Reminders

I received an email this morning from a recently unsubscribed MoaT reader, informing me that the newsletter’s boring now that I’m no longer on the road. 

First of all, thanks to everyone reading this for being subscribed in the first place, and feel free to unsubscribe at any time. I won’t be offended. 

Second, I acknowledge the senders hilarious dickishness, but they kinda have a point, and it got me thinking about why I’ve written something for 380 straight days. 

Is it for the reader’s entertainment? I mean, yes - I hope this humble newsletter provides a halfway pleasurable 30-60 seconds over whatever morning beverage quells the pangs of lunacy, and if my bumbling through life as a professional musician’s illuminating, well, tremendous! You’re welcome. 

But, really, what the MoaT’s afforded me over this past year and some change is a few minutes everyday where I can take stock, reflect, share, and encourage placidity in my overactive mind. Especially for us creative types, it’s important allowing intentional space to recoup and, hopefully, laugh at the nourishing absurdity around us. 

It can be hard sometimes, making room for ourselves in our daily lives, and the MoaT helps me do just that.

Friends

I’m sitting in the control room of an undisclosed studio in Nashville, listening to friends laying down basic tracks for their upcoming record, their first indie release after years of major label politics (I can’t share more on account of said politics, but rest assured they’re deserving of heaped praise and adulation). The excitement’s palpable, ideas are flowing freely, and it’s inspiring living vicariously through their exuberance - after years of playing the game and being misrepresented, they’re making the record they’ve always wanted, disclaimer free and full of life.

I’m reminded that this business can be crushing, but the ear-to-ear smiles I’m witnessing come from embracing the inevitability and inherent excitement of change, surrendering gracefully past expectations, and moving on.

Rainbow Suits and Devil Horns

I was scrolling through Instagram and found this cool shot from the recent Al Stone tour. Ryan “Bear” Drozd’s magnificent rainbow suit tucked in between devil horns is truly one of life’s great visuals.

This picture was taken right after we finished an impromptu cover of “Bulls On Parade” by Rage Against the Machine, featuring the aforementioned Ryan “Bear” Drozd on lead vocals and special guest Greg Ehrlich on melodica.

It’s easily the dumbest thing we’ve ever done, and the most incredible, which goes to show there is nothing that needs more fastidious care than one’s choice of nonsense. Nonsense is an art, and like an art, it is rarely successful, yet entirely simple when it is.

Nobody doubts that serious artists are absurd, and I’d offer that absurdity’s always a serious art.  

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Songs

Here’re some songs I’ve been digging lately:


Let Me Down Slowly by Alec Benjamin

Remind Me by Emily King

Ember City by Mastodon

Molotov by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

She’s American by the 1975

Heartbeat by Carrie Underwood

Liar by Rollins Band


I’m always on the lookout for new inspiration, feel free to send me some of your favorite tunes and I’ll check them out.




Glimmers

It felt good hitting the ground running in Nashville last night, playing a fun show with friends, catching up over hipster libations with friends, and waking up hung chowder, cursing the names of said friends.

And it was great playing solo acoustic again, perfect for figuring out which tunes are meh and which are making the cut to present to the Klein bros, musical overachievers that they are. Having spent so much time recently at the back of stage left, it was nice feeling a microphone knocking against my glasses, and hearing my voice, albeit with some vacation rust, coming through janky speakers.

It was the kind of gig where you could let your mind wander, and I found myself daydreaming about sing-alongs in packed stadiums, that maybe someday these attempts at making sense of my world will help others make sense of their own. I think it’s important indulging in this kind of thing from time to time - the what ifs, maybes, and preposterous one-in-a-millions that fuel the desire to seek out glimmers of undiscovered truth.  


Self-Belief

I’m settling back into life in Music City, preparing for a chapter of benign unknown. I say benign because pushing one’s comfort zone’s rarely the calamitous affair we anticipate, and in my case it’s long overdue.

The truth is, no one really knows what the hell’s going on, especially given the rapid and continuous shifting within the industry, and anyone who claims they’ve got the answers is a sociopath, or at the very least an asshole.

