117 episodes

Purists may whine that the best days of music are behind us, that capital “M” music has seen its peak and is no longer relevant. But here at Play It Like It's Music we believe the opposite: not only is the act of musicmaking an essential life skill with a lineage stretching back to the beginnings of human history, but the vocation of the professional musician is more vital today than it ever has been. Once a month, join musician, songwriter and producer Trevor Exter as he drops in on working musicians from every genre.

playitlikeitsmusic.substack.com

Play It Like It's Music Trevor Exter

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 33 Ratings

Purists may whine that the best days of music are behind us, that capital “M” music has seen its peak and is no longer relevant. But here at Play It Like It's Music we believe the opposite: not only is the act of musicmaking an essential life skill with a lineage stretching back to the beginnings of human history, but the vocation of the professional musician is more vital today than it ever has been. Once a month, join musician, songwriter and producer Trevor Exter as he drops in on working musicians from every genre.

playitlikeitsmusic.substack.com

    Not really like surfing, but sort of.

    Not really like surfing, but sort of.

    The gig was amazing. Thank you. More coming up! See below.
    - Trevor

    Good morning. I don't mind staying in the personal realm here. The story of music is too big, anybody's own story is always too big and you can only ever try to convey a small slice of it. I can just try to convey the relevant angle, stay on topic. Point is, there is music to be made.
    I haven't done much surfing, and I don't consider myself a surfer. But from what I do know about surfing, the experience I have with it (again, not much. Barely any really) I don't see or imagine too many surfers spending time discussing each others' surfing. Pointing out little things to each other and stuff, what someone did "well" and what could go "better" and how to make it look better, etc. I mean, maybe they do? But it's not the point because there's the ocean to consider, a much vaster consideration. Much more compelling. The ocean is what matters. In my mind I see surfers considering the ocean to each other and struggling to find words.
    (Keanu Reeves voice:) The Ocean. It's big. We are too small to matter to it, but we go face it. We go into it. It kicks our ass and we keep coming back. We can't help ourselves. It forces us to overcome our weakness. To grow. To surrender. To meet it.
    We, I... simply do not matter in the face of it.
    The musicians who I relate to best speak of music like that. It's the ocean, it's the universe. We don't talk about "our" music. We don't talk about style, technique or form much at all. We'll check in with each other, like "how is it going?" How is your process going. How are you surviving? As the ocean of music imposes itself in on you, day after day, minute by minute... how are you holding up and have you learned anything useful or interesting to pass on to me, about how I might hold up better as the universe imposes itself on me, day after day?
    We are all in it, and that is the point. It is the Ocean, we are unimaginably small as we navigate it.
    So did you get out there?
    Did you connect?
    Did you fail catastrophically and have to start again from scratch, getting pushed back and under and back out again as you found a way back in?
    Or did you just eat s**t.
    "So-and-so is kicking a lot of ass right now".
    ???
    (Define ass, define kick.)

    These are my experiences. I love that these are my experiences, because I don't define myself by my successes or failures. I define myself by my love of doing it and by my dedication to that love. My immersion in it. It helps me understand the world and it helps me connect in the most meaningful way to other humans. I am not myself without it.
    Music is what we are here for, it's what we come from and what we'll return to. For now, we play.
    We’re gonna check in with Ed Marshall now. Call-in style. Click play above to hear it.
    For those of you who don’t know Ed, here’s the episode we did together a couple of years ago:
    “How did the gig go, Trev?”
    More like How did it feel.
    I played my first proper show of "my own material" the other day, the first one in almost a decade. My family was there, my hometown came out. Friends I had not seen in 30 years, godparents...
    "How did it go?" Let's see. People were there and listened, people could watch it on facebook. How do You think it went? Does it matter? I have no idea how it went, I only know how I felt beforehand, getting ready for it. How I felt while it was happening and how I felt afterward. How I feel now.
    That's all I know, and I barely know that. I don't have words to describe the feeling. Words would diminish my joy and gratitude, even if they were accurate and precise, insightful ones. And I'm enveloped in joy and gratitude in a way that I cannot describe. So that's all I can say.
    Only one of my musician friends asked me "How did the show feel?" Bret Mosley. He just put out his new record, it took him almost a decade to make it. He's been through the fire, too. So he named his record that. ←Go give it a listen.
    Thank god for my musician frien

