With every strum of his guitar, tap of his stompbox, kick of his drum, blow into his harmonica, vibration into his didgeridoo and sung lyric, multi-instrumentalist Trevor Green shares his story, one of struggle, consciousness, hope, friendship, travel, surf and respect. The folk rock sounds of the Huntington Beach native can be heard along his hometown streets and throughout the world. Music plays as his life, passion and livelihood, and he says his success would not have been possible without the solid support of Surf City.
Immersed in sports as a teenager, Green's connection with music did not develop until his sophomore year in high school. When his dad took him to experience the Grateful Dead in concert, his love affair with music was born. "It was kind of what changed me," says Green. His music talents remained unearthed until his junior year, when he picked up his dad's lonely guitar and began sifting through his father's classic rock record collection. Carefully dropping the needle onto the timeless masterpieces of Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Paul Simon, Green taught himself how to strum and pick.
His later travels to northern California introduced him to bluegrass, funk, jam, world and spiritual music—influences that have shaped his own distinct sound. The self-taught man behind the instruments cannot read music and has never taken a lesson, but he has played anywhere from the streets of Huntington Beach to major convention centers to music festivals in the California desert.
We caught up with the memorable 35-year-old one-man band and father of two on the heels of a recent Bolsa Chica surf sesh to learn more about his musical journey, bond with nature and trusty didgeridoo.
Main & PCH: You play for a range of audiences. Do you prefer one particular venue?
Trevor Green: They all are unique and amazing in different ways. The street is where I started playing, so that's very comfortable. It's hard to say that I prefer that the most because I've had performances at festivals where you walk away and you're like, "Wow, did that really happen? That was incredible, 5,000 people screaming." It's really different. But I like the street because it's very real. You're not on a stage. You're on the same level with people, and you can stop and talk, and everybody's equal in that space. There are folks who don't have a space to sleep at night, and I get to share with them. There are children who are two years old and dancing, and I get to share it with them. It's very open. There's no other form like it. I probably lean toward that one selfishly, but I realize that I do want my music to be showcased on a bigger stage as well. As far as freedom goes, definitely the street.
How has the Huntington Beach community responded to your music?
I've actually been shocked because I didn't think it was going to be the reception that we've gotten. I think the first time I played down there on the street was about five or six years ago. I went down there with my wife one evening just to go grab some produce. I didn't even know that they had a Tuesday night thing going on, and we saw someone playing music. I was like, "I should play music down here." I spent all my time playing music in the northwest because most of my friends were up in the northwest. It was a comfortable stage for me, and people tend to like that style of music a little bit more. I spent a lot of energy playing up there and not necessarily where I was from. So really, playing Main Street Huntington was the first time I'd played locally.
It was a very interesting thing. There was a little bit of fear on my part going into it because I didn't know how it would be received. It's very different than what probably typically goes on in Orange County musically. But it's been amazing. I can't even tell you. It's been the best venue and the biggest support. I got my guitar endorsement with Cole Clark Guitars out of Melbourne, Australia, by playing on Main Street. I mean really random, radical things and so many connections. People I meet in touring will remember, "We were in Huntington. We totally saw you!" The exposure's way more than I ever thought it would be, is what I'm trying to say.
Out of all of the instruments you play, do you have a favorite?
I play probably a lot more instruments than I actually perform with. It's difficult because they're all so very unique; they all have very different voices. I guess if there was one that I was immediately drawn to and kind of had this crazy fascination with, it would be the didge. I don't know how to explain it, but it was more addicting than any instrument that I ever picked up. It was something I had to do. It was very meditative and was probably the time it came into my life, too. I was going through a lot of internal turmoil in my own processing. It gave me a lot of space because it's all about breathing. That particular time I was living up in the Jackson Hole area, so I'd spend a lot of time hiking out into the sticks and playing for hours.
You mention in the "In The Moment" Constellation Room video that the vibrations of the didgeridoo are healing. Did you heal yourself when you picked up the didge?
I think that's, without knowing it, what it was. I didn't realize it until, I don't know how long I'd been playing it, but there was a day where I was sitting down in a room and I was playing, and I looked up, and I could see a digital clock, and the numbers were moving like waves. It kind of tripped me out. I knew I was totally sober, so it was really bizarre. Then I stopped playing, and the numbers went solid, and then they stopped waving. I played again, and they started moving again. That's when I realized it's actually vibrating the inside of my body. I think with a lot of that, it has that healing quality about it. I know it restores tissue growth.
That's just one side of it. The other side is the breathing. It puts you into a space of presence because through any sort of meditation breath is such a crucial element. It forces that to happen without you even necessarily having to really eliminate thought because you have to breathe. If you don't breathe, the instrument doesn't play.
