Trevor Exter
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Trevor Exter


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"Artist Of The Week"

The trouble with Trevor Exter is that most people simply don’t know what to do with him. He’s a singer/songwriter, but he is far from the typical café balladeer. His music is a jazzy, tropical blues hybrid, and listening to it makes you feel like you found something you didn’t even know you were missing. His songs are romantic instead of sappy, and he sings them with a Chet Baker flare that you’d never expect from a bookish young guy who plays a cello instead of a guitar.

“The cello serves as a kind of audience filter for me because the people who do get it and like it tend to be people with similar tastes, people very passionate about music [who] want to be surprised and moved,” says Exter. Getting it is not that difficult, either. The music is surprisingly cool, and bares the marks of his varied travels and influences.

Originally from Ithaca, NY, Trevor made his way from Wisconsin to Brazil before tentatively settling in New York City in 1998. From early on, he benefited from what he describes as a “somewhat lurching classical cello education.” Although he may not have had the rigidly structured lifestyle of the proverbial classical musician, he certainly had the chops to play with almost anybody – and he did. “I played in just about every place they would have me,” says Exter. In Trevor’s case, this included stints with rock bands, jazz combos and big bands, a gospel choir, symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, small chamber groups and a nine-piece Brazilian dance band.
After moving to New York City, Exter settled into a relatively stable period working for and performing in a musical stage production. As he often does, Trevor turned this into a learning experience, focusing on the business and behind the scenes side of the show. From there he bounced from gig to gig, doing studio work, film scoring, and playing for various bands and composers. For a while he basically paid his dues while trying to refine his own sound.

In 2004 Trevor moved to Argentina, and somehow this move served as the impetus for the unique sound for which he is now known. “It sort of came out of nowhere,” says Exter, “but it incorporates everything I was trying to do before with all of those different instruments and different settings.” This statement is appropriate and accurate. Trevor’s music is a successful blend of many different elements, one that many aim for but few achieve. Anyone who has spent any time on craigslist knows that the band describing themselves as a cross between Charlie Parker, Steely Dan, and James Brown rarely sounds as good as any one of them.

Trevor Exter, on the other hand, nails it. His music has the cool pulse of a tango, the sultry swing of jazz, and just a touch of indie rock sentiment. You can almost hear all the roads that he has traveled when you listen to his songs.

His distinctive sound tends to attract listeners looking for something different. Some of those listeners who appreciate Exter’s music might do so out of a conscious attempt to reject the mainstream. However, Exter himself embraces the possibilities of popular music – within reason. “What is the mainstream anyway? Do you remember a few years ago when Norah Jones was #1 and 50 Cent was #2? In a way it's nice because anything goes, but in another way, I find it pretty hard to relate to most of the music on ‘hit’ radio.”

Exter envisions a pop music landscape more similar to that found south of our borders, one in which substance is given as much merit as style. “There's so much amazing music coming out of South and Central America that mostly just goes under our radar because we're all so language-bound,” Trevor says. “It's worth it for us to go down there and learn to understand some of that music, just to get an idea of the sophistication of the songwriting. I feel like it's so rare in US and UK pop to find good melodies and good words together in one song. It's, like, so special if that happens here but in Brazil it's very much a given.”

It could be that Exter is the musical ambassador who will bridge the gap between these worlds. He certainly has the work ethic for it. Although his current album “637 Sounds” was only recently released, he is already at work on a follow-up that will feature video and solo performances. After that, the restless cellist is looking ahead to a return to Argentina and a third record with the band he left behind there.

“There's so much,” Trevor says, “and I'm just getting started.”

-Ethan Kanat

"Exter Finds His Niche With Folk Cello"

