The former ‘American Idol’ contestant explores his musical path, from conception to his latest single.
While some artists can click into their niche almost seamlessly, other artists find themselves dabbling with various instruments and writing styles before finding what truly fits them. In the case of Trevor Douglas, this act began when he was much, much younger.
Exposed to music at a young age, Trevor’s first desire was to play saxophone. He recalls the strong urge to play instruments even as a toddler and though his initial dream wasn’t easily doable, his parents still brought him to the local music studio in Texas where his brother and sister went for lessons.
“I watched Fantasia and there were violins that would dance,” he recalls of the instrument his heart got set on next. Valerie’s Music Studio, however, didn’t teach violin. “They taught fiddle,” Trevor says. “So I guess I technically started on the fiddle which is really just more folk, country-type violin.”
Guessing the age to have been around three when he started music, Trevor did eventually get to try his hand at violin. “I never got any good,” he admits with a laugh. “I was always very bad at it but I did not apply myself correctly.” One could also attribute his disinterest in playing violin to his growing love for pop music and the appeal of writing. “Then I started finding other instruments I liked better that I applied myself towards.”
The road wasn’t easy to navigate. Attempting guitar, Trevor remembers quickly putting it back down. “Guitar has a steep learning curve. Your hands hurt when you first start it,” he explains. “I was like, ‘No, no. The piano is what you play to get girls, not guitar!’” he demonstrates with a laugh. However, he did pick guitar back up and agrees it was a great decision. Using the skills he has gained over the years, he breathes new life into his performance when he plays his guitar, utilizing it in every way possible.
Starting out as a fun hobby, music became a serious career option during the artist’s freshman year of high school. While he wanted to pursue it beforehand, it had just been more for the fun of it. “After I did [“American Idol”], I was like, ‘You know what? That went decently well! Maybe I can actually do this.’”
His confidence stayed with him as, in his senior year of high school, Trevor switched to online schooling and focused on music more intensely than before, and at a full-time status.
“In the past year, I fell even deeper into it, as much as I can,” says the twenty-year-old. “I’ve been teaching myself how to record myself and produce my own songs.” Trevor’s latest single ‘Pressure’ is the first he did by himself. “I did it all on my own,” he says proudly. “In my closet in Texas. It’s the most soundproof spot I have.”
‘Pressure’ showcases the notable growth Trevor has had since releasing his first EP three years ago. Stylistically more mature and his voice coming into its own, ‘Pressure’ lays a strong foundation for the reimagining of his music.
At the mention of his original EP, Trevor groans, “Oh god.” He recalls the release being in 2015 and reveals that the recordings were actually from middle school. “Like it was recorded and written for that.” Pitching his voice slightly higher, the musician remembers thinking at the time, “Ha, ha! I should just release these and put them out into the world!” It’s hard not to laugh along with Trevor as he says, “And I did. That was – I definitely learned a lot about music and myself since then.”
Exampling this perfectly in ‘Pressure’, he describes the sound to be acoustic but a little funky. Pointing to Ed Sheeran as some driving inspiration behind the song, he also credits the “real funky” bassline that is growing in popularity – using “Want You Back” by 5SOS to demonstrate his point. “That bassline they have in that song – they just get it! And I’m like, ‘That’s a really cool idea! I should try and write a funky bassline.’”
In fact, the bass hook – “Why can’t we just start this over?” he sings before he explains – is what he heard in his head one day. Making a note of it on his phone, when he returned home that night, he wrote the song around that. The bassline is his favorite part of the song, he enthuses. “I love the hook of the bridge,” he continues, singings a serious of ‘ba’s and ‘bum’s as he recreates it. “I played that throughout the whole song. The acoustic guitar in the background is that hook.”
Trevor cites Ariana Grande’s song “One Last Time” as the inspiration behind the idea of it. “The background of ['One Last Time'] is the chorus,” he says. “And it’s beautiful and it’s a phenomenal song. It didn’t do the best popularity-wise and chart-wise but still, I think that’s such a powerful hook and a way to do that.”
The song, his first created in the digital audio workstation software Logic and mastered by friend Paul Flint, touches more on a generalization of experiences than a specific event. Trevor goes on to say, “It’s really not particularly about ‘Man, I’m having problems with a specific girl right now, let me write about it.’ I’ve had those problems before so I was able to write about what it was like.” However, through this experience, he’s learned that if he tries to write about everything that he is going through, he will never write a song.
“I’m very content, for the most part, with my life. Or my love life, and all that,” reveals Trevor. “If I were always to write about the struggles, I don’t have that many problems so I have to kind of imagine what they are like or what they have been like for me in the past.”
His writing has improved over the years, although his friends are always happy to bring back his first EP, “Sugarcoated Puberty”. Laughing, recalls wanting to showcase his new single ‘Pressure’ to them, only to have them play the likes of ‘On My Mind’ from the EP. “I was like, ‘No, don’t put that one on! I released a song and I’m really proud of it! Please put that one on!’”
Having listened to his older music, he laughs again before comparing it to his current sound. “It’s kind of like if you took those [older songs] and let them marinate, let them grow up for six/seven years – that’s kind of what I feel like it is. It’s still the acoustic guitar but it doesn’t sound as young.”