And that’s ok. Not knowing stuff can be a gift. Thinking back on the early Allen Stone years, if someone had told me about label in-fighting, disguised payola, booking agency politics and the like, I’d have run for the hills. And I wouldn’t know the amazing people I do, or have the experiences that’ve shaped me into not being a complete dingus. Not having a damn clue, it turns out, has been the cornerstone in building a remarkable life.

The Allen Stone project didn’t have, and arguably never has had, a plan - what we’ve always had is an inordinate amount of self-belief, that our show’s important, that our music belongs in the world.

That kind of self-belief begets the confidence to seek out people who know more than you and ask them questions, and the humility to be elevated and inspired. 

Generosity

As I’m gearing up to release “Neverland,” I was asked the other day the meaning behind Calamity Sam’s dot drawing.

Aside from it simply being awesome, I mentioned in a previous post that the image is the literal translation of how the song made her feel. And I think it also represents the depth of everyone’s contributions.

Calamity Sam created the artwork. Gabe Klein played drums, keys, engineered and co-produced. Gideon Klein played bass, guitar, and co-produced. Writing songs and sharing them’s a vulnerable thing, and all three listened to my humble little tune, a distillation of three decades worth of nervous ticks, triumphs and narrowly avoided catastrophe, and understood what I was trying to say. They ran with the ball more spectacularly than I could’ve imagined, certainly more than I deserve, and in doing so laid bare bits of their soul.

That sort of generosity’s a rare thing, and it’s worthy of so much more than some picture of me in a fucking leather jacket.

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Unhurried

To quote Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Lord of the Rings, “Well, I’m back.”

I’ve written before in this newsletter about my struggles with coming off the road, but this time around I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve changed my whole perspective - rather than leaving something behind, I’m returning to something just as good.

Life on the road’s manic, surreal, and entirely unsustainable without a safe haven away from the frenzy, somewhere still, a patient place where songs emerge from the distillation of experience, and solitude’s there if you want it, but so are friends in buying moods at the Santa themed bar down the road.

For the first time in my life, I’m just as excited to be home as I was getting back out on the road, maybe even more so. It’s a sign that there’re songs to be written, fretted over, and ultimately shared, and that the momentum never really stops, it only mellows into something more dulcet and unhurried.


Be Where You Are

It was hard leaving Hawaii this time around. For whatever reason, it really sunk in that my mom’s no longer helping me with an english paper, and my dad’s no longer offering stoic encouragement during a basketball game. 

This isn’t profound commentary. I am, after all, in my 30’s, ostensibly grown up, paying the bills as a song and dance man. And my folks are comfortably retired, healthier than ever, with admirable travel lust. Things are good in Larkin world. 

But as parents get older, you appreciate there’s a finish line. No one’s actively seeking it out, thankfully, but I’m aware that it’s there, lurking like a real asshole around some far-off bend. This feeling’s exaggerated, I’m sure, by my line of work, where the constant travel and red carpet nonsense tricks you into thinking you can be everywhere, which of course means you’re never really anywhere.  

As I’m writing this in the PDX airport waiting on my connecting flight, I realize that I can’t be everywhere I want to be. I want to spend every moment possible with my parents, but they’d tell me, in the parlance of their homeland, to sod off, and that their flight to Brussels is boarding.

Then they’d tell me they loved me, and to “be where you are,” something they’ve told me since I was a kid, reminding me that my life is uniquely mine, prismatic and gloriously topsy-turvy.

On Paper

I’m spending my last day here soaking up all the aforementioned islandy crap you’re no doubt sick of reading about, and listening to my friend Faren Rachel’s latest single, “On Paper.” It is, in a word, good. In a few more words, it’s got the makings of a classic, honest and refreshingly devoid of country lyric clichés.

Faren’s a badass, and I was fortunate last year to sub in her band on several dates with Dwight Yoakam. She was a little dubious of my R&B hippie resumé, and I was perhaps, ahem, skeptical of modern country music at the time, but we had a blast, reaffirming that, regardless of genre, if the tunes are good, I’m in.  

Give “On Paper” a listen.