Sure, there are plenty of singer/songwriters who play the guitar – think Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, right up to today’s modern folk movement.
But a guy with a cello? Now that’s a category Ithaca native Trevor Exter pretty much has to himself.
“I enjoy the element of surprise when I whip out a cello and the audience doesn’t quite know what to expect,” he said.
Here’s a hint: If you’re expecting a sedate orchestra recital, you’d better think again.
On his new album, 637 Sounds, Exter plucks and strums his way through 10 jazz-noir tunes that muse on love, life and relationships. The cello serves him well – loud or soft, not guitar and not quite bass.
“A cello you can really mistreat and get a big sound out of it,” he said. It makes it easy for him to tour – just grab the cello and go; no fancy amplifiers or equipment required.
Exter’s crooning voice harkens back to an era of music where men weren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. On Fairyland, for instance, he tries to rekindle a spark once a relationship’s reality sets in: “Don’t tell me you love me / if you can’t show me / Don’t try to appease me / I know you know how to please me / Life is not a fairyland.”
It doesn’t get more noir than Supermartyr, about the guy you avoid at every party – the one who complains about himself to the exclusion of all else. Cash Out is an up-tempo number about a spiritual reawakening. And Love Her Again (a cover of a song by Jonathan Spottiswoode) tells of two dysfunctional lovers who just can’t break off their affair.
It all seems so natural to him now, but getting to this point in his life was anything but direct.
The cello was his first instrument, but for many years it took a marginal role. Exter, now 32, spent his 20s in a restless journey around the world. The three-time college dropout blames a short attention span for stints in Wisconsin, Brazil, England, Argentina and elsewhere.
In 1998, Exter spent nine months sleeping on friends’ couches in New York before signing on to the off-Broadway Argentine circus show De La Guarda. For eight shows a week, “it was like playing in a sandbox – not really a job,” he said.
Two and a half years later, though, he had done 1,000 performances and, burned out on music, began to see the show as a pair of “golden handcuffs” that he had to escape.
He left New York in 2003 and spent a few months in London – where he was nearly killed when he and his bicycle collided with a cement truck. His foot was crushed, his bike was destroyed – and his life was changed.
“Because it was just so random, the obvious fragility of life was driven home,” Exter said. “I realized I didn’t want to make any more compromises.”
Inspired in Buenos Aires last year, he decided to record a CD of his own original songs – and he came full circle back to his first love.
“I spent 20 years trying to avoid the cello – or, I spent 20 years trying to play it legitimately,” he said. “It was only after quitting music entirely that I am back to cello.”
When it comes to songwriting, Exter writes what he knows — his experiences as a musical vagabond. He likes to keep his work personal, but not crushingly so.
“I want to feel good while playing my music. I don’t want to have to put myself into a bad head space in order to get into the right mood,” he said.
But what about that attention span? Isn’t he worried that he’ll get bored and restless again? Exter finds that unlikely. In fact, he’s already laying the groundwork for his second album.
“The cello doesn’t ever get old – it’s always great to play. I’ve definitely found my baby.”

- By CHRIS KOCHER - Binghamton, NY Press and Sun-Bulletin

"Music Reviews, by Patrick Sullivan"

Trevor Exter: a solo artist with a twist. How many times have you seen a folk singer with a cello. Counting Trevor Exter, that makes one for me; what about you?

Trevor has wanderlust and a self-admitted short attention span. His debut album 637 Sounds, released just last month, was recorded in Argentina . He’s been to Britain, Brooklyn, Berlin, and Brazil. Never satisfied with just one instrument, Trevor plays the cello, guitar, and piano. He’s worked with all kinds of different artists and plays all kinds of different music, original and covers, from folk singing to Brazilian pop.

Trevor’s voice is smooth and mid-range, sounding a lot like Jack Johnson. His string strumming is uncomplicated and easy, and his music is very chilled out. It’s perfect music to lull you to sleep, or relax and groove to, and it conjures images of red wine and fireplaces. In fact, at some of the venues he plays, Trevor doesn’t use amplification at all.

... Trevor’s voice is very full and very powerful (impressively so) ... there’s one part, however, where he briefly tries to sound like Michael Jackson, and it naturally sounds a bit silly...

Trevor’s first CD, entitled 637 Sounds, has just been finished and is available now. Trevor will travel between Massachusetts, New York City, and Philadelphia in August and September.

Full Text: - Northeast In-Tune Magazine


EP: "Water, 2007

Debut CD: "637 Sounds", 2005

- Hi-res photos and four additional songs available at

- also see video at


Feeling a bit camera shy


Trevor Exter hit the ground running with his debut CD, 637 Sounds and he hasn't looked back.  The deceptively funky sound he stumbled upon with a cello salvaged from a UK garage has now brought him admiration in Brazil, Argentina, England, Japan and the US after a DIY tour he orchestrated from his Brooklyn home. 

The Ithaca, NY native and former De La Guarda singer is currently preparing the release of a follow-up EP entitled Water and continues to perform his enchanting solo set at venues like Joe's Pub, Rockwood Music Hall and the world Antifolk headquarters, SideWalk Café

His audiences (including a recent SRO opener for Suzanne Vega) are transfixed as his voice glides over a gently pulsing groove that's not quite bass, definitely not guitar - yet possesses a smooth resonance coveted by both.

Back home in Ithaca people said young Trevor was multi-talented, but in truth he had a short attention span.  The cello took a marginal role for many years while Trev learned to sing, travel and get into trouble.  A three-time college dropout, Trev fled the cold of Wisconsin for Brazil, where he began to find his unique sound while playing in bars.

He arrived in New York in 1998, where he spent some months homeless before joining the Argentine off-Broadway hit De La Guarda.  At the thumping Union Square party he spent two happy years getting tossed around, taken out and talked about - but never lost his desire to write and sing his own music.

Taking his leave of New York in 2003, Trevor went to London for a few months but nearly lost his life in a bicycle accident.  It was his trip to Buenos Aires in early 2004 - and contact with its sparkling local music scene - which brought about his rebirth as a cellist-singer/songwriter.  He then recorded his debut CD, 637 Sounds.

Trevor has worked with Gloria Deluxe, Philip Hamilton, Nicole Renaud, De La Guarda, Gaby Kerpel, Shrine For The Black Madonna, Marc Anthony Thompson, Spottiswoode and his Enemies, Changos, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Poon.  He likes his music chunky on a cheap cello.