Stranded On An Island

Another 1 take video for ya!

Ross Livermore sang BGV's on the studio version of Stranded On An Island, so when he stopped by for a podcast it seemed appropriate I put him on the spot and have him belt out some high notes. After this take, Ross's comment was "well, that was a lose one," which really is the whole point.

I hope you guys enjoy these songs and performances, and the strides I'm making in overcoming perfectionism and do-nothingism are profound. It's funny how the tiniest thing can be the catalyst for so much positive change in one's life. I'm super stoked on a whole lot right now, which is a big statement from a kid raised on Black Adder and steamed vegetables.  

The studio version features Grammy-worthy production by Jeremy Hatcher and Griffin Wright's Dave Grohl-esque drum ferociousness. Check it out here.

Here's a link to the video, and lyrics below...

Stranded on an island where I’m taught to behave like
a spoiled little rich kid with the cash to obey
mother and her ashtray dying slow in the porch light
daddy and his bottle rot alone in their grave

and I know, now, what it is
I see the movement coming down
and I don’t want to go

you’d give a little guidance if I’d just learn to listen
maybe ‘cause you’re tone deaf to the song in my soul
I never thought to ask you why I’m left here to linger
I’m never going to follow, I’ll never go where you go

and I know, now, what it is
I see the movement coming down
and I don’t want to go

slow down, moon lit wanderer, won’t you please break me out
slow down, fly no further, please come break me out

Distracted Driving

On my way to the trusty Red Bicycle to write today’s newsletter, I was run off the road and into a drainage ditch by a driver who veered into oncoming traffic. I’m totally fine, my trusty 2003 Toyota Corolla’s just peachy, and I suppose to their credit the driver stopped to see if I was alright. I’m so, so, sorry, she said. I was texting my friend.

Again, I’m totally fine. If anything, it’s made me appreciate how many times I’ve been that person, glancing at a text, changing songs on Spotify, realizing I’ve driven for blocks without really paying attention. We’ve all been there.

As satisfying as it is thinking I’m some influential world figure, I am, in fact, just some schmo. There’s nothing happening in my life that requires checking my phone while driving, and even if there arguably were, those assholes can wait 15 minutes. And track three on Joy Division’s first record’s plenty ok. No need to skip it. Just drive the damn car. 

For the foreseeable future, my phone's remaining in my pocket when I’m behind the wheel. I encourage everyone to do the same.  

 

Doom

I spent a few months in my youth playing Wordtris on Super Nintendo. Needless to say, video games didn’t stick and consequently aren’t my go-to when it comes to new music. But a friend turned me onto the Doom video game soundtrack recently, and it's BRUTAL. Crank up BFG Division. Devil horns times a thousand. And I know bespectacled ol’ me throwing around 20 Ib dumbells to music from a first-person shooter isn’t exactly Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but the soundtrack's my current gym playlist (for what that's worth).

Here's a link to a presentation by Doom composer, Mick Gordon. I know next to nothing about advanced production techniques and found the talk fascinating, a neat peak behind the curtain into a musical world I’m only peripherally connected to.

There’s also plenty of entry level geekdom (I'm inspired to mess around with signal chains and bowed guitar, for example) and valuable insight on optimizing one's creative environment. And, of course, it's ripe with nerd-gasmic fun. The maniac embedded “666” and pentagrams into the soundtrack’s spectrograph, for god’s sake.

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Anyway, this has been a fun compliment to my working up Allen Stone material for BottleRock. Enjoy!

 

Episode 3

Episode 3 of Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens is live!

Ross Livermore is a fantastic songwriter and LUDICROUS singer. He and I’ve been paling around these past few months playing solo shows, and this conversation’s a natural extension of our hours spent shooting the breeze in his Honda Element, en route to Cleveland. Ross is hilarious, artistically courageous, and I’m fortunate to call him a friend. He also hosts his own podcast, Hey World, with episode 6 featuring a certain bespectacled, daily email newsletter author.

Talking on the internet's starting to feel natural again, excited to see how this show evolves.

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I Don't Need Your Cleverness

I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously. That perfectly timed one-liner, aligning expectations appropriately, gaining points for modesty, not being an over-eager sonofabitch? If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point, right?

