Believe

In addition to the MoaT, I keep a morning journal. It’s writing I don’t typically share, not because it’s controversial (though decidedly more profanity laden and therefore objectionable to my mother), I just like this newsletter not degenerating into a full-on Trevor therapy session.

That said, I thought I’d share today’s early AM thoughts. Picture me on a Japanese futon (I can’t suggest this highly enough for those with back problems), sipping instant coffee (I know, I know), and whatever else requiring parenthetical clarification.  

“Just go ahead and believe in it. Hope and believe it’s going to magically work out. Starting a band and putting out music is objectively insane, and that’s what’s so goddamn marvelous about it. It’s ok to have hoped for it and wanted it and it not working out. Better that than spending the next however long dwelling on any number of cynical things, that no one buys music or goes to shows or whatever, and never enjoying the moment while it’s happening. A creative life shouldn’t be about failure and broken promises. Defining it as such only denies me the experience of ever enjoying the thing that fills my heart.”

The Damn Thing

Last night’s Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness show was predictably awesome. I’m entering a bit of an ambiguous life chapter, and as I’m figuring out how to release music while keeping decades of insecurities at bay, it felt good being back in the controlled chaos of a busy show day, sipping mezcal with my friends, reminding myself that yes, this is what I know, and where I belong.  

It felt good recognizing the drawn looks after a heavy press day, the nervous energy as set time approaches, and having the good sense to say break a leg and watch the show from the audience rather than occupying valuable real estate side stage (managers, take note).

It felt good knowing how draining playing for two hours can be, that all you want post show is to stretch and drink water and pray to the road gods that it’s just a case of the sniffles and not Hand-foot-and-mouth disease. You love your friends, and love them even more for not hitting you with the “let’s hang!” text at midnight. 

To Andrew and team, and the myriad other bands and artists paying their bills on the road right now, stay safe out there, and keep doing the damn thing.

Maybe, You Know, Sleep

I’m excited to see my brothers in Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness tonight at Marathon in Nashville. Their new production’s amazing, the latest record’s stellar, and it’s inspiring watching Andrew and team leveling up the old fashioned way - releasing music consistently and playing shows that make sense.

I met Andrew in 2012 when Jack’s Mannequin took the Al Stone project on tour. He was humble, gracious, and a fucking riot of a human being, the perfect introduction to the big leagues, and when it became obvious that sweet baby jesus were we ever not in Kansas anymore, or at least not the Seamonster Lounge in Wallingford, Andrew was a patient mentor. 

Back in 2012, we were young (ish), green (very), and haphazardly charging in the general direction of something that felt like music. Lots of fun, but entirely unsustainable, and we would’ve burned out fast if not for Andrew and Co saying hey, maybe switch to club soda and, you know, sleep.

Reincarnation

One of life’s great joys is going out to eat solo. You’re seated before the parties of yuppies, grumbling all well-to-do and aloof while you slurp down tasty noodles in salty pork broth that make right everything in your benignly troubled world. 

Like all artists, I pride myself on living a life more or less devoid of actual responsibility, and whenever I’m yanked from my idyllic little bubble I tend to get discombobulated and doomsday-ish. So today, as I deal with rudimentary by any definition tasks that most high school kids are capable of handling, I self-sooth via porky, soupy deliciousness, thinking about how laughably easy my life is.

And when I think about how laughably easy my life is, I reflect on how getting out of my own way’s something I’m much better at these days, but perhaps my kind-yet-hyper-disciplined monastic vibe needs dialing back a notch, and as much as a walking top hat and monocle’s capable of cutting lose, I probably should. 

And then the thought of my “cutting lose,” ie reading in public with like a whiskey or something, makes me laugh out loud, and I dream of being reincarnated as a member of the year 2300’s Mötley Crüe.

All Along

Just wrapping up a full day in the studio with the Klein bros, working on new tunes and plotting and planning for the future. Today, I’ll offer simply that making music should be fun, it should be effortless, and it should be empowering. If it’s not, it means you’re making music with the wrong people, and that’s ok. The right ones are out there, just as eager to find you as you are them, and when you do finally meet, you’ll release every set back had a purpose, and you’ll thank them for guiding you to where you were meant to be all along.

Ska Music

I keep this Post-it Note in my laptop, a gift from tour manager Ryan “Bear” Drozd during last fall’s tour. 

Ska music is happy-go-lucky sorta suburban-y pop/punk with horns. Ska music fans will no doubt take umbrage with this description, fans like Bear, who listens to ska music while buried in his laptop, doing the job of seven people. 

Whenever I’d notice his eyes becoming coal black with rage, or exasperated sighs interspersed with profanity outnumbering sips of water, I’d check in. “Ska Music?” I’d ask. “Ska music” he’d reply. 

Ska music, in Allen Stone parlance, became the consolatory battle cry while tackling all things asinine and tedious, and reconciling one’s self to putting one’s head down and getting shit done. Sound check delayed because the house crew’s tripping balls? Ska music. Bus breaks down? Ska music. Amp blows a fuse minutes before our set in NYC? Ska music. Always followed by a shrug of the shoulders and shot of the good stuff. 

