Flow State

Creativity's a funny thing - it can't be forced, only coaxed out of the gravitational pull of the outside world, and I find a gentle, compassionate approach to discipline's most effective.

In the past, I’ve told myself ok, I’m sitting down and writing for two hours, say. And sometimes I’d do it and feel peachy-keen. Other times, I’d hit a wall, and rather than appreciating the work already put in, I’d focus instead on falling short of the arbitrary time goal and feel like a failure.

Over the course of this year, I’ve realized that writing good stuff everyday makes me happy, not writing for a set amount of time or even being especially prolific. So, I sit down every morning, write until I feel my mind’s wandering, then shut it down. Sometimes that’s four hours, sometimes 20 mins, but I’m noticing my work's objectively better, exponentially more honest. And I can’t wait to dive back in the following morning. 

Just Wander, My Friends

I just got back from an impromptu road trip up to the Amish-friendly state of Ohio - visited friends, caught a cool band, and checked out the equal parts horrifying and endearing Troll Hole Museum in Alliance. I get ancy when I’m in one place for too long - it’s in my DNA to wander - and every week or so I have to go, well, somewhere. 

The wonderful thing about a road trip is it removes you from your routines and anything that might dull your senses. It’s just you, alone with your thoughts, trundling down the lonesome highway, your stresses much more glaring because there are no distractions. It’s a beautiful thing - I burn cleaner on the road, think more clearly, and appreciate the world's so much more than whatever debris’s in my immediate orbit. Over-thought, unsent emails magically coalesce, lyrics emerge out of the ether in blissful droplets, and my spirit whispers encouraging things. This is where you live your life, it says. Out here.

Episode 15 - J. Human

Episode 15 of Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens is live!

J. Human is a Nashville-based solo artist, songwriter and producer. I always love hanging with Joel - he's articulate, thoughtful, and I really admire his candidness in this episode. It's not easy being vulnerable about our setbacks - both Joel and I have experienced initially promising but ultimately brief chapters with major labels, and we spend most of the podcast discussing new chapters in the music business and how best to embrace them. A must-listen for aspiring artists especially, and all of us fighting the good fight.

Video!

iTunes!

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Be Safe Out There

I’m sitting in traffic in Northern Kentucky on I-71 North, waiting for an accident to clear. A van pulling a trailer attempted to pass recklessly in the pouring rain and hydroplaned into a ditch, causing several cars to spin out. Thankfully, nobody’s injured. 

Please, let’s be safe out there today. Put on some feel good jams, channel your inner Buddha, and defy Sammy Hagar by, in fact, driving 55. No load-in time’s worth it, trust me, and rescheduling a thing’s just fine. I, for one, will happily not make it to the Troll House Museum before it closes. Impulsive trips to creepy, Guinness World Record holding shrines to bizarro kitsch can wait til tomorrow.

Know You're Worth It

Self-advocacy in the music biz can be challenging, and I'm often asked my approach to negotiating, etc. I could write ten thousand words on the subject, but here’re five things I try to keep in mind:

  1. Know you’re worth it. The world needs your art, your story, and you deserve fair treatment. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
  2. Get the facts. Ask around. Have friends been through something similar? Check the accuracy of every claim, and don’t leap to conclusions. I remind myself that the folks sitting across the table are in the music industry too, which means they also have no idea what’s going on. Try to understand the situation from their perspective, and strive towards middle ground.  
  3. Express yourself clearly. Take time drafting emails, be brief, and don’t allow yourself to be diverted or ramble with unimportant details.
  4. Assert yourself clearly. Don’t lose your temper, lash out at the other person, or attack their character or organization. Speak out, ask for what you want, and listen. Respect the rights of others, but make sure your voice is heard.
  5. Be firm and persistent. Keep after what you want and follow through on what you say. Developing a think skin’s particularly difficult for us sensitive types, but it comes with practice. Stand strong. See point #1.

Play

I just finished listening through and watching Dave Grohl's 23-minute prog instrumental composition, Play. And it's cool! Very Rush-y at the top, with hints of Radiohead, Opeth and Motorhead throughout. Every bit my happy place.

Ala the first Foo Fighters record, Grohl plays every instrument, recording each part in one continuous take, which is, again, super cool. Suspecting that a really famous dude bashing out progressive rock without his bandmates would earn hilarious scorn from the music intelligentsia, I performed a cursory Google search - holy smokes, are music critics ever dicks and, worse yet, lazy writers. All the more reason to give it a listen. That we could all be Father John Misty.

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Celebrate the Small Stuff

I’ve officially sold out of my first batch of t-shirts! Just dropped off the last few packages and, in my humble musician way, am celebrating with a drip coffee at Bongo East. It’s a small accomplishment I suppose, selling through a couple dozen shirts, but it’s my first-ever shirt goddammit. It feels good.

Social media has a way of convincing us that micro-successes aren’t enough - someone always has a cooler highlight reel. That they’re also huddled in a corner somewhere, hopelessly comparing themselves to others, is little comfort, because insert well-documented reason why social media insidiously distorts self-worth.

Today, I did a thing, an actual thing involving real people. Tangible progress towards a goal. I think today Instagram remains unopened, and I’ll sip my coffee in understated triumph.  

Mancunian Accents

I'm getting better about building in down time after fly dates, just a day's worth of recalibrating before it's back to whatever is it I do exactly. In the past, I'd dismiss our recent trip to Colorado as just two short sets and a couple nights in a Best Western, but when I reflect on the totality of the experience - three major airports, dozens of unclaimed farts, trust fund hippies and wooks hacking god knows what in the vicinity of god knows who, and a tinker-bell-on-meth looking acid causality asking if she could touch my "aura," aka my genitals, I reckon an afternoon spent watching the fantastic Oasis: Supersonic documentary's well-earned (and it is fantastic, free to stream for Prime members, follow the link). 

And on the subject of Oasis, Liam Gallagher's solo album, As You Were, is surprisingly really good. Liam's known for many things - his impenetrable Mancunian accent, propensity towards public drunkenness, and general loutishness, for example - but his songwriting ability's been overshadowed by a certain Wonderwall-writing big bro. But I gotta say, I dug Liam's record from front to back, definitely worth a little Monday morning commute time. 

 

What Your Guitar Says About You

In what's become a maddening constant in my life, I'm writing this from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. But no bitching and complaining from this wandering troubadour, no siree! Thankfully, my good bud Tommy Siegel from Jukebox the Ghost's keeping me company by way of his genius daily cartoon project, Tommy Siegel is doing a cartoon every day for a year against all good sense.

The name's pretty self-explanatory, and what's especially impressive is A) he's done/is doing it and B) each and every one's fucking spot on. Tommy's a hilarious, nuanced dude with a keen eye for and appreciation of the absurd, aka my kinda SOB.

Here's a link to his Instagram, where you can also see every cartoon in all it's glory, and below's a favorite from the past week that hits hilariously close to home.

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Rocky Mountain Hello

I’m writing this from the enlightened republic of Colorado, a quick overnight stop in the greater Denver area for a radio conference, shaking hands, kissing babies, and wearing a jazz hat, all in the name of fame, fortune, and run-on sentences.

I almost moved to Denver a couple years ago. Sure, it’s a lot of white people in Patagonia, and Phish is popular to a concerning degree, but the weather’s amazing, the mountains gorgeous, and the hipsters are at least physically fit. I’m happy in Nashville for the time being, but I can see myself, perhaps alarmingly, noodle dancing in climbing shoes and picking granola out of my teeth with a bio-degradable straw. 

Anyway, both “Brown Eyed Lover” and “Warriors” are being pushed to radio, which is flattering and cool, regardless of whether or not they find a home on the anachronistic terrestrial airwaves - it means more travel, which is my favorite part of this crazy life, more shows, and more opportunities to expand into the new space I’m carving out by sharing my art in earnest. 

Exciting times ahead, and I'm grateful to be out here, fighting the good fight. 

 

Episode 14 w/ Greg Ehrlich

Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens #14 is live, with none other than the great man himself, Greg Ehrlich. He's a chef, entrepreneur, and the former organ player in Allen Stone's band.