    • 37 min
    On music and structure

    On music and structure

    Back from a short (unscheduled) silent spell, just in time for the shows to start this week:
    Thursday I’m playing my first show of the new stuff with a band. 5:30 pm at South Hill Cider in Ithaca, NY. Opening for Bronwen Exter, my excellent sister who is also lending me her rhythm section.
    It’s for all ages, there’s no cover and apparently the cider is tasty, so bring the kids!
    - Trevor

    I told you I'd be posting every week, and that's still my intention. Of course the last time you heard from me was three weeks ago. Then I went into a real confusing funk, and it dawned on me.
    I remember turning 30, thinking "Great, it's time to flush all those childish games from my 20's down the toilet and become a real adult". Then when I turned 40 I thought "great, it's time to integrate all the hard lessons I learned in my 30's and become a real adult".
    Here I am today, a month into my 50's and I really can't say anything. I'm just here and I just have to own it: I am a mess. And the messy story is slowly starting to make a little hard-earned sense, but not enough. And milestones don't mean anything when you're neither here nor there.
    But I do have a 5-year old nephew. And when I tell him that I'm ten times as old as he is and his eyes go wide, I get all the perspective I need for a season.

    His mom, my sister Bronwen, is messily providing her kids with an environment somewhat free of the disturbances she and I had as kids, but full of all kinds of new disturbances which will be their work to untangle. Such is life, the best we can do is stay in touch. Help each other find a way to appreciate where we are and pick out a path forward.
    I always need reminding that there's always a way forward, even when I don't see it.
    There's a big old gap in my brain, telling me I have nothing to say. But sometimes The Stuff I really want to say is maybe too cutting, too close for mere music promotion? For a moment I actually let myself think "promo" is all this publication is for. It takes a lot to keep my head in the game sometimes.
    But what do you do when your head and heart are exploding with vulnerability and you're full of fear, making up smallest-self reasons to hide & not be in touch?
    The reality is that I'm a bit paralyzed by the reality of what I'm doing here.
    Here I am, preparing to deliver a great experience to you this fall starting Thursday.
    How great?
    So great that you will feel compelled to share it with your friends and multiply the size of the audience to some critical, theoretical number that will somehow scale into my being able to deliver music for you in a properly prosperous way. So we can all be proud of our weird taste and know collectively that we weren't crazy, that the music is actually good for the world and worth our commitment to it.
    But I'm also processing a lot of misgivings about my choices over the years, how I might have given into my fears more than a few times, with the unintended result of having deprived you and myself of the opportunity to jam together. It wears my heart out, thinking of all the singing we could have done, that we did not get to do during the years in which I just couldn't get it together to go out on the road and play.
    To be fair, it's really, really hard for me to go out on the road and play.
    It's also really hard to find a voice for the feelings I have about it. But when I make this move to go play after a long time away from it, the grief of all the lost time and scattered energy comes up to shout at me. The battle inside me is fierce, just like any musician's battle to go out and do that which used to be so normal. But today I'd like to testify to a particular facet of my internal battle, something to which I know many of you can relate.
    It's about Music + Structure.
    For me music equals structure. That's because early in my life my family went through some displacements and some big structure changes which left me feeling mostly on my heels. Some of it was generational but t

    • 8 min
    Singing loud and saying everything

    Singing loud and saying everything

    "What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization"
    - Lillian Smith

