Trevor Gureckis is creating in music.
Trevor is an award-winning composer and producer who studied composition at the Yale School of Music. His accolades include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Young Composer Awards from both BMI and ASCAP Foundations, and a JFund Award. His work in film and commercials has garnered an AMP Award and was shortlisted for Best Original Music for the AICP Awards.
A prolific producer, Trevor just completed working on Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.” His synth production can be heard on the song Freestyle 4. Trevor produces the electo-pop band My Great Ghost with singer Drew Smith. They released their second EP, Fake History, in December. My Great Ghost is featured on the Philip Glass remix album REWORK_ along with Beck, Cornelius, Amon Tobin among others. Trevor co-produced Caroline Shaw’s cover of Kanye’s ‘Say You Will’ that was released to rave reviews in 2015.
His music has been covered by Fader, Prefix Magazine, Boing Boing, Wired, The New York Times, and many other music outlets. He’s also done numerous remixes and arrangements for artists like Niia, Mr Little Jeans, Mark Ronson, Rufus Waignwright, Philip Glass Glass and others. Trevor frequently composes music for NYFW presentations and runway shows. Designers have included Pyer Moss, Pamela Love, Tanya Taylor, and many others.
Trevor has a new record of his classical music coming out on Philip Glass’s label Orange Mountain Music called “Potential Energies” commissioned by The Nouveau Classical Project. It’s a hybrid of some of his classical background with modern pop music production.
What are you creating?
I studied classical music, so I write music for the concert hall. I also write music for film. Most recently I completed “Menina Indigo,” a movie shot in Brazil about an eccentric girl with abilities to heal people with her mind. That will be released soon.
My newest and truest passion has been pop music production. I love the meticulous nature of creating something in the studio but also how it relates to my musical taste which orbits the minimalist idiom. I use a lot of arpeggiators and syncopations. Even some polyrhythms if it feels right. Although it’s all details buried in the musical language or popular music. I don’t want to stray far from that home base.
Lately I’ve been working on a few album, doing some remixes and developing a new duo project for pianist Sugar Vendil and myself on electronics.
What inspires you?
I’m mostly inspired by sound itself. For instance, with pop music, the character of the singer plays a major role in directing how I’ll end up going with the production. Like when I was working on some of Kanye’s latest record had his gritty moments (Freestyle 4) and his more calm moments (30 Hours). You can hear it in the tone of his voice and for me that translates directly into what synths and arrangements I’ll make.
For Freestyle 4, I worked with composer Caroline Shaw on a string arrangement that was pretty wild. I put it through some processing and it made it almost snare like so as Kanye was riffing there was this half violin/half electronic machine bubbling up. Some of that madness and the major drops at the end made it in the record. It all started with his performance and the quality of his voice.
Who has influenced your creative journey?
I worked for Philip Glass for about 6 years and that was a major influence on my musical life. I learned a lot about what it means to be an artist and how to survive as an artist in nyc. He’s also extremely business savvy and he was very influential on me creating a music business of my own. These days you can’t get by driving a cab 3-4 times a week like he used to do in the 70s AND be a fully functioning ambitious composer/producer. That foundation takes a lot more time and effort now.
So at Philip’s advice of “you have to make your own table at a crowded restaurant”, I made a music company, Found Objects, with a fellow composer named Jay Wadley. We’re both very busy doing many things – Jay’s becoming very successful in film and tv – but we’ve built a financial foundation to support our wilder dreams that don’t necessarily cover the cost of living in nyc at this point.
What’s been the biggest surprise?
I tend to enjoy a lot more things now – art, music, film, and dance that I would never consider in the past. Coming from conservatory and a classical world where everything is judged really harshly, you can get caught up in that. It’s very tribal.
Once you get out though. Once you see how hard it is to make a living and in my business in particular, things get put into perspective very quickly.
I feel our society loves to hate and I’m really, really tired of it. It’s exhausting. Not that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their work. They should be given an equal chance, each time and with equal consideration. If it’s bad and you have real, logical reasons as to why a piece of art or a record or symphony doesn’t work for you, then you can pounce. I don’t start from the negative anymore waiting for someone to impress ME.
How do you define success?
I have no idea. Some people will say that I have my shit together. I’ve been attached to some names. Two of my idols really: Philip Glass and Kanye West. But the attachments were associations of varying degrees. I assisted Philip for years. Produced a record of his. Played one of his festivals at Big Sur. With Kanye, I co-produced a cover of “Say You Will” with Caroline Shaw and I also worked with her on some song for “The Life of Pablo.” But I only met him a couple times in passing.
I’d say the real sign of success, is when people seek you out very specifically. They want you and your art. That’s when you have something.
Getting pointed out from the crowd is hard. I was one producer out of like 50 on “The Life of Pablo”. I have some work to do!