast knowledge derived from his trip. His writings resulted in his 2014 album, “Chapter of the Forest.”
“I’m still gaining insights [from the trip],” he says. “India plants seeds in your heart and sometimes it takes a while for them to grow. Love is the foundation for all of them; love is the string that runs through it all. Studying with the Baul musicians strengthened this insight. They are the masters of love—especially through the power of song.”
Currently, Hall is in the middle of his Small Is Beautiful tour. Adding to his propensity for bettering the world, he’s teamed up with snowboarder Kevin Pierce’s foundation, LoveYourBrain. The nonprofit raises awareness about brain-injury prevention and supports recovery for those who have suffered from one. Kevin Pierce himself dealt with a brain injury after training for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. His struggle is chronicled in the 2013 documentary “The Crash Reel.” Folks can purchase t-shirts at Hall’s concert, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting LoveYourBrain. As well, concert-goers are welcome to donate monies to the ashram in India.