    Moving forward: On self-silencing and un-silencing.
    A savvy cultural commentator might say that David Bowie died an extremely artistic, expressive death when he timed his final album release to coincide with it.
    Alongside all of the grief, you could indulge yourself in thinking - maybe just a little - that Blackstar wasn't just an ambitious album but also an extremely powerful and innovative PR move by a well-resourced and celebrated man known for making powerful and innovative PR moves. All these years later I still think to myself, “wow, no one will ever top that one”.
    A fitting end to the Hero’s journey of a great musical hero.
    It’s a thin theory, and only possible to contemplate if you sidestep all of the struggle that such a “move” might have required. And only if you disregard the real grief of a real human’s death mourned by many millions of real people.
    You’d have to have a sick sense of humor like me.
    But even someone with my sick sense of humor has to simply shut up when contemplating Sinead O’Connor’s recent passing. There are no theories for it. I can’t say anything, I can only listen. So that’s what I’ve been doing.
    If a musician’s death could ever make me feel the opposite way that Bowie’s did, we just had one. But don’t listen to me, listen to her:
    Album: Sinead O’Connor, “Throw Down Your Arms” LP (2005). Sinead + Sly & Robbie do the reggae hymn book.
    Audiobook: “Rememberings” (2021) by Sinead O’ Connor. Listened on the drive through Arizona and New Mexico. Haunting and heartbreaking.
    On making true sounds:
    I finally made it to the east coast and I'm finally starting to get a pretty clear idea of the mission here moving forward. Let me share it with you:
    In the first 80 episodes of the podcast I was asking each guest the following two questions:
    1. Why do you play music?
    and 2. What separates the professional from the amateur?
    I had my reasons. Those two questions were relevant to me at the time, mainly because I was deeply questioining my own original reasons for starting down the professional path of a musician. I was going through some grief around having hit some dead ends in my own twisted creative path as well as certain collaborations that hadn't worked out. I had totally lost confidence in my own musical voice and ability, so I was turning to the folks I knew who seemed to have it together. Asking them how they did it.
    Thanks for reading "Play It Like It's Music" by Trevor Exter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

    We got some great answers to those questions. I am super proud of those interviews, and I stand by my reasons for conducting them in the way that I did. Many of you out there found them helpful, and they are still back there in the feed for you to listen to any time that you want.
    But they also catalyzed some healing in myself and an eventual evolution which made that particular line of questioning less relevant. I decided to pause the podcast, partly because we outgrew the format.
    What do I mean?
    Well for starters: the question of professionalism has totally expanded into our wider environment and into a larger set of questions about general survival, purpose and prosperity in an age when the actual bottom has dropped out of the music industry we used to know.
    Consequently the very ideal of professionalism is taking some hits.
    Music is totally still a profession, but the core approach of professionals who make our living in music has exploded into a million methods. The means of making a living as a musician keeps shifting. Gatekeepers have multiplied, while their standards for admission are less and less musical in nature.
    Musicians are adapting, and for many of us that means getting a day job or starting other businesses. It was true before. We've always been hustlers, but now it is simply no longer enoug

    • 10 min
    Venice: a Voice Memo

    Venice: a Voice Memo

    Note: Play It Like It’s Music is growing back into itself, and I thank you for listening. The “show” part of the show will be diversifying as we go along, but next week there’s no episode since I’ll be on vacation celebrating my 50th birthday.
    We’ll catch back up the following Wednesday.

    Greetings. Today I’m mostly just going to play for you, so click “Play” to hear some music.
    It’s a casual hang, I’m just sitting in the open air living room with the squeals of the neighbors kid and birds included, just as if you’re visiting me at home.
    Thanks for reading "Play It Like It's Music" by Trevor Exter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

