The winter of 2018 was a dark one for Trevor Bahnson. The singer-songwriter’s father had died after a battle with MS, a long-term relationship was ending, and Trevor was adjusting to life back in Santa Fe, where he grew up. There were daily struggles with his own health. Born with Cystic Fibrosis, Trevor was 33, and had spent most of his adult life assuming he might not live past 35.
But nearly two years later, when Trevor listens to the songs he wrote during that time, what jumps out at him is beauty; his insistence on finding moments of pure goodness, wonder, hope and peace.
Time & Harmony, Trevor’s latest record, is a time capsule that deals in endings, beginnings, and the murky spaces in between. There’s grief and heartbreak; failures of systems large and small. But there’s also beauty in the cracks in the ceiling — and in what can bloom in small moments when you stop trying to hold each one so tight.
Trevor Bahnson is a singer, songwriter and prodigiously gifted guitarist who crafts indie-folk songs with a torch for rock ‘n’ roll romantics like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. With a voice that carries wisdom beyond his years and a lyricism that draws strength from vulnerability, Trevor makes music that sounds a bit like the desert where he was born: plaintive, powerful, with hints of mischief and mystery; it’s meant to reverberate across wild, open spaces.
Growing up in Santa Fe, Bahnson first picked up a guitar at age 10. Teaching himself to play music by listening to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, he started gigging professionally at age 14 and got a job at a local music shop, where he tuned string instruments and deepened his obsession with guitars. Bahnson started singing and writing songs at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but the rest of his musical education came from bands — like the five years he spent with Song Preservation Society, playing places like the Bowery Ballroom in New York and Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, opening for the likes of Grace Potter. He also spent two years busking in Berlin, studying how lyrics could stop an audience in their tracks.
But Time & Harmony is a step into the spotlight for Bahnson in more ways than one. it’s his first solo release, and a chance to share his special gift.
The record also marks the first time Bahnson has been vocal about living with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic illness for which there is no cure. Released in conjunction with Time Can’t Be Wasted, a documentary about Bahnson — the title borrows it’s name from one of Trevors most tender tracks. Time & Harmony finds Bahnson grappling with the task of staying present, honest and open during a difficult time.
“It might be part of having a chronic illness that you wouldn’t guess by looking at me, but I’ve never told many people about it,” says Bahnson. “Yes, it’s part of my reality but the gift of the illness, for me, is that it’s makes each moment important in a way that I don’t think I would understand in a different circumstance. It’s made me focus on what I’m doing while I’m here.”
“Time has always been difficult for me, and I’ve always been afraid of wasting it,” he says, of the record’s major themes. “But if you live your life focusing on dying, you’re not living your life.”
On Time & Harmony, those stakes underscore each note. The record’s message “Keep your heart in your hand, your time can’t be wasted.” Is one that we all need to be reminded of.
While Time & Harmony is a solo release, Bahnson brought in dear friends to bring it to life. Recorded and mixed by veteran singer-songwriter Jono Manson, the production is warm, dynamic and intimate. Members of Oakland’s Whiskerman serve as a backing band: Graham Patzner on stringed instruments and piano, Will Lawrence on bass, and Dan Schwartz on drums, with additional backing vocals from Cassandra Lewis, strings from Lewis Patzner, and steel guitar from Ryan Little.
The soul and unmistakable urgency that power the record, of course, are all Trevor. Though with the perspective of nearly two years’ time, Bahnson says these songs now feel more like the work of a good friend — perhaps in particular because he’s currently feeling healthy and has a fresh start living in Ojai. Bahnson also started on a groundbreaking new medication in January 2020; and as COVID-19 began spreading the globe, he began to feel better than he had in over a decade. His outlook on life changed dramatically.
Still, Bahnson’s learned not to bank on the future.
“It’s so easy to get attached to looking ahead: How do you make your dreams come true, or create the life you want? Or: I’ll do this when I feel better, in the future,” he says. “But what’s been more helpful to me is getting really real with myself about where I am now and focusing on what’s beautiful about it.”
“I don’t want to give people hope,” adds Bahnson with a laugh. “This is not ‘Oh, it’ll be fine soon.’ Fuck that. The future isn’t guaranteed for anyone.”
“What I want is to give people recognition of their power. Because one option, when you’re suffering, is to say: where you are right now, there’s beauty. The work is to see it.”