Trevor takes a moment to contemplate how he would describe them now. “It’s not quite childish; the songs feel kind of immature, like they’re not fully ready. Those songs feel like works in progress to me.” Despite this, he notes the popularity that ‘Into My Arms’ from the same EP still holds today. It is his favorite as well.
Reflecting on his growth since that time, Trevor has noticed two things, both that he claim sound pretty cheesy.
“For starters, I’ve just grown up a lot,” he says of the years in-between. “The songwriting is so important that you’re real and true with who you are and,” he admits with a quick laugh, “I just got a little better at feeling things.” He also fully immerses himself in the songwriting process. “If I’m writing a sad song, I’m probably going to start getting upset – like physically upset. And it helps! It’s a lot of work, it’s pretty draining, but it helps.”
He credits the change of perspective to his newfound passion for acting. “I acted for a while but I really started to get serious about it in the last year. Just that idea of being emotionally vulnerable really helps with my songwriting.”
Circling back to the growth he’s experienced, there’s a grin to his voice, either amused or slightly bashful, as he talks about getting real with fans and not always being the happy-go-lucky guy they used to see.
“I used to be like, ‘Hey guys! I’m Trevor! I’m a happy teen! I’m just gonna do all this cool, fun-loving stuff!’ and that wasn’t really me,” he explains. The turnaround to showing what he is truly like is natural and gives more confidence and ease to his music. “Once I started being who I am, my music started doing really well. I started writing better, people started liking my stuff.” Reiterating with a laugh that it sounds really, really cheesy, Trevor adds, ‘I recognize that but that’s how I would say I’ve changed.”
A way to show fans the true side of him is letting them get a glimpse at his sense of humor. He did this fantastically by making a video where he recreated favorite vines. “It’s been phenomenal for me,” he says of the large response the video has gotten. He uses a comparison between comedians and musicians, where a comedian may say something and it would be funny but if a musician said it, fans wouldn’t understand the humor and it wouldn’t be funny as they weren’t expected to make jokes. “It set me up as someone who can make jokes and I’ve always wanted that so I’m very happy with where this has put me.”
The idea for the video came from seeing others remaking vines. “They were so poorly done but they would get a hundred thousand likes and I was like, ‘This is disgusting. I can do so much better,’” he says teasingly. “I know that’s really conceited but I was like, ‘I know I could spent the time’, so I did.”
Trevor explains how he spent three and a half days making notes of vines but he admits with a laugh that he expected the video to do modestly well, he didn’t expect it to do this well. His process of picking vines were to try and stay away from any that might feel like it were making fun of the people in the original, or making fun of others. He referenced one vine, where a kid says, “That’s legit-ness!” for an example, as one he avoided.
The video, having amassed more than 240,000 views on YouTube and climbing past two million on Twitter [Explicit language used in videos], is what Trevor credits to a relaunch of his career. He explains how the interactions and social media traction from it are surpassing his time on ‘Idol’. “I know that’s really stupid but I’m so happy that of all the things I become famous for, it’s this,” he says cheerfully. “I’ve been so overwhelmed by all of the support from that.”
The popularity behind it means that some fans are calling for a sequel, which he finds cool and also scary. “I don’t know how to keep this up,” he confesses. “I have to keep putting out content this good.” With a laugh, he jokes, “I don’t know if I have that many good ideas. But it’s cool a lot of people came for the vines and stuck around for the music. It’s crazy.”
Of course, fans were curious as to which vine he would link to his new single ‘Pressure’.
“You should have given me more time!” he exclaims with a laugh. “That’s a hard question.”
After a few moments of thinking, Trevor concedes with a vine that has nothing to do with the song but he thinks about a decent amount, according to the singer. “[The vine] where they throw the frisbee and, excuse my language, but they’re like, ‘What the f—k, Richard!?’ I think about that one a lot.” As to why it didn’t make it into his remake video? “I didn’t have a frisbee to throw.”
While the sequel is still on a back burner for now, Trevor is focusing on his art. He reveals that he’s currently working on a song with Elijah Merrell.
“He’s so talented,” praises the musician. Trevor discovered him while researching for a school project. Studying online with Berklee College of Music, he recalls the assignment to take a song and produce it in a different genre. He chose the techno-pop dance beats from the ‘80s. “I’m very into ‘80s music and I love that type of stuff,” he says. Trevor was trying to learn how to capture that sound while on YouTube one day and found a video by Elijah that had about fifty views at the time. “But it was really good!”
He describes how he left a comment on Elijah’s video saying that he liked it and received a message back that the two should collaborate. “He sent me some things and we’re working on a song,” Trevor teases. “I’m always working on a song with Paul Flint. I don’t know when these will be out because they’re not all the way written yet – I still have to sit down and finish them. But hopefully in the next couple of months.” He is hoping to have enough songs ready – his best five of all he’s been writing, he believes – to work towards an EP, shooting for the summer though he makes no promises.
In addition to that, Trevor is working on broadening his horizons.
“I’m in California right now so I’m trying to do acting. That’d be really cool if something happens there. But I’m definitely going to be on YouTube more now and trying to do more humorous things.” He contemplates mixing the two sides of his life. “I’d love to release some comedy songs. I have some ideas but they’re generally too inappropriate and I can’t do those,” he reveals. As for what fans can keep their eyes and ears out for in 2018, Trevor says, “Mostly the new music; and I want to keep making good content that people enjoy.”
‘Pressure’ is available on iTunes now!