It Feels Good To Feel Good

I’m looking over some videos I made a year ago, black and white, deliberately grainy offerings of a beanie-clad Nashville hipster strumming a capoed acoustic guitar. It’s where I was at the time - well-intentioned, but still looking for excuses to stay small. Hiding.

A year down the road, it’s bold colors, loud guitars, a gladdening disinterest in bullshit, and a team of utterly magical humans who’ve helped see these new songs to the finish line.

I don’t know what the future holds, and have long ago abandoned the urgency to find out. To quote my buddy Swatkins, it feels good to feel good.


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Presence

Over the years, I’ve developed the formula of one week doing absolutely nothing per month of sleeping in a moving coffin, and I’m almost ready to make my triumphant(ish) return to Music City, tanned, rested, and ready.

There’s a huge difference between feeling rested and being fully recovered. A decent night’s sleep preceded by, should one be so lucky, a revivifying bounce in the sack is fantastic - in my case miraculous - but after 93 days of constant over stimulation and drinking like a freaking fish with the Al Stone crew, it’s taken me every bit of these three weeks of island time to recharge.

I encourage all creatives to take their health, especially mental health, seriously. Let’s encourage compassionate presence to guide our ambition. 

Coming Soon...

January 23rd! My first new music of 2019! 

I recorded “Neverland” with the help of Gideon and Gabe Klein, a wunderkind production duo featured on the Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens podcast. My first three singles of the new year, and hopefully many more, will showcase their multi-faceted, ludicrous talents, and I am, as tourists in Cabo might say, muy excited. 

I dig how the “Neverland” sessions came together. For a few months last year, I released weekly live videos of original songs, solo acoustic mostly, as an exercise in overcoming some perfectionist bullshit. It worked (mostly). Gideon and Gabe, after watching a few of said videos, evidently didn’t mind my let’s call it “avant garde” interpretation of pitch, and offered to record a full-band one take in exchange for giving their studio a shout out on the podcast. What you’ll hear on the 23rd’s the result, and I think it’s pretty special.

And, of course, thank you Calamity Sam for the amazing artwork. More of her work to be featured soon.

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Fresh Inspiration

During the first week of January, the music business it still largely on vacation, with maybe a few go-getters organizing their tragically gifted holiday socks. So, rather than heading back to Nashville and subjecting myself to hot chicken temptation, I’m back on the Big Island. All these years of touring have taught me to take advantage of what’s in front of me, and any opportunity to spend more time with my folks I’ll happily seize. 

If there’s a major take away from 2018, it’s letting go of idealized outcomes. I’m all about doubling down on what I can control - not being a lazy bastard being chief among them - but above and beyond that I’m content with getting out of the way. It helps that I’m writing this surrounded by perennial things - waves crashing, palm fronds rustling, and humpback whales breaching in the distance, blissfully unaware of mercurial, humanoid trappings.

In this moment, I’m content with whatever river card’s dealt. I had a life before the Allen Stone world took off, a happy one, and I’m acutely aware of having already, in many respects, won the lottery in this business. Better, I think, to focus on treating people right, going about this crazy profession ethically and with intention, and leaving the door ajar for fresh inspiration.  

Consistency

It’s exciting seeing so many friends posting about upcoming music releases. But this industry’s enigmatic at the best of times, and I’m always concerned this time of year that fellow heart-on-their-sleeves types, emboldened by New Year’s resolutions and “this time, it’ll be different” self-talk, are descending into the maelstrom, having bitten off way more than they can chew.

I, too, will be releasing new songs this year, lots of them, and writing for 365 straight days teaches you patience and realistic expectations. I’m ambitious, and just smart enough to convince myself I know what the hell’s going on (I don’t) - this newsletter’s shown me that consistency, rather than brilliance, is key. As counter intuitive as it sounds, I’m all about not having a plan per se, but rather a commitment to putting out music continually, trusting that a plan, if it’s meant to, will coalesce around what initially feels like floundering.

Inexpert Wriggling

In what I imagine will be a common theme for the new year, I’m writing this while delayed on the runway. It’s officially the one year anniversary of the Mind of a Trevor! And still no cease and desist order from the Mind of a Chef! Thank you all for following along and finding my nonsensical ramblings amusing - my plan’s to keep this going for another 365 and see what fau pax I inadvertently stumble into and wriggle inexpertly out of. 

