Trevor Howlett is a Canadian singer/songwriter and also a folk musician from cape Breton island Nova Scotia. He has the gift of gab as shown in his lyrical power . His eloquence is not only evident through his songwriting but also through his job as a news reporter. From Cape Breton to Ireland. This is the story of a journey of thousands of miles and ended up into songs. To quote:”A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness”.-Robert Frost
What made you decide to record Lost Cause?
I decided to record a full length CD the previous year, having lots of material that remained unreleased. I applied for some money from the government my application was rejected, so I lowered the budget and made a self-released, self-recorded EP. I just needed to finally release a CD, whether it be EP or LP, to tell me get gigs and help new bandmates in transition. Plus I wanted to have an official snapshot of my life, which is shown through the songs.I designed Lost Causes EP to have a narrative from when I first decided to go to Ireland, to me going there, falling in love, and coming back, somewhat heartbroken.
This trip to Ireland created a spark which inspired your songs. Tell us more about this.
I traveled to Ireland in 2009 to work for the summer, although I didn’t find a job, I did find a girlfriend though. When I moved to Ireland it was my first time living anywhere outside of Nova Scotia, my home province (I now live in Alberta). I only left Canada about two times to visit the US, so it was a bit crazy to just pick up and move somewhere not knowing anyone, and having to find a place to live, work etc. In Cape Breton, where I am from, we have a lot of Celtic music but it’s mostly instrumental stuff, where I wanted to learn some ballads. Which are far more popular in Ireland. Plus a few of my ancestors are from the Emerald Isle, so it seemed like a good fit. I stayed in Dublin for two weeks and moved to Galway where I fell in love with a girl from County Meath who was also unemployed. We lived together and had a blast before I had to move back to Canada to finish my journalism degree, and since she was unwilling to come over, it caused us to break up. I was heartbroken at the time like never before, and it led to a period of depression in my life. In the end I realized that life doesn’t always happen the way you expect it to, and that’s fine. A big theme in the CD is the feeling of having no place to call home, which was the result of the trip. When I first left Cape Breton, it didn’t seem like the place for me to live anymore. In Ireland, although I loved the people and music etc, I couldn’t see myself living there forever, especially with the economic situation (and I was mistaken for an American, which was disheartening). When I came back to Halifax, NS for school it also didn’t seem like home to me. My story is probably similar to thousands from years ago who left their families and loved ones behind, So I tried to draw a connection between them and my own experience.
Who are your musical heroes?
I have a vast amount of musical heroes, really. I started playing guitar because I loved Nirvana, and I started on electric guitar in high school. I never wanted to be a songwriter, it just sort of happened naturally. I then gained a fascination for The Beatles. In high school I gained an appreciation for fellow Nova Scotian musician Joel Plaskett, and at a solo gig he perfomed in Port Hawkesbury in 2005, my life was changed forever. I slowly changed into a folk musician, because I realized how captivating acoustic music can be, and how it’s a great form to tell a story. Joel incorporates a little bit of Celtic into his music at times, and I wanted to do something similar. Stan Rogers has become an increasing presence in my influences and is probably my strongest at the moment. He took the traditional ballad to new heights in Canada and his style can never been replicated. If I consider myself traditional at all, it’s in the tradition of Stan Rogers. I listen to an eclectic mix of music at home, some rock stuff like the White Stripes, lots of Irish stuff like Luke Kelly and I especially love Paul Brady. I really like fiddler Ashley MacIsaac who is from my neck of the woods. He did some modern celtic stuff that is really breakthrough in my opinion and I’d be lucky to accomplish anything close to him in the genre. His mother actually heard my CD and informed my mother that she liked it so that’s the highlight of my career so far! As far as songwriting goes, my all time favorite is Neil Young and that will never change.
Yours songs are rich in story-telling and the human condition. They are also personal. Do you wish to connect to people through your songs or is it the other way around?
I don’t necessarily look to connect with people through my songs,it’s probably simply a by-product of the human condition.We all have similar experiences of love, hate, heartbreak etc through our lives, and our feelings bring us together.
How many songs have you written so far?
I like CD’s to be a bigger work, not just a collection of songs. Anyway, in total between several short lived bands and my own career, I’ve written about 50 songs. Probably more but I wouldn’t perform all of them. I would say only half of them – for various reasons – will ever even be considered for an album or release, but you never know. I’m just thinking back now, and I’d say I wrote my first song in 2004, so I suppose that’s not a particularly high output, but I’ve written most of the songs in the past few years. I’m more productive when I have a goal in mind or when I’m playing with an eager backing band.
Apart from being a musician, you are also a news reported. How do you juggle between the two?
So far, I haven’t been great at juggling between being a reporter and a musician. I did it well as a journalism student and a musician, but since it’s been my career it’s been a bit tougher. I got a job in April at a weekly newspaper in Nova Scotia and that was a lot easier to manage, gig-wise. I haven’t played any shows since I’ve moved to Alberta, which is for a number of reasons. Just getting settled in to a new lifestyle takes some time, and I felt I deserved a bit of a break after devoting a lot of time to music since the release in November. At the moment I’m doing mostly behind the scenes stuff: looking for new musicians to play with, trying out a few things in new songs, planning my next record etc. I hope to start playing in Alberta, intermittently in late September or early October. I hope i’ll have some time off for Christmas to play in Nova Scotia again with my old lads, and then I’ll be ready to conquer all in the new year.
Your story is very interesting. My next question might be off the wall but it’s worth trying. How does one achieve inner peace?
Inner Peace is all about knowing oneself. But it’s more than just knowing, it’s also following the information. Obtain a job that you’ve always wanted to do. Treat other people how you would like to be treated. Inner Peace is about removing stress as well, so keeping a balanced lifestyle is key.
More info and listen to the tracks here:http://www.trevorjohnhowlett.com/