Except when it goes too far. As a person raised on Black Adder and Monty Python, self-deprecation’s as natural as breathing. I’ve accepted there’s a certain amount of me that's made of tweed, and my “no matter what I do, I’ll always look like an accountant” line seems to land more often than not. 

But self-deprecation’s counterproductive in an obvious way: people might actually start believing you. 

A few weeks ago, someone came up to me post-show in Chicago and said, “You know, I really enjoy your songs. You’re good. Quit putting yourself down and tell your story. I don’t need your cleverness.” I don’t need your cleverness?! Jesus Christ. In my mind, of course, I was quick to take up arms, but it eventually sunk in that I, too, was over it. I mean, I’m not low on self-esteem, and if my schtick’s taking away from the songs, well, that’s the opposite of what I’m going for. 

Self-deprecation can morph into self-sabotage if we’re not careful. So, I’m working on it. It’ll be a long road, and I won’t abandon fully my stiff-upper-lip heritage, but there’s balance to be struck. 

Gurgling Brooks

I woke up this morning with serious “me” overload. I mean, I write this thing every day (it’s called the Mind of a Trevor, for god’s sake), the Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens show’s a whole lotta me talking about stuff that’s interesting to, well, me, and I’m releasing songs every week written by me and performed (by me) in the most vulnerable way possible. Me, me, me, me. Enough already. 

After burning the ever-loving christ out of my coffee (my bedside coffee maker’s caput), I decided to take the day off - run a few errands, head down to Leiper’s Fork for a utility burger at Country Boy, maybe read the Shipping News on a weathered bench perched above a gurgling brook. Delightful, no? On my way, I swung through Franklin to be a fly on the wall at my friend and guitar student Sam Krahe’s recording session. His band, Lights and Letters, is putting out stellar vibes - the track I heard channels Synchronicity era Police and mid-80’s Peter Gabriel - and I was super impressed by Sam’s tones and textures. And, ignoring my legitimate concern that they hadn’t put toilet paper in the freezer, they went full Nashville with the hot chicken from Bolton’s. Enjoy the porcelain time, my friends.  

I forget how important it is to recharge. It’s hard as an independent artist - minuscule budgets require us to wear multiple hats, and taking a break is counterintuitive in a culture that programs us to believe any amount of time not spent at the red line results in an elephant graveyard of broken dreams.

I’m grateful I spent today celebrating friends. And check out Country Boy in Leiper's Fork. Their utility burger is, in fact, righteous.  

Thanks, Dave Grohl

Whenever I’m feeling down about the music biz or doubting whether I’m, as South Bostonians might put it, a “decent shit,” I turn to Dave Grohl. The man’s unwavering enthusiasm is infectious, and while his life’s no doubt complicated in the ways unique to people worth 200 million smackers, his prevailing ethos is crystal clear and universal - form a band with your friends, don’t take yourself (and therefore life) too seriously, and if you just start doing stuff the universe has a way of unveiling the prize at the end of the road.

And pound back gallons of Jagermeister. Dave and I might deviate on this particular point, but with everything else I’m right in line.  

I just finished watching this Dave Grohl interview with Lars Ulrich, and it’s predictably fantastic. I mean, just the fact that the Foo Fighters are so successful there’s a generation of fans who don’t realize Grohl was the drummer for freaking NIRVANA…

Anyway, Dave Grohl interviews on YouTube are a delightful rabbit hole worth exploring, whether you’re a seasoned pro who’s seen too much, an exuberant upstart trying to yank Excalibur outta that pesky stone, or really anyone looking for a role model as to how this crazy thing’s done. 

All This Foolish Hurt

Another 1 take video for ya! 

Here's a song I wrote called "All This Foolish Hurt," thanks again to Josh Dawn for hanging out and strumming some geetar.  

The interesting thing about these daily/weekly accountability exercises is you don't notice a huge disposition change right out of the gate. In the moment, week or even month, you might even feel discouraged (I often do). But the cumulative effect's profound - after years of over-thinking and benign self-sabotage, I'm now getting projects out into the world and letting the universe dictate momentum. It feels good, and about goddamn time.  

Here's a link to the video, and lyrics below...

