Interview by Holly Aker. Photo by Stephanie Meza.
Plug In Stereo is the stage name for Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter Trevor Dahl. Dahl, who at just 17 years old, has already created quite a resume for himself, which includes working with artists like Jordan Witzigreuter of The Ready Set and Christopher Drew and Caleb Denison of Never Shout Never. Dahl has also landed himself spots on tours like The Glamour Kills Tour and this year’s Bamboozle Fest.
We caught up with Dahl when he stopped in Austin for “The Love Is All Around Us Tour” to find out what it’s like to be so young in the music industry, where the inspiration for his songs come from and who he’s excited to see at Bamboozle.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a serious/professional musician?
Trevor Dahl: I’ve always wanted to do music, and I started at sixth grade, and then I don’t know when I started to really take it seriously. Well, I joined my first serious band…well I don’t know if you’d call it serious but…it wanted to be serious at least…in sixth grade, so I started doing that in sixth or seventh grade and kept doing bands until my freshman year. I joined this hardcore band, and I played keys, and going into my sophomore year I started recording some Plug In Stereo songs, like the first time I ever recorded a Plug In Stereo song. So I did that and then after a while they kicked me out and then I took it more seriously. After a year or something like that I took it really more seriously and started singing a lot more than I used to. I left high school after my sophomore year. I think that’s when I was like, “OK, I need to really start focusing on it.”
Have you noticed anything that would suggest that your age is ever an issue for you in the music industry?
Dahl: I think it’s an advantage really. I started younger and learned all the business and all that stuff and I have a lot more time to write. I’m not in any rush. I’m just doing what I’m doing, so I think I have plenty of years to do what I want to do, and hopefully something will work out, you know, bigger and better. Yeah I think it’s an advantage for sure.
I’ve read that you are a multi-talented musician. How many instruments can you play?
Dahl: Well the only one I’m like really into is the acoustic, but I can play bass or I can play drums or keys or whatever.
You signed to Triple Crown Records less than a year ago. What lead you to sign with Triple Crown over other labels?
Dahl: My manager was showing different labels my music, my album that I’m putting out next month, and Fred from Triple Crown Records liked it a lot so I flew out to New York and met with him. It clicked really well. We got along, and we had the same idea of what we wanted to do. So I went with them, and it was fun. It’s cool.
How did you celebrate your signing?
Dahl: I didn’t really do anything. I was in New York and I fly home, and it was like, “Yeah!” Me and my family were just excited about it and my friends and stuff like that. But we didn’t really do anything big. We probably should have now that I think of it. Now I’m going to go home and party it up just ‘cause of that.
When you first signed to the label, everyone was reporting that your debut full length, Nothing To Something, would be released in fall 2010. Why was the album’s release pushed back to April 2011?
Dahl: I don’t know. You know I wish I had the answer to that. When I signed, they were like, “OK it’s going to be out in a couple months. We’re going to do it fast.” And I was like, “OK.” And then we wanted to add a couple more songs. That’s probably what happened. It was originally just nine, and so we were like, “Oh, that’s kinda not an album.” So we added two more, and I wrote those and recorded those at home in Portland. That took a while. Then we were just finishing the album art and figuring out where it’s going to go, how we’re going to sell it and a bunch of other stuff. So a lot of cool things are coming out pretty soon though. So I think it’s just a lot of planning I guess.
Did you record Nothing To Something with your full band, or do you play everything yourself on the record?
Dahl: I wrote all the songs. I had some structure help from some other people like Jordan Witzigreuter from The Ready Set. He helped me and the producer Kevin Gates and helped and stuff. But I wrote all the structures and the vocals. Then I had ideas for drums that I demoed out and I demoed out bass in some parts. Caleb Denison from Never Shout Never, the guitarist, came and had all these ideas for bass and drums, and he did all that kind of stuff. He recorded all the drums, he recorded all the bass, some keys, and a couple lead parts on guitar. He did a lot of little background stuff.
What do you call your genre of music?
Dahl: I always just say acoustic, indie pop. It’s not really acoustic driven now because there are a lot of songs that are full band for sure. It all has acoustic in it. It’s like acoustic/folk band/pop/indie. All those in one. It’s all one word.
When you write a song, where do you draw your influences?
Dahl: Every time is different. Things that happen to me or things that happen to one of my friends or close ones or a story I make up in my head or whatever. It’s all different stuff. It’s all random thoughts I guess.
On the song “Oh Darling” you collaborated with Cady Groves. Will you have any other collaborations on Nothing To Something?
Dahl: I wrote that song with the intent of someone else singing it. The producer had the idea of Cady, so she did that and that’s cool. Nobody else sings on it, but together I co-wrote with Christopher Drew from Never Shout Never, so that’ll be cool. But no other people sing on it.
You’ll be playing the Bamboozle Fest later on this year. Is there any act you’re excited to see?
Dahl: I’m excited to see a lot of bands. There are a lot of rad artists and bands on it. I’m excited to see – because I’ve never been to a rap show – so I’m excited to see Wiz Kalifa and Lil Wayne even though I’m not really into it. But Bruno Mars, I’m really excited for that. That’ll be awesome. A Day To Remember and of course The Ready Set. I’m excited to see a lot of cool bands. There’s too many to name off.
What are your plans after Bamboozle and for the rest of 2011?
Dahl: We’re still figuring it out. Either I’m going to tour some more, or I’m going to record my second album that I’ve been writing lately. I’m touring in spring and summer and recording later, so I guess we’ll see what happens.
Watch the music video for “Oh Darling” from Plug In Stereo featuring Cady Graves below: