Catch up with singer-songwriter Trella and listen to her single "Stand Up" off her upcoming EP, Vapor.
What got you interested in music and songwriting?
Trella: Well I picked up a guitar when I was 8 years old - I was 4th grade-ish - and I just learned how to play. I've always been into music and I've always been a singer; pretty much as soon as I could talk, I was singing. I was always super into music and my mom was always into music; my mom was a singer as well and my dad was into music, so I grew up in a very musical family and just naturally was drawn to it. I started songwriting, I guess, really after I learned how to play guitar in about 5th grade and was writing songs all throughout my childhood and adolescence, just writing about everyday things. That was my therapy and a hobby for me, just something I really loved and that I thrived in. I started getting my first cuts in high school, just through random connections and people who poured into me and championed me as a writer. But I realized I could make a career of it and it was something that I actually wanted to do for real and actually invest my whole life into. That's kind of the long story short [laughs].
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were happy with?
[Laughs] Honestly, the first one I'm happy with now, looking back, it's some of the ones I've written over the past few years. But I remember I wrote some funny songs in high school. [Laughs] I actually went to a liberal arts high school - it was a magnet program - and I took this recording class and I remember writing this song called "The Elephant In The Room" and it was about being in a relationship and then the relationship ending but still having to see that person all of the time. I remember I called it "The Elephant In The Room" and looking back now it's a really dumb song, but I remember being very happy with it.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
My favorite band has always been The Beach Boys because I'm a vocal nerd and I just love all of their harmonies. Brian Wilson is just an absolutely incredible songwriter, so I just love everything that came out of The Beach Boys. Currently, I love Sia as a writer and as a singer, I love her raw vocal and I love the topics that she chooses to write on; I love that she's in pop music but she writes very heavy material and she writes on the things that reach the deepest corners of the heart. That's kind of what I try my best to do, as well. I love Beyonce, I love Adele, Bruno Mars, Esperanza Spalding - she's a jazz artist. I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Miles Davis, classic jazz artists; I sang in a lot of jazz ensembles in high school. I'm kind of all over the map. I also love R&B; I love R. Kelly, Usher, Chance The Rapper, Drake, The Weeknd. I also love Noah Gundersen, he's more of a singer-songwriter, but I love what he comes out with and the content of his songs - especially his older stuff - I just love and connect with. And I love Coldplay. I would say I'm all over the map as far as listening and influences goes. In my music, I'm influenced by all of those things even though it might not come out; whether it be the writing, production-wise, how I choose to go about the production of the song, I feel like it all has its own way of influencing my music.
What words would you use to describe your sound?
It's hard to explain your own sound. The melodies a lot of times are very pop-y and some of the production is pretty pop-y, but it also has a lot of jazz influences. Those are the two words that I would use to describe it, jazz and pop. And I try to keep my vocals pretty raw; we don't do much vocal editing because I really believe in the power of the raw vocal. I am a singer-songwriter at the core so I try to keep the singer-songwriter vibe even though I'm doing the pop thing.
What were your inspirations behind this new single "Stand Up"?
When going into writing most of my songs, I would say that there are 5 different things that I am thinking of at the same time; I rarely am like, 'this is exactly what the song is about'. When I went into writing this song, I had gotten out of a pretty toxic relationship where I felt very held down and I had really just been wanting to write songs of freedom and songs of breaking free of chains. I also love to write songs about stories I hear; I love listening to people's stories and meeting strangers. I love just trying to understand what's happening in our world and trying to write on that, so I've been talking to a lot of people and a lot of friends and had all of these crazy interactions at the time with people who had just felt so trapped in their situations. That's all an illusion really, we're never actually trapped, we have the power to step out of a situation and to literally stand up. So that came from a bunch of different conversations and I'd been wanting to write this song and waiting for the right time and the right melodies. Also with our political climate right now there's just so much systemic oppression - racism, sexism, you name it, it's all happening - and it always has been happening but we're becoming more aware of it with social media. So I think that all of those things combined and I felt it stirring up within me to write this song.
I was at this writers camp in Nashville with a bunch of writers in town and I was writing with these two guys who I know and trust who are my friends, Ethan and Chuck, and I just told them, "I have this idea for a song called 'Stand Up' and I'd love to write it with you two". We wrote it in a day. I think it took us 6 hours but we just talked about all of these things and I shared a couple melodies and some lyric ideas and they helped me complete my thoughts. So we wrote the song at this writers camp and I ended up doing some edits once I was in the studio but, for the most part, most of the song was written on that day.
Is that single indicative of what we can expect from your EP and could you tell us more about Vapor?
