For L.A.-based songwriter Trevor Hall, writing music is a form of meditation. When he picks up his guitar and begins belting out a few lyrics, his thoughts turn inwards, focusing on the song until the music, not his mind, takes the lead.
“I’m not trying to think,” he says. “I just let it flow through me and let it write its own thing.”
And when it happens, that’s a time that Hall savors.
“It’s one of my favorite times in music, when you’re sitting down and you’re writing in your notebook and it’s coming through so clearly, not thinking just writing it down. It’s so liberating because it feels like you’re not doing anything. For me it really feels like I’m having a conversation with something higher.”
Such was the case with “Unity,” the lead single of his self-titled LP debut with Vanguard records. Shortly after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Hall and playing partner Matisyahu were inspired by their sadness. They tried out a few tunes and lyrics but nothing seemed to work as well as it should. Then, prior to a show, Hall sat in his dressing room and from nowhere belted out the words, “I just want to melt away in all its grace, drift away to that sacred place where there’s no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity.”
From the adjacent dressing room, Matisyahu heard the words and came to congratulate Hall. He’d just written the chorus.
“Unity” is the centerpiece of what Hall dubs a “very spiritual” and “meditative” album. Bouncing between blends of rock and reggae that will no doubt harmonize well with fans of Dispatch, Hall explores themes of higher powers. That’s a bit of a change from the punk rock he penned in his earlier years in Hilton Head, S.C., where he says he scripted punk songs of the girl he liked from class or arguments he had with his parents.
Now he pulls off a delicate balance by dabbling in spiritual territory without allowing his work to slip into some kind of hippie cliché by shrinking grand truths into bite-sized samples. Hall manages it with ease, possibly because of his approach to what many consider abstract concepts.
“I don’t think truth is an abstract concept. I think it’s the most natural concept. We’ve just made it such a far away thing, but if it’s the most natural to every human heart then it’s pretty easy to write about it. And it really comes through quite nicely, quite smoothly.”
• Trevor Hall performs live at Jammin’ Java July 27 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12. For more on Trevor Hall, visit www.trevorhallmusic.com.