I was so wild, I’d lose myself out there
I was a broken hearted symptom of despair
if there was a moment where I could change my world
and hide away from all this foolish hurt
go up and away
up and away, fly
up and away, fly higher

Angel, you must promise me
that, when you see the things I’ve seen
you won’t ever need to feel alone
If you don’t want two, there’s nothing wrong with one
be worry free and have some fun
but know that heartbreak’s where the soul will grow

out of denial, I spread my cautious wings
content that I knew nothing about almost everything
I made a conclusion, I’m tired of looking down
I have no greed, I do not need that treasure underground
go up and away
up and away, fly
up and away, fly higher

You can hide for only so long
before the soullessness calls
and the game’s put on pause
you can cry out into the night
but there’s no guarantee
the friend that you need will be me

Thanks, Bono

“The thing about good ideas is they get better by themselves.”

I think Bono may have said this, which means I’m quoting Bono. Jesus Chirst.

But many a profundity’s come from tiny Irish dudes, and I gotta say Mr. Hewson’s onto something.

A common question during Monday’s panel at MusicBiz2018 was “how do I recognize the right thing to do?” The marketing dude, after all, is assuring you that marketing’s the answer and therefore so is insert arbitrary metric. The touring guru is throwing all those sorta numbers around, and everyone else can go shit in a field. Who’s right, who’s wrong, and which data matters? 

What I do know is when you stumble upon something that’s undeniably you, and unique and powerful therein, it’s impossible keeping that idea on the back burner for very long. A great idea seldom follows the epiphanic script you've laid out all meticulous n' shit, and before you know it awesome people are pulled into it's orbit, kindred spirits who scrutinize your every creative step, reminding you that you’re a douchebag, albeit a lovable one. You're inundated by their legendary chants. "When're you putting it out?" "When're you booking a show?" "Fucking COME ON already!" When these people are excited, you've struck gold.

The business is really easy, and the analytics useful, when the idea's in control and the art's honest. As entrepreneurial musician types, let's hold ourselves accountable to sucking publicly, chasing rabbits down various holes and not being afraid to quote diminutive Irishmen.  

 

We're All In This Together

I moderated a panel yesterday at MusicBiz 2018, it was lots of fun!

Musicians have a tough time speaking at events like these. Jesus, I’m barely clinging on for dear life, most successes feel like flukes, and you’re asking me to be an “expert”? On what? Frozen pizza consumption while questioning the existence of God? 

Whenever I relapse into this mindset, I remind myself of advice I give prospective music college students: you’re not supposed to know everything. You’re a student, for god’s sake. So, relax, ask questions, be receptive and share. When you're content walking into rooms as just some schmuck - albeit an intellectually curious one - well, you’ve arrived. Character unlocked.  

While addressing a room filled with a couple hundred people yesterday, it mercifully occurred to me it’s not my job to blow minds, but rather just share what I know, however humble. 

I spoke about how, in the early days, if the Allen project had known anything about touring, the business, etc, we never would’ve left the parking lot. How we only learned what the “right questions” were by putting ourselves out there, perhaps recklessly so, running the trial and error gauntlet time and time again. That I make business decisions based entirely on a) how much fun I’m going to have and b) the sense of humor of the people I’m working with. I spoke about how I’m a solitary dude, that it’s easy for me to go weeks without seeing another human being, and as artists we should never, ever do that. Reach out, ask questions, collaborate, and in doing so you’ll learn how to vet thoroughly the gremlin voices in your head. 

I spoke about how every person in this room had a bad day recently they can’t shake, and that’s ok. Maybe we should acknowledge it rather than hide beneath veneers of…what, exactly? We’re all in this together, and isn’t that what this conference is all about? As you can imagine, I kinda rambled on, and while the room seemed to be with me I was afraid I’d gone too far off script. Afterwards, though, dozens of people came up to me, saying how cool it was hearing a panelist give the green light to embracing imperfection. 

I’m writing this on a gorgeous morning in my backyard at 8:13am, in every way overwhelmed and, on good days, excited by new chapters and shifting landscapes in my life. It's comforting knowing I’m not alone.  

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The Ones Worth Sticking Around For

Happy Birthday to my road brother, artistic kindred spirit and dear friend Steve Watkins, aka Steveland Swatkins, aka Swatkins!

