This is me at the mastering desk at Independent Mastering in Nashville. I’m not actually doing anything, but I’m sure happy to be there, listening as these songs take their final triumphant steps into the world. Very excited. More to come...
In an effort to become less of a luddite douche, I’ve been dabbling in photo/video editing.
Let’s be clear - I have zero natural talent for the visual arts. Even my stick figures are a disgrace. But my goal isn’t to get good at photo/video editing per se - that’d be boring, anyone can get good at a thing - but rather remain steadfastly terrible while enjoying the hell out of myself.
Take today’s offering, via the Enlight Photofox app. I was in line at a hipster establishment, which meant I had time to kill, so I found the dumbest photo currently on my phone - me in a pineapple robe - and dove into layering and tracing and cartooning while the twelve people in front of me bemoaned the frothiness of their soy lattes.
About twenty minutes later, I had this.
It is, of course, not great, but invited a good chuckle, which is just what the start of my day needed.
Since 2012, I’ve essentially been on the move - shitty vans, slightly nicer vans, tour busses, planes, even a ship or two. I hit the ground running and didn’t look back, unceremoniously dumping my previous life without giving much thought to where I’d end up.
That felt right at the time, and on balance it probably was, throwing myself head on into the maelstrom of unknown, instinctively realizing that if I stopped to think, the magic would somehow quiver and tendril out into nothingness, like ice on a hot sidewalk, and I wouldn’t find myself, almost seven years later, playing Rage Against the Machine with a man in a rainbow suit.
I am ostensibly wiser now, certainly older. Seasoned, let’s call it. No longer quite the wily vagabond, Nashville’s home, so much so that I even bought cacti (a big step). And yet 2012 me feels alarmingly close. Maybe the naiveté’s nostalgic. Or perhaps it’s that I’m redirecting towards a path I tried so hard to navigate back in the day, and failed.
Or, maybe, it’s a whisper from my younger self by way of the universe, saying thank you for not fucking it all up. You’re to be trusted now. So, pick up where you left off, and keep going.
I’ve been asked a lot recently whether I’m continuing Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens, and the answer’s yes, but with a fresh perspective.
I’ve written before about being a specialist vs generalist, and as a guy with zero fear of public embarrassment, it was exciting, and still is, experimenting with different medium.
But as time went on, I realized that, yes, the podcast’s fun, and chatting with intelligent, creative ninja types is enlivening, but I have zero interest in building the next Joe Rogan Experience. What I want is to write and share music, and since 2016 I’ve launched twice as many podcasts as I have released EPs. I’d convinced myself I was “building my brand,” but really I was hiding - putting out music’s hard, and I wasn’t sure I could handle people not liking it.
I’m SO EXCITED about these new songs - falling back in love with myself as an artist’s taken time, and I want to nurture that. So, TLTL will probably be a once every month or two offering to the internet gods, whenever inspiration strikes or I feel like sharing my story in a slightly different way.
I found myself dancing alone in my underpants this morning to new mixes of unreleased music.
This is a good sign. When a Hugh Grantishly awkward weirdo who speaks like an animated tweed jacket attempts to dance, that my furniture didn’t spontaneously combust in protest’s probably as glowing an endorsement as I deserve.
But the songs ARE good, and during my life’s current dishevelment I need them - not to be popular, or cool, but just to exist, as reminders that I have a voice that matters, and my sharing matters, too.
And after all I’ve been through, that I still believe in music, in my music, that it heals, and I can’t bare the thought of myself as some unopened letter, gathering dust, brimming with love and light never to be known.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.