When he takes the Straight’s call, Trevor Krehel is fresh from a recording session the likes of which few artists will ever experience. We’ve reached him in his home state of Michigan, where he, in his own words, is “hanging out with some family and working on some music stuff”, but just two days before, Krehel had been at New York’s Leesta Vall Sound Recordings Studio.
While there, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter and guitarist spent the day recording songs directly onto vinyl, using Leesta Vall’s modified 1950s antique record-cutting lathe. No overdubs, no do-overs, just a man and his guitar making 26 records in one take apiece, each destined for a fan who had pre-ordered it.
“It was a blast,” Krehel says. “It was super intimidating, though, because right when he started the recording, it’s going right on there, so you’re like, ‘Man, I can’t mess up at all. This is somebody’s take. There’s no going back on that.’ But it was a lot of fun. I had a riot the whole time. It was just a cool little studio out in the middle of Brooklyn, and I really enjoyed it. It was definitely one for the books.”
It was a far cry from the process that went into the creation of Let Go, Krehel’s debut six-song EP. By his estimate, the musician and his brother Palmer spent something like six years crafting the EP, teaching themselves how to do it as they turned their former childhood bedrooms into studios. (When both siblings had moved out of the family home, they continued working on the songs wherever they happened to find themselves, transforming apartment bathrooms and dorm-room closets into makeshift recording facilities.)
All that work paid off in the form of a collection of songs that positions Krehel somewhere between acoustic troubadour and fiery rocker, his ever so slightly rough-around-the-edges voice bringing palpable emotional weight to slow-burners like “Close to the Edge” and “Bonnie and Clyde”. One thing that Krehel discovered is that the blessing of working with no deadline and unlimited takes can also be a curse—which is exactly why the session at Leesta Vall was so liberating.
“That’s one of the things I struggled with when I was recording my EP,” Krehel says. “Sometimes I would just get way too into it and try to make sure every part sounded so perfect. At the end of the day you just have to go up there and do your thing. So it was kind of cool to take exactly the opposite approach to the recording side and making a little bit of a change there.”
If Let Go has an overarching theme, it’s one of escape, both literal and metaphorical. It’s a topic that informs “Better With You”, which opens with “Break away from the grip of this grind,” and especially “Break Free”, which closes the EP on an especially yearning note.
“When I was writing some of these songs I was at a point in my life where I felt like I had just kind of followed in the footsteps of what you’re expected to be,” Krehel says. “I had gone to school and studied something that, honestly, I wasn’t that interested in. Music had always been my passion, and I felt like I was just getting into that rhythm of what society expects you to do. And so ‘Break Free’ was, like, the last song on the EP, and it was me trying to decide, ‘Well, do I continue to try to go for a music career, even though it’s difficult—especially when you’re first starting off—or do I keep going down the easiest path?’
“That theme of escape is really just trying to step out of my comfort zone,” he concludes, “not going for the easiest route, but going for the route that I want at the end of the day.”
Trevor Krehel plays Guilt & Company at 7 p.m. on Monday (August 19).