For the past half decade in the Allen Stone Electric Ensemble, Stevie and I have shared smiles on stage left, smelled each other’s farts in bunk alley, and exchanged forlorn glances from countless middle seats bound for god knows where. It’s been a joy experiencing my friend blossoming into the artist he is today. His band, the Positive Agenda, is one of the best kept secrets in funk, and maybe if we all hound him via social media he’ll expedite the release of his first single (I’ve heard it, and it’s amazing). 

The musician life isn’t always cheerful or well-defined. Public setbacks, wrestling inner demons, industry pressures and a myriad other factors add up to our questioning why we bother in the first place. Chasing all things enigmatic, it’s easy forgetting the important shit: at the end of the day, we choose the companions in our lives, and they’re the ones worth sticking around for.  

Thanks for being my pal, Stevie. Here’s to many more trips around the sun and unflattering photos.

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Funny, But Not That Funny

Last night at Coda Tremont in Cleveland was, to put in charitably, a lose one. 

Especially with solo acoustic shows, I think it’s important acknowledging the inherent ridiculousness of the thing - you’re sitting there, minding your own goddamn business, sipping on a gin and tonic or whatever, and some weirdo starts singing about his feelings via songs you’ve never heard before. But it’s a fine line being endearingly versus distractingly self-effacing, and last night I strayed too far into the latter category. The crowd had a good time, but I came away thinking ok, do you want people to recognize your being a good songwriter or mediocre standup comedian? Ross Livermore, my talented friend who I often do these mini tours with, called me out as well. “Dude, you know your songs are good, right? Maybe, you know, sing more of them next time.” In other words, you’re funny, but not that funny. And he’s right.  

I love playing these shows - my old self-defense mechanisms are falling to the wayside. Somewhere, underneath the veneer of apologetic nerdiness, is a James-Bond-with-Scoliosis sorta swine, waiting for his turn with diminishing patience. I think it's time to give that guy the floor.  

New Angel

Another 1 take video for ya!

My good pal Josh Dawn was gracious enough to hang out after we'd finished our podcast and strum some tasty goodness along with a song of mine called "New Angel." 

Here's a link to the video, lyrics below...

 

I know you don't know me, and I guess that's ok

I have no more attention other than fading away

we've all got our stories, or so I've been told

I'll let lunacy linger in every word that I stole

In a future that's bright in the eye of an idle storm

maybe there's a bride to my groom, a new angel in a human form

there's not much to say, if you won't welcome any change and play afraid

I'm not going to give you my word, when my heart's all I have, anyway

who is this stranger who makes you wait, with no rhyme or a reason

when heaven alone will subjugate, and lead you along?

I'm not going to give you my word, when my heart's all I have

Talkin'

I’m moderating a panel at the Music Biz 2018 conference on Monday here in Nashville (10:15-11am at Music Row 5, for those attending). Catered to those just entering the industry, we’ll be discussing five pillars that make up a solid music business foundation - operations, performance, branding, publicity and marketing.

I’m writing this mid-afternoon at the Red Bicycle, having decided to delay the newsletter in order to catch a matinee of the new Avengers movie. It was awesome. I’ve timed my Red Bicycle visit perfectly with their donut turnover, so I’m typing with my right hand and, with my left, shoving free donuts into my face. I’m wearing a thread-bare Bernhoft t-shirt from 2015. I’ve never had a real job.

Clearly, I’m infinitely qualified to moderate a prestigious industry panel. It’s at times like these I’m grateful for Jeremy Hatcher and Trey McDermott, who inspired my launching the Not Famous Podcast and Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens, respectively. I’ve logged 40+ hours of meandering conversations with complete strangers, preserved on the internet forever, so I reckon I’ll hold my own just fine.

You never know when a project or experience will save your bacon, and I’m lucky there’re friends in my life who push my comfort zones. I mean, likely for their own amusement, but turns out there’s something in it for me, too.  

Oh, and I'm playing a solo show in Cleveland tomorrow night with my good pal Ross Livermore. Coda, in the Tremont neighborhood. Usual show time. Come hang, Clevelandians! 

 

Pay Attention

The day after launching a new project, I always feel drained. 