Yeah. The EP Vapor is a journey through heartbreak and healing, that's the overall concept. For me personally, it's romantic heartbreak and healing, but I would say it's the universal feelings of heartbreak and healing; anyone who's going through anything that's in that realm could relate to it. I go through the stages of when you first have your heart broken or when you first go through this really hard thing. At least, for me, I was in denial and I was just super-empowered and so the song "Crash" is just a straight up song of me proclaiming my independence and saying, "it's all good, I'm all good, I'm nobody's lady, I'm ready to take on this world," type thing.
Then it goes into "Vapor" which is the stage of being completely numb and when I originally wrote it, it's really just about how in a toxic relationship - at least for me - afterwards, the person is still reaching out to me and still wanting to be a part of my life and I was just completely numb. The first line of the song is, "I see your hand touching but I don't feel you," so the idea of people reaching out and people trying to get to you and you literally just having no feelings. The idea of "Vapor" is like, when you're smoking a vape, it's a fake way of smoking and you're taking in this thing that's supposed to substitute the real thing: the idea of accepting a love that's substituting the real thing is the idea. The overall theme of that song is just the stage of being numb.
"Retreat" is a song about looking back into your roots. For me, I actually wrote that song when I went home for Christmas break to see my family over the holidays. I was going through that really hard time and during that break I had a ton of really good conversations with my friends and family and every morning I would wake up and go watch the sunrise on the beach, because I just grew up a mile from the beach. I felt like, during that trip, I also got back in touch with God and the spiritual realm and was just going back to all of the things that I would say are the core of who I am and being reminded of who I am through nature and through the ocean and all of that. That whole song is just about getting back to your core self.
"Stand Up" is the physical visual of actually standing up out of your circumstances, slapping yourself in the face, and moving forward and using whatever has happened to you in this life to take physical action. It's a song of action, really, whatever that means for each person when they hear it. For me, it literally was just standing up and walking away from a situation and a toxic relationship.
Then there's "Salt" and "Salt" is a song about looking back. Right after you decide to walk away from a situation and you take these action steps, it's that moment of regret and so it's that idea of looking back at something good that you had and wondering if you should go back to it. The whole song is a ballad and it takes you through the journey of missing something and regretting, but then being reminded that that thing is actually terrible for you and you want no part of it.
The very last song is called "Breathe Again" and it's just a super fun, dance-y, fist-pumper song and it's literally just freedom. It's about coming to the edge of something new and the feeling that you get when you're taking this super long hike - in my head while writing it I imagined this 5 day hike and then you get to the top and you have this view and you're coming to the edge of something new - and that feeling when you breathe in that air and you just find freedom. That's the last song of the EP and it's just this journey of healing and finding your core self again after a long period of ups and downs through heartbreak.
Is there one song off this album you would say is your favorite?
It's funny because, throughout the whole process, each song has been my favorite at one point or another, which is maybe a good thing. Right now I would say my favorite song is "Breathe Again" and that's because it's the most recent one that I did. I think it's the freshest, because we just finished our production for that about a month and a half ago and I'm really excited about it. It's fun and it's free and I also think that I most relate to it with where I am in life right now. I wrote every song when I was in that season. So I've written this whole EP over the past 2 years of healing from something and each song I wrote when I was in that. It's cool because it's been this personal journey and this last song, "Breathe Again", I would say I'm still living in what that song is saying.
I also really love and am excited to share the song "Salt". Any friends and artists that I've shared it with have been really excited about it, too. It really is this universal idea and I feel like most people can connect to it and feel like they're not alone in what they're feeling and the pain that they're experiencing.
In one sentence, how would you sum up your Vapor EP?
That's a toughie... It's a journey through heartbreak and healing and freedom. That's probably the best way to describe it.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Really, my goal as an artist is to unify people through my music. Just the universal feelings that we all experience as humans. Although it sounds like a cliche, I really do think it's super easy to feel alone in whatever pain you're experiencing. I see it time after time again - myself included - and all of my friends just isolating and feeling as if this intense pain that they're experiencing is a unique situation for themselves. I've just realized that we're all going through it. Really my goal as an artist is to say straight up what I'm feeling, whether it be positive or negative, and to unite people in realizing that they're not alone in that, to encourage people, and to bring hope into every situation because I think that there's so much power in telling your story and someone hearing your story and saying, "yeah, me too". That's really my goal as an artist, 'cause as much as I love to sing and I love music, I love people and I want to reach people's hearts wherever they are, right this second, and I want them to know that wherever they are, that it's okay. Either I've been there, we've all been there, or it's just looking at someone and being like, "that's really hard," if it's a situation that I've never personally been through. It's someone who's having a hard time going to your song and having them press play on their iPod or iPhone or Spotify and being like, "I can listen to this song and feel less alone in this"; that's the goal, really.
Is there anything you want to add?
It all releases on March 17th and I'll be touring some in May and June and those tour dates will be released in the next month or so.