    It’s a sweet sendoff, since we depart Venice Beach for our long trip to the east coast on Friday.
    Fear not:
    It may seem to you that I’m just taking up space in your inbox without providing much in the way of content. In the coming weeks I’ll be bringing back some conversations with musicians and other characters about stuff we all love, so thanks for bearing with me! It’s been an eventful season in Play It Like It’s Music land.
    Today’s musical selections from my living room:
    J.S. Bach Prelude to Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in G Major. Played on telecaster with perhaps a bit too much tremolo. Guitarists usually transpose this to another key, but I like it in the original key, obviously.
    Trevor Exter: “Mexico”. This is a tune I’ve done previously with John Kimock (listen to the original here. I’m bringing it into the current set, along with a dozen or so brand new tunes which I can’t wait to share with you in person.
    John and I will be playing together on October 6th, 7th and 8th. Big reunion, it’s gonna be great! More specific info soon.
    Some recs for this week:
    Listening: Joe Cocker, “Stingray” LP (1976). Run don’t walk!
    Watching: “Broadcast News” (1987) dir. James L. Brooks. The place near the thing we went to that time.
    Reading: “"The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll" (2019) by Ian S. Port. A pretty good book about electric guitars.
    On Substack: A most eloquent short rant about recording music is no longer a viable business model by the legend himself, Nelson George.
    I appreciate you very much, thanks. See you again after my big birthday burger in the desert.
    As always, big love to your ears.
    Trevor
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    Do you like my stuff? Please help the audience grow by sharing this post with one friend:
    * FALL 2023 TOUR DATES booking currently: @trevorexter.com
    * Hear my music: the “Trevor Exter Playlist” (Spotify)
    * Hear 80 penetrating interviews with great musicians in the Play It Like It’s Musicpodcast archive.
    * Sign the mailing list!
    * Follow me on IG \ TW \ FB
    Thanks for reading "Play It Like It's Music" by Trevor Exter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.



    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit playitlikeitsmusic.substack.com

    • 13 min
    Time flies

    Time flies

    It’s hard to believe a whole week has passed since last week. I’ll admit to being a little overwhelmed by all of the communication but it feels pretty organized, so I’ll keep rolling with it.
    Since I opened up the can of worms by announcing the fall tour, I’ve been able to re-connect with quite a few people who are interested in helping out and hosting events. I’m also talking with some great musicians who will be in the mix. It’s all very exciting and I’m all very excited. Super grateful.
    As much as I like to give you something meaningful each week, for this week I have to be honest and say that the time rolled up on me too quickly, so I’m just going to play some guitar and call it. I know you have plenty to do as well.
    As far as dates are concerned, I’m still zeroing on a NYC venue for a ticketed band show on October 8. I’m connecting with house concert hosts in the Hudson Valley, Central PA, Long Island and Rhode Island… Please reach out to me if you’d like to do one yourself! We’re gonna have a great time.
    I appreciate you very much, thanks.
    And as always, big love to your ears.
    Trevor
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    Listening: Elvis’s great gospel album, “How Great Thou Art”. How great it ith.
    Watching: “El Infierno” (2010) dir. Luis Estrada. Makes “Traffic” look like “Barbie”, horrifyingly. But more than one Oaxacan has told me this film is basically a documentary.
    Reading: “A Dark and Bloody Ground: A True Story of Lust, Greed and Murder in the Bluegrass State” (1993) by Darcy O’Brien. Who doesn’t wish they could write like a southerner?
    .
    .
    Do you like my stuff? Please help the audience grow by sharing this post with one friend:
    * FALL 2023 TOUR DATES in process: @trevorexter.com
    * Hear my music: the “Trevor Exter Playlist” (Spotify)
    * Hear 80 penetrating interviews with great musicians in the Play It Like It’s Music podcast archive.
    * Sign the mailing list!
    * Follow me on IG \ TW \ FB

    Thanks for reading "Play It Like It's Music" by Trevor Exter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.



    This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit playitlikeitsmusic.substack.com

    • 3 min
    "Hey man I thought you were a Cellist."

    "Hey man I thought you were a Cellist."