There are certain things that don’t warrant belaboring over - even if you did stumble upon a meaning, it’d be half-assed and underwhelming, kinda like the “pyro” I was promised at the WE Day event in Seattle a couple years back. One single freaking sparkler. In an arena. 

Sometimes, it’s best to hunker down and power through, especially if it sucks, and I’m grateful for the daily reminder. 

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Widdly-Wah Stuff

Every morning, I sit down with the guitar for about 30 minutes. I’m usually listening to a podcast or otherwise letting my mind wander, but I like checking in first thing - how does the instrument feel in my hands, and maybe go fishing for a cool lick or two as the first cup of coffee kicks in.

I’m carrying a lot of tension right now, in my forearms, picking hand, and lower back, and in addition to a couple hours a day of instenso stretcho yoga (that’s the technical term, right?), I’m trying to play as relaxed as possible, focusing on closing my eyes, breathing deeply, and slowing down.

As a recovering shred dude, my security blanket’s fleet-of-fingy widdly-wah stuff, which is great for Instagram videos but precious little else. Voluntarily limiting myself to simple rhythmic motifs and unhurried melodies is a weight lifted, and it’s encouraging noticing intentionality returning to my playing as opposed to “well, it’s another show, I guess I’ll do the thing that makes people take out their phones.”

Counterbalance

Sharing songs, for me at least, is pretty emotionally draining, so the day after releasing new music I typically go dark(ish) - emails can wait, no staring at screens (except to write this, of course), and for the love of whatever you find holy in this world NO FUCKING SOCIAL MEDIA. Instead, I like surrounding myself with good people (going to the Ripe show again tonight) and getting stuck into some quality reading, always fiction, the more absurd and fantastical the better. Courageously baring one’s soul isn’t efficaciously counterbalanced by Tim Ferriss injecting stem cells into his genitals.

A nice number of people bought “Neverland” today and yesterday. Thank you. If you like, you can check it out here. I donated my share of the proceeds to MusiCares, an organization that helps music people in times of need, and will continue doing so. It’s a humble offering, but makes me happy.

Neverland is Out!

The first single of the year, “Neverland,” is out today!

It’ll be available everywhere in a week or two, but consider giving it a first listen and spending one single hard-earned dollar through my Bandcamp profile.

Bandcamp’s business model is transparent and artist friendly, and it’s a great way of directly supporting independent musicians.

The first song of many! Enjoy, spread the word, and crank it up LOUD.

And shout out once again to Calamity Sam for the stellar artwork.


Neverland

I’m finally breaking out of here

I can’t go back to their secrets and silence

‘cause to sing’s the currency of kings

and I don’t owe a thing to anyone

made crystal clear when I was young

there’s no heart or home with hopeless romantics

play it coy, we’re all misfits in the noise

believe that there’s a voice when there is none


who is left?


pray for us here in Neverland

the dream is all on fire

don’t know my way around here anymore

pray for us here in Neverland

a fool with try to break a diamond heart’s mistake


my waking dream’s to disappear

become the rumor whispered when no one is around

stronger lost than found

bound and then unwound in sheltered sun


who is left?


pray for us here in Neverland

the dream is all on fire

don’t know my way around here anymore

pray for us here in Neverland

a fool with try to break a diamond heart’s mistake

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Reworked for Chicago

Playing live’s an ephemeral thing - what doesn’t land in Cleveland can easily be reworked for Chicago. Nothing’s locked, nothing’s settled, and the show’s free to evolve over the course of weeks and months until, in last fall’s case, a soul/funk band closes out their tour covering Rage Against the Machine, fronted by a tour manager in a rainbow suit.

Making records, or singles in my case, you actually have to make decisions with a degree of finality, knowing there’s a 100% likelihood you’ll listen back and think dammit, I missed it, but it’s too late, it’s in the internet’s clumsy hands now, and I’d best get down to the business of crying myself to sleep in my cold, lonely bed, without romantic companionship or the faintest suggestion that’s even a possibility.

So it can be grim releasing new music, but this time around, while the absence of romantic companionship rings painfully true, I’m feeling pretty good about my place in the world.

First single of many comes out tomorrow.

Mysterious World

Ok ok, so I know this is like the third hastily scraped together picture post in a row, but the truth is I’m having trouble gathering my thoughts because I’m so excited. It’s the wild kind of excitement I remember as a teenager when I learned about pinch harmonics, or the first time seeing myself on national TV, that suddenly there’s a whole new vibrant and mysterious world. Frankly, I didn’t know I had it in me.

I mentioned in a previous post how falling back in love with myself as an artist’s taken time. Years, in fact. And there are any number of injurious rabbit holes my overactive mind would love sending me down right now, skipping hand in hand with timorousness and self-abasement.

But I remind myself I’m writing this while pacing around my house, knowing I won’t be able to sleep for hours, because new music, my music, is about to be heard. By people, no less! People who, for the most part, have no idea I do this kind of thing. People who don’t know I have it in me.

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Soy Lattes

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.

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Trust

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.

Podcast Update

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.

Underpants Dancing

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.

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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