It’s not uncommon for indie artists to cite The Beatles as primary musical influences–but singer/songwriter Trent Hancock, currently breaking nationally with his solo debut EP Ghostbird, weaves the Fab Four into his back story in several unique ways.
Last fall, a few months after the release of an electronic/rock influenced EP he recorded as part of the San Diego based duo Ghostbird with drummer Mike Cooper, Hancock and his partner decided to expand their reach and began performing and networking in New York City, connecting with audiences at hotspots like Delancey, The Living Room and The Sidewalk Café.
Impressed with and inspired by the big city, Hancock took the plunge, embarked on a solo cross country drive, found a loft in Brooklyn, got a bartending gig in Manhattan and began immersing himself in the city’s open mic showcase scene. One night, he included the dark-themed, somewhat obscure Beatles tune “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” into his set– only to realize that, unlike in San Diego where everyone wants to hear cover bands, NYC crowds frown on the practice. Their desire to hear original material inspired Hancock to develop his original songwriting and work on the mainstream pop/rock material which he would eventually release on the new Ghostbird EP.
Hancock has come a long way from his post college days in cover bands in San Diego and these random open mics. In addition to picking up endorsements by Gibson Guitars and Sennheiser USA, the multi-talented artist will tour across the U.S. with renowned acoustic soul singer/songwriters Ernie Halter and Tony Lucca in July and August.
Hancock’s love for the Beatles served him better a few months later, when he was out in L.A. and beginning to work on the new six-track project with renowned producer Mikal Blue, who helmed Colbie Caillait’s double platinum debut Coco, and recordings for Five For Fighting and OneRepublic; Blue’s partner Andrew Williams is also a producer on Ghostbird. He hooked up with Blue through Jen Lyneis of UE3 Promotions, whom he met through mutual friends. Lyneis took a strong interest in his music and encouraged him to keep writing.
“Mikal liked my material and wanted to work with me,” says Hancock, “but when it came time to actually meet him to see if things would work, I thought about all his success and worried he might be a little aloof or stuffy. Instead, he’s super down to earth, really funny, and best of all, a fan of British pop like I am. He’s into contemporary bands like The Feeling, but we also discovered we had a mutual love for the Beatles and through that, we forged an instant connection. Within a few days of meeting, we were sitting at the piano, jamming on random Beatles tunes. He showed me these plug ins for Pro Tools and we created Beatles effects with piano sounds and ran through “Sexy Sadie” from the White Album. Through this, he got a good feeling of where I am coming from musically.”
Though lesser known than Blue, Hancock says his songwriting collaborators on Ghostbird are crucial to his growing strength as a composer. He wrote “Falling Faster” with his longtime San Diego based friend Jasmine Commerce and Kevin Daniel; with a touch of bittersweet melancholy and written, like many of his songs, in a minor key, it’s a tune about that moment just after telling somebody you like your true feelings for them, and are anxiously waiting for their response.”
Before recording Ghostbird, Hancock took a trip to Australia to visit his musician friend Kai Brown. It wasn’t planned as a working vacation, but the two wound up working with Kai’s brother Rohin on two songs which are now key tracks on the EP: “Zale” and “I Lost My Way.”
The thoughtful, folky acoustic guitar driven ballad “Zale” was inspired by various heartbreaking tales told to Hancock by men who had suffered great unexpected losses; “Zale” is the name of the son of a mutual friend of his and the Browns’. They penned the mid tempo, harmony rich—and similarly melancholy– “I Lost My Way” while camping in Northern Sydney as part of a surf trip.
In line with these great collaborations, the ironic part of Hancock’s partnership with Mike Cooper—and the singer’s eventual return to being a solo artist—is that Hancock intended to do things on his own all along. When he was a senior at the University of San Diego, Trent became a big fan of the popular S.D.-based indie rock band Transfer and met Cooper at the San Diego Music Awards, where the band won for Best Rock Group. Hancock had been writing a lot of songs and decided to record them at Capricorn Studios with the facility’s owner Brian Stratman, whom Hancock originally met when his college band recorded at Capricorn.
“I wanted to do something different from what I had done with that band,” he says, “a record with electronic elements and well written personal songs. I planned to use a one-man-band concept a la Dashboard Confessional and Five For Fighting. Throughout the long recording process I became better friends with Cooper andeventually he got on board and began playing with me, doing all the drums on my first EP. He was also a huge part of getting me connected on the local scene, so we developed a real partnership.”
Hancock and Cooper recorded an array of intriguing songs as Ghostbird; the first single, “Toy Soldier” is a great example of electronica infused within their music, and the influences that come from deep within. Although masked by its airy, catchy beats, the song’s focus is actually based on a solemn report of a soldier killed in the war only a few months prior to the recording.
While releasing their first EP independently via Tunecore and iTunes, the two held their official CD release party at The Ruby Room in North Park and did another show at The Beauty Bar. The last show they did before Hancock officially left for New York was at Anthology.
“I felt it was a good time to shift gears,” says Hancock.. San Diego has a great music scene, but I felt that to take my career to the next level, it would be important to be in either L.A. or New York. While I opted to live in New York, it was a great experience coming to L.A. to work with Mikal on the Ghostbird EP. I’m learning that this business is all about making connections, which can open a new world to you. If I hadn’t met Jen, I would never have met Mikal. If I hadn’t visited Australia, two great songs on the album would never have been written. It was a challenge going from making a living in cover bands in San Diego to bartending to support my music in New York, but it is the best place for me. I’m excited about the release of the new EP and getting out on the road because there’s nothing I love more than performing live!”