Tall Black Guy Shares How Mundanity + Loss Inspired 'Let's Take A Trip' [Interview]
Photo by Vickey Ford (SneakShot) for Okayplayer.
A train rumbles as British actor Geoffrey Sumner utters the words, “This is a journey into sound.” Let’s Take A Trip, the sophomore album from Terrel Wallace, better known as Tall Black Guy, is exactly that. It’s a journey into sound. The concept of the project is simple: Let’s Take A Trip is merely about taking a journey whether it’s physical, emotional, spiritual or some combination of the three.
“A journey, which along the way, will bring you new colors, new dimensions and new music,” Tall Black Guy told us while interviewing him for Okayplayer. On Let’s Take A Trip, Tall Black Guy composed a musical soundscape which provides the listener with all of these components. It is more than simply a brief escape from reality, as it is an adventure into the sonic supernova that resides in Tall Black Guy's cranium. TBG originally came up with the concept for the project on yet another boring, mundane commute to work at the American Airbase, which is an hour from his Norwich home. “I’m going to my job. I don’t like my job. Like I hate my damn job,” he proclaims. He began taking his recorder on the long, boring journey to use in case inspiration struck.
Throughout the three plus years it took TBG to complete the project, it went through many sonic and conceptual alterations, which were all just reflections of personal and professional growth as well as life changes. The initial idea of going on a journey remained intact, but events in his life, such as the death of a close family member, added some personal and emotional layers. “It definitely changed over time.” TBG stated to us plainly. “There was just a lot going on. One of my dear cousins passed away. And on top of that, I was just trying to figure out my growth as a musician,” he reflects. “I knew [that] I wanted to try and challenge myself by putting more of my own vocals into the composition. Like on the track ‘Come With Me And Fly,’ which was me sampling myself.”
As an American (born-and-raised in Detroit) living overseas, TBG also had to deal with hearing about racism and police brutality happening back home in the U.S. “I’m in the UK and I’m basically viewing everything on the other side of the world.” This feeling of helplessness and emotional vulnerability added another layer to the project. And over time, it began to incorporate even more spiritual and emotional elements. “Whatever the human, mind, body and soul goes through,” TBG explains. “Those were the kinds of things that I tried to add in.”
Making the project was an emotional and therapeutic release for TBG. “A lot of my therapy I get from music,” he explains. “That’s how I deal with a lot of problems. So anytime I make some type of piece of music its just therapeutic for me.” Wallace used his favorite instrument, the Rhodes piano, as the foundation for the album. “The Rhodes just makes me feel really warm. It’s just a really warm instrument,” he explains. “But it depends on how you play those chords, and how you add things around them. And then on top of that, if you have good subject matter that kinda goes together with it, it can be something magical.”
The warmth of the Rhodes provided Tall Black Guy with a much needed escape from the mundane, depressing reality that was driving to and from a job he hated while also trying to make sense of a tragic, personal loss. The way he chose to play the chords is indicative of his emotional and spiritual state throughout the different stages of making the album. “There are chords that I particularly like,” TBG explains. Like going from major to minor, for example, that really create an emotional response in me when I'm making a track.”
Let’s Take A Trip is Terrel Wallace’s personal journey into sound. It’s him combining different chords and melodies with vulnerability, anger and the hope for a better tomorrow, on a brief, but much-needed withdrawal from real life. “'Let’s Take A Trip' is a culmination of all the experiences I have gained so far,” he muses. “I feel this album is more reflective of the times we are living in, but overall it still has a hopeful vibe to it. “
For the listener, the mere idea of going on a journey can be interpreted in many different ways. The album, is of course, a reflection of one man’s vision. But no matter how one chooses to interpret the idea of going on a trip, this is a journey, which along the way will bring the listener new color, new dimension, new music, and just the right amount of magic.
Stream Let's Take A Trip below and support Tall Black Guy with your coins by purchasing the album here. The project is currently available on all digital marketplaces.
Layne Weiss is a Los Angeles-based author whose work has appeared in a number of publications including LA Weekly, Paper Mag, Wax Poetics and Mass Appeal. You can follow her (and us!) latest and greatest on Twitter @lawflylikepaper.