From 2011-2016, Greg and I played hundreds of shows together, circumnavigated the globe a few times, and experienced our lives change in that one-in-a-million sorta way we all grow up dreaming about. That Greg was able to look himself in the mirror, have the maturity and perspective to recognize he wanted something different and, with balls the size of watermelons, decide to leave the one-in-a-million thing, thereby actualizing his true self...my friends, this is a rare breed of superhuman. 

Greg Ehrlich has and always will inspire me, and it was the highlight of the podcast handing the mic over to my brother-in-arms.

For video, click here

For iTunes, click here

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Trevor Tees!

The goal of the MoaT isn’t to sell you anything - it’s flattering you’ve subscribed at all, much less read consistently - so posts like these won't come around often, but I figure you'll get a kick out of the new Trevor Larkin t-shirts!

It’s my first-ever shirt, which is pretty cool. There’s something about people voluntarily wearing a thing with your name on it that sorta legitimizes the whole enterprise.

I’ve almost sold out of the first batch - if you’d like one, you can respond to this email or contact me through whichever social media makes you smile.  

I'm having a grand ol' time evolving into the most up-to-date-super-ninja-robot version of my artistic self. Thanks again for following along.

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Self-Promotion

I was asked recently whether I plan on promoting the MoaT, and the answer’s no, not really. I like the real estate my humble daily musings occupy - it’s easy to find and subscribe to if you’re so inclined, and just as easy unsubscribing if my ramblings on sci-fi, Big Country and the rapacious nature of the music biz become unwelcome companions. 

This newsletter began as a personal accountability exercise, and that’s where it remains - by sharing a glimpse into my mind every day, I’m exponentially more courageous in being myself, which results in cooler art, which results in a happier Trevor, which results in more frequent bathing. 

As professional creatives, we can’t ignore the commercial aspect of the thing we do, but it’s important having an outlet that exists purely for itself. God forbid we do something just for the hell of it, even better if it benignly confounds.

 

Dune

During these last handful of flights, I re-read Frank Herbert’s classic Dune, something I do once every few years.

Despite being name-checked as the greatest sci-fi novel of all-time and selling god knows how many bazillion copies, Dune goes largely ignored by the mainstream. There’re no Dune conventions I’m aware of, no semi-annual retreats where bespectacled nerds dress up as noble Paul Atreides or the wicked Baron Harkonnen.

Maybe it’s the lack of adorable, furry-footed hobbits and effeminate robots, or that the main characters eat a narcotic, mind-expanding spice and ride on the back of sandworms while speaking in oddly elevated Shakespearean tones. Or maybe the world just wasn't ready for Sting in a loin cloth (check out David Lynch's much-maligned 1984 movie adaptation on Amazon). 

But for whatever the reason, COME ON - feudalism, priestly abuse, ecology, historical dialectic, individual choice, consciousness development, psychedelics, martial arts, monopolistic commerce, elite family power, prescience, and selection through adversity, all as overlapping, inter-penetrating domains of the human experience. Fuck you, Dan Brown. 

No one’s winning at Quidditch, I grant you, but give this book a shot. It's a classic for a reason. 

 

As Natural As Breathing

I’m writing this on an American Airlines flight from GEG-DFW, grateful that the quote below applies to me.

At the end of a marathon tour, you’re a changed person, and who will I be when the upcoming fall trek wraps? Exciting to think about, and I’m happily allowing my energy and attention to shift towards being gone for a loooooong time.

For the first time in my history with the Allen Stone organization, I’m sharing in earnest the three creative outlets I enjoy most - songwriting, essaying, and conversation. That this deep-dive gets more nuanced and revelatory through travel fills me with giddy anticipation, and you best believe I won’t take for granted a single second out there. 

Who will I be, what will I want, and where will it take me? Art and the craft behind it have yet to lead me wrong, and I’ve never been more excited to plunge, ego-inflated head first, into the great unknown.