If I release an excessively manicured version of a thing, photoshopped and auto-tuned to perfection, and people don’t like it, I’m not too bothered. That sounds weird, I know. Sure, it’s in theory my best foot forward - my feeble attempt at a beard shadowed just-so and all - but really I'm just bumper bowling. The version of Trevor who’s writing this at the Red Bicycle, realizing mid-key stroke that there’s a large mustard stain on his shirt? That guy’s far removed from the front lines. They may not like the record or whatever, but the real me’s spared significant scrutiny.

And that's why I don't like putting out excessively manicured versions of a thing.

What I’m releasing now in the form of this newsletter, my one-take videos, and now the Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens podcast is the mustard-stained shirt version of myself times a thousand. I keep having these moments of “Jesus Christ, this is it. This is the what I look and sound like. That poor woman who’s agreed to meet me for coffee, this is the schmuck sitting across the table. Wow. Just…wow.” 

But the thing is, I really like this guy. Honestly. And he’s, well, me. From a biz standpoint, I can work with me. Me’s easy. No fabrication or embellishment necessary, and hopefully sufficient evidence that I won’t collapse at the 2022 Met Gala in a heap of cocaine-fueled melodrama. And me’s also filled with untapped potential and brimming wells of excitement.

Time to practice, read and listen. Time to pay attention. 

Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens

My new podcast’s officially live!

After putting the Not Famous Podcast on hiatus last fall due to Jeremy’s exciting new chapter working for Rick Rubin, I knew I wanted to keep the podcast train rolling but needed a little time away from sounding like a buffoon on the internet. With the Allen Stone universe building up momentum again and my life and career seemingly entering a new chapter, it's apt, I think, that I live life out loud and recommit to buffoonery. It suits me, I think. 

Click here to subscribe via iTunes, watch the video feed or listen to the SoundCloud audio.  

Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens. Ramblings on art, creativity and every tangent these invite.

Excited to see where this lunatic ride takes me. 

A Calmer Soul's Orbit

I caught Andrew McMahon’s Pens and Pianos tour the other night here in Nashville. It was awesome catching up with the guys and hearing Zac and Bobby’s solo tunes live (more on this later).  In 2011, Jack’s Mannequin - McMahon’s first post-Something Corporate project - was the first big band to take the Allen camp out on the road. It seems like a lifetime ago.

I could dedicate the rest of the year to anecdotes from those 2011 and 2012 runs with McMahon, Bobby, Mikey and JMac, and I’ll share a few in the coming weeks, but what’s springing to mind this morning’s a conversation McMahon probably doesn’t even remember. I should ask him.

Several years ago, Al Stone and Team's headlining the Paramount Theater in Seattle for the first time. We flew in from Paris the night before, our breaths wreaking of chorizo and razor blade-smooth red wine. Resplendent in our jet-lagged hipster zombiedom, we stagger through the show, bewildered but triumphant.

My excitement’s tempered somewhat by a long-term relationship ending, and rather than throwing back celebratory post-show tequila shots, I’m back at my old apartment, the girl and cat gone, faced with the harrowing task of packing up half the life we’d built together.  

It’s a rough couple of days. I cry a lot. At some point during my solitary dirge, it occurs to me I should talk to someone. I don’t call my parents or sister - for whatever reason, I call Andrew McMahon. 

I manage a croaky “hey man,” and he knows exactly what’s going on. He’s an intuitive swine, that McMahon. Commandeering the conversation, he talks for about a half-hour about the Lakers, his garage remodel, and his wife's favorite books. I gratefully enter a calmer soul’s orbit.

“Love you buddy,” he says. “You’re gonna be fine.” 

 

#whatagoodgreg

The BottleRock festival in Napa’s just around the corner, and I should probably brush up on the Allen material. How does “Fake Future” go again? No, seriously.  

It brings me incalculable joy that a former compatriot aboard the Al Stone pirate ship’s reentering the fold for BottleRock. He’s inspired hashtags, culinary revolutions, and dare I say broken a few hearts. Though comfortably ensconced in a respectable adult job these days, he remains the heart and soul of the band, and I wake up every morning hoping to see a two word text from the Great Man: I’m back. 

Well, for one night only, he is. BottleRock, bask in the glory that is #whatagoodgreg.

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