    Hey, thanks for all the lovely responses to last week’s post about the fall tour. I ‘ve been getting many kind thumbs ups, invitations to new places, offers of hospitality, help in booking more gigs and especially house concerts. Please keep em coming! If you’re curious about hosting a house concert, it’s a great way to experience live music more intimately, conveniently and satisfyingly. I love performing in people’s homes as well as in clubs. Dates are accumulating (pending announcement) but I still have room in the calendar. Hit me up if you’d like to know more.
    I am also toying with the idea of adding workshops to the fall offering, separately from the performances. I have a good track record of helping musicians at all levels find their musical footing and develop confidence. These workshops would be for anyone who makes music on any instrument: like if you know how to play but don’t think you have style, if you struggle with rhythm, with feel or if you just plain feel like you don’t deserve to play. I have a rich set of tools and rituals that help people with these things, so please send me an email if you feel intrigued.

    Folks are asking about my switch to electric guitar for these new shows. What’s it gonna sound like? Why make such a cliché choice? Longtime listeners and cello loyalists are raising some eyebrows, so I’ll be fully transparent about this development today.
    Cello has always been the thing that sets me apart, but it’s totally something to hide behind too.
    I’ve played the cello since I was seven years old, and for better or worse a lot of my musical identity got wrapped up in that. I dragged the beast around town to different lessons, orchestra rehearsals and gigs throughout my youth and on up into my 30s and 40s.
    Thanks for reading "Play It Like It's Music" by Trevor Exter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

    I embraced the role of “cello guy” well beyond my transition into songwriting, bass playing and bandleading.
    But as good as the thing can sound, it’s extremely expensive and cumbersome in a world that caters less and less to the basic needs of a traveling musician. You might know some of the stories. I’m super proud of my cello life and work, which is why I’ve held onto the “cello guy” tag despite all of the logistical and social friction it generates.
    I love the cello and I will always be a cellist in my soul. But this guitar episode for me is a long time coming and I’d like to take a moment to unpack a little bit of the why and the how here for you.
    I wasn’t always cello guy.
    From ages 13 to 17. I mostly considered myself a piano player and lived almost entirely on the piano. For those years (and into my early 20s) I would just play piano for hours every day. I wasn’t practicing, though. I was just banging out a sound cocoon to hide myself in. It helped me avoid getting into drugs as a teenager because my self-soothing took this sonic form, and if I ever got stoned my connection to music would diminish. So I mostly avoided it and I’m grateful for that.
    More importantly, the piano was the door through which I fell in love with music at age 13. Cello was only happening half-heartedly in the background and it took center stage when I realized that I’d have a much easier time trying to get into music school on cello then I would as a pianist. They need more of us in those schools to fill out the cello section in the symphony, which means they can’t always enforce the olympically high standards you would have to meet if you’re trying to get accepted as a piano player. Since I didn’t really like to practice, I hadn’t built up any real repertoire on the piano. So it was a non-starter.
    But why did I love piano so much? It was mostly because you could just touch it and it would make sound all by itself. The mechanics of tone and intonation were contained within the trunk of the instrument, so you could make music with

    • 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
33 Ratings

33 Ratings

ADAS_West ,

This Podcast is Much Needed!

Listened to this podcast driving back to L.A. from A gig in Bonsall, CA. Was so happy to have these substantive interviews of understanding musicians to keep me company for a couple of hours. Much needed as I’m trying to navigate the landscape of what it means to be a professional musician. Thank You!

Emciess ,

Your love of music is inspirational.

First let me say that this podcast is top shelf stuff. The first time I saw you live set me on a new path. I’ve been djing for a long time and just grinding away doing weddings and sweet sixteen parties while dreaming of bigger, better gigs. Listening to the stories of your talented guests gives me a shot in the arm and a heart full of hope while exposing me to so much more than the songs drunk aunties request. Thank you,Trevor. This is obviously a giant labor of love and we appreciate it.

KIMOCK ,

the maestro nails it ... pwr pck ;)

love listening to trev on the road! the pwr pck never dies.

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