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Sisters

Day one of the second annual Stone Family Field Trip at Liberty Lake’s in the books, and holy smokes is it ever a postcard worthy setting. Fortified by ten hours sleep and responsibly curtailing my beer consumption towards the end of the night, I feel ready to, well, drink more beer and frolic in the lake, unencumbered and otter-like. And we’re technically here to make music, so I guess we’ll do that, too.  

Our friends Andrew Vait and Emily Westman make up the Seattle-based prog-pop duo Sisters, and their set yesterday was mind blowing - creative, bold, complex and fun. I love, love, LOVE their music, and their talent’s inspired me for years (they both play every instrument under the sun better than I play one instrument, also under the sun). Everyone, please, you owe it to yourselves to check out their tunes, visit their website, and have your third eye opened. I’m grateful they agreed to take part in our humble festival.

Thanks Andrew and Emily! Talented friends are the best.  

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Important vs Urgent

As my professional life's gotten busier, I've had to delineate more clearly between what's genuinely important and what's "urgent." Busyness is an all-too-common affliction in the music world, and my inner babbling maniac surfaces if my priorities become skewed.  

If something’s actually urgent, people know to call me. I like talking on the phone. If I’m free, I’ll pick up, and if I’m not I’ll call you back promptly. 

Emails with subject lines in all caps, for example, get responded to once I've addressed all my happy brain activities, ie what's important - cognitive therapy exercises, working out, songwriting, a healthy meal. Because an email with a subject line in all caps isn’t urgent. Maybe it was urgent to the sender at the time, and they sure as shit want you to think it's urgent, but they’ve since gotten up from their desk to grab a coffee and subsequently forgotten what the hell it was they were up in arms about. If it were actually urgent, they would have called me, and they didn’t, so I’ll get back to them after I fine-tune this chorus melody. 

As artists, creativity and self-care come first, always. Cheers to our happy brains, my friends!

 

 

  

 

Hidden Gems

I just wrapped up my first long songwriting session in, well, too long, and I'm ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound! A couple new rough drafts in the can, and one song that’s existed without a bridge for several months now has six to choose from.

Once I have some decent working ideas, I hit the town stand-up comic style, landing short sets at whatever venue will have me and road testing new material, low-key and unannounced. If a verse has a solid first line but that’s it, I’ll sing random words and see if anything sticks. If a song has six potential bridges, I’ll play a different bridge each set and gauge the crowd’s reaction - easy, when people are sitting in rapt attention (which is rare), and difficult when the audience is checking their Bitcoin portfolios (which is more common). Just like a comic, I record everything, listen back and tweak. Rinse and repeat until a tune’s ready to be recorded or performed at a “real” show.  

My songs get exponentially better when they’re dancing around, gloriously half-naked, in the real world, out of the echo chamber of my over-active mind. If an idea exists solely on a hard drive, or god forbid in my brain, for too long, I start losing my grip - if I’m not sharing, I don’t feel like a songwriter, and if I don’t feel like a songwriter, I feel like a schmuck, and if I feel like a schmuck, I descend into Howard Hughesian, patchy beard-y whack job land. 

It's an unorthodox approach I grant you, but fun! Try it sometime. If you're apprehensive, I understand, but also understand that Sir Paul could play unannounced at the 5 Spot and random industry guy in attendance still wouldn’t look up from his phone. It’s safe to be yourself out there, it really is, and changing up the creative process always reveals hidden gems. 

People Carry Worlds Within Them

Today culminates about a week’s worth of existential crisis combined with an insane work load. It’s been a barrel of laughs, let me tell ya. Starting tomorrow, I’m looking forward to settling into a consistent creative routine again, one that includes more time spent on thorough, adverb-heavy newsletter posts. But tonight, I figure I’ll share one final Neil Gaiman quote, one I reference whenever someone’s being a particularly unnerving assclown, which has been a common occurrence lately. It’s also the quote that inspired me to start the podcast, and this daily newsletter.

“I’ve never known anyone who was what he or she seemed; or at least, was only what he or she seemed. People carry worlds within them.”

And it brings me great joy, knowing there are worlds within me I’m only beginning to discover.