I hope your hangovers are minimal on this opening day of 2019, and that the prospect of another trip around the sun doesn’t fill you with abject terror. I, for one, am pretty darn excited.

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Kept Promises

Heading down to Portland OR today to join Swatkins and the Positive Agenda for their NYE show, opening for Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. One final sojourn in the world of funk before total immersion singing about my feelings, and I’m looking forward to ringing in the New Year doing what for me passes as dancing.

Today is day 364 of 365, approximately 109,000 words into this MoaT experiment. Not surprisingly, I’ve learned a lot from writing every day. Reading back over early entries, I cringe a little at the self-helpy tone and bromide-heavy content, lots of “here’s what I’m thankful for today” kinda stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with paying attention to the little things, but it was a weight off my shoulders realizing I could write about our reptilian overlords and, if anything, people were more receptive. As the aforementioned Swatkins put it, “God forbid people read something for entertainment.”

I also started with unrealistic goals - I’m going to set aside two hours in the morning to write etc etc. Thankfully, this newsletter’s become an exercise in embracing the moment. There are certain things in my life - songwriting, for example - for which I’m happy setting aside uninterrupted blocks of time, but I write this thing when I can, like right now, waiting on friends in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand in Seattle. So, I don’t have an ironic typewriter, or quiet nook in my house where I dream about a Pulitzer. I mean, I’ve written this thing naked, for christ’s sake.

What I do have is a six figure word count and marked improvement as a writer, all from repurposing a few minutes a day I’d otherwise spend scrolling through Instagram. That feels good.

Jumbotron!

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I know it’s hard to make out, but that is in fact me up there on the Jumbotron. Taking a guitar solo in front of 68k is pretty cool - my seventeen year old self would approve, anyway - but no matter how many widdly-wee, fleet-of-fingy pyrotechnics I attempt inexpertly, I, and indeed you, will never be as cool as Tim “Tim” Burke in his freaking Seahawks onesie.

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And there you have it folks, the final Allen Stone Electric Ensemble show of 2018! This world’s going quiet for a while, but new projects are taking the forefront about which I’m super duper excited. Can’t wait be share more with you soon...

Openly Weeping

I’m writing this from the Honolulu International Airport, en route to the mainland for a couple gigs before hightailing it back to Hawaii for another week of R&R. I’m privilaged to spend the holidays each year in a VERY rural part of the Big Island that’s mostly native Hawaiian, with nary a Bubba Gump Shrimp outpost in sight. Even after just ten days, it’s amazing how jarring it is being thrust back into the world of knee-high socks, garish floral everything, and people from Wisconsin.  

All this said, it’ll be fun performing with the Allen Stone team at the Seahawks-Cardinals halftime show - from what I understand, we’re playing on the SkyDeck, which means your friend Trevor, much to the amusement of our crew, will be placed near the railing and rendered non-functional by his crippling fear of heights. Mercifully, we play for eight whole minutes, plenty of time to soil myself but not so long that I can’t pass the time making deals with God, and then it’s self-soothing via free booze until my shaking and openly weeping subside. Oh, the glamor of show biz!

362 of 365. Almost one full year of writing every day…

Write A Song

Every afternoon on this trip, I steal away for a couple hours, head down to a secluded spot on the beach with my Ukulele, and write a song. I’ve written one every day so far - good, complete ideas, stuff I plan on recording when I get home - and after several months focusing on my stage left life, it’s encouraging knowing so many melodies have been patiently waiting.

I love playing live and recording, but I love creating new music most of all. I’ve been in bands and played professionally since high school, experiencing every setback imaginable, along with some unexpected success. And regardless of whether it’s a euphoric high or crippling low, I write songs - as celebration, as therapy, as a glimmer of hope. 

I made a deal with myself during a particularly rough patch that if writing songs lost its magic, that’d be it - I’d hang things up with zero regrets, equipped with any number of very good reasons to quit the business and take up, I dunno, the actuarial sciences or something. 

Thankfully, after all these years, I still feel the same revelatory sense of purpose every time a turn of phrase catches hold of a melody and just won’t let go.