Tell us more about the spiritual part of your life.
I'm still growing. I don't know where that all started for me, to be honest with you. I know music was a big part of it because finding a love for jam music was all about the journey. That's what the gist of jam music is. Through the journey you have to explore. You find really deep, profound moments inside of yourself. Obviously, the early parts of that were drugs. That was a big part of my life for awhile, and then I had this really interesting moment.
It was one of my first big festival performances or one of the bigger ones that I've had. It was probably about six or seven years ago. I did the performance, and it was the first time I was at a musical event and I hadn't taken any drugs. I finished my performance, and I was so high on being stoked on what I did. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized, "Whoah, I'm totally sober, and I can totally cope. And I'm happy. This is amazing." I think that was an eye-opener for my musical path. From that point on it was dedication to my music and meditation and how I was going to achieve it without having to fake it, so to speak.
I love nature. I kind of let the world speak to me as much as possible. I think that's the deepest part of my spiritual growth, is trying to understand that. As of lately it's been more of an interesting dynamic. Earth energy is something I've spent most of my time with. I didn't spend a lot of time with the stars. It was always about what was underneath me. It's probably been about two years now since I've been working with Buddy [Silversmith]; he's a friend of mine who travels with me. He's a Navajo who came into my life through my daughter who had a pretty heavy accident—a near-drowning that happened about three years ago. He came through somebody else that we knew and came over to the space that it happened at, which is where we were living at the time, and cleared the space and did a full ceremony. That's where I met him, and I was so blown away with what he did in that moment that I started spending more time with him.
He started teaching me a lot of Native American ways. Through those teachings he turned me on to what's called the star knowledge information. It's basically information and symbols that exist in the star realms and the star nations. It was more about star energy. Over the past two years my spiritual growth has been open more into that realm, which has been really powerful. I don't think I quite grasp it at all completely. The general message behind it all is to be heart-centered. It's not so much in the mind as it is in the heart and coming from the heart always. It just spoke so much to me when I heard that; I kept on that path.
We read that you surf. How long have you been surfing?
I grew up surfing. I went to La Quinta High School for my freshman year, and I got in a whole bunch of trouble over there. They told me that I had to be transferred out of the Garden Grove school district. At that point I had to select a class that was offered in the Huntington district that wasn't offered in the Garden Grove district in order to make that transfer, apparently. I don't know why that was the case, but that was the ground rule for the transfer. I saw surfing was offered for a zero period class at Edison, so I took that. From that point on I started surfing. It's definitely a very big part of my life. It's been an interesting back and forth with it because I love nature no matter where it is. I love the mountains. I've spent a lot of time in the mountains, and I realized that I'm having this calling back to the ocean, and I have to come back to the ocean. It's probably my favorite place to be. If I don't get my gills wet, I don't feel very sane.
What's your favorite area to surf in Huntington Beach?
It depends. Where the waves are best, really. I like surfing Bolsa because there seems to be an energy that exists here that doesn't exist in the rest of the Huntington landscape. I don't know how to explain it. I tend to think that it has a lot to do with the burial grounds that are still across the way here in the wetlands. I feel like it's a very powerful place. It's a very non-competitive feeling. I've had days at Bolsa where I feel like I'm surfing in Mexico. There's nobody on the beach, the waves are good, it's beautiful and it has that magic about it that surfing the Cliffs and the Pier sometimes don't have.
When did your music career really take off?
Gosh, I don't know. When is it really going to take off? That's a good question. I've noticed in the past two years a significant response with my music on a level that was much more than just my friends or friends of friends. I see the fan base expanding globally now, which is pretty amazing. I kind of pinch myself sometimes and think, "Wow, people are across the world listening to my music? This is incredible. How did this happen?" I don't know. I feel like it was probably a couple years ago, and I don't know what it was. But again a lot of it had to do probably with my own process. I think that it just wasn't going to happen for me unless I allowed it to happen. I think I was the one holding it back in a lot of ways through fear and not really embracing all that I deserved in a selfish, positive way, that is. I never really operated that way. I was always very conservative in allowing myself to have things as far as abundance goes.
Money was something that I never really comprehended. I always attached a negative with money for some reason. I don't know why that was the case. It was really through these teachings that I've had with Buddy and some of these native ways that I started to understand that that's not it at all.
What can we expect in 2014?
I don't know what this year holds. I know that touring abroad is the main focus for us. My hope is that we assemble more of a team. I'm still very independent; I still run my music extremely independently. I think a lot of the internal process that I've been going through is going to help allow the right people to step into my music and me to be able to relinquish control over it and trust that people understand the vision and that we're all moving in the same direction together. That's something that I'm really putting out there this year, whether it be management or a record deal or whatever it is that we move into.