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Trevor Powers saw a doctor in October 2021 for mild abdominal pain. He was prescribed an over-the-counter drug and was told he would be fine in a few days. But it didn’t happen.
“Insanity is a very understatement,” says Powers. “because [the medication] Powers said his stomach turned into a geyser of acid that misted up and covered his vocal cords. He said he had visited several specialists, but none had seen him. He eventually became unable to speak, let alone sing, much to his shock.
Powers is a musician who goes by the name Youth Lagoon, and his latest album Heaven is a Junkyard chronicles this difficult time in his life. It was a season that made me appreciate my hometown of Boise, Idaho even more, but it also pushed me to the limit. He sometimes wondered if the distinctive, magical-sounding voice, his primary instrument, would return.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trevor Powers: There have been situations where my brother came to town from Seattle to hang out and we went to the bookstore together or I had to text him while I was standing right next to him. Even when I was hanging out with my friends or playing with my wife, I would have a notepad and write something down. Some days were worse than others, but long enough that I had to rely more on writing than speaking.
Rachel Martin: Were you afraid of the long-term effects on your voice, or didn’t you let yourself go?
authority: No, I definitely let you go there. I’m so scared. I spent months feeling like every day was a small death. I had to accept that this was out of my control. My brain kept wondering what if. What if I can’t speak again? What happens if you get laryngeal cancer? you name it That’s how my brain works. It was a very deep, dark tunnel, the darkest I have ever been in. But after about 4-5 months, I really reached the breaking point of healing and could do nothing but accept. And it was new to me, that acceptance. When that happened, I started to reach a point where it felt very spiritual.
Martin: References to God are heard throughout the album. A spiritual opening in your life, what shape did it take for you?
authority: I grew up in a very religious household and Idaho is generally a very religious place so I was always surrounded by thoughts of God and always said I believed in God. I was using certain terms and I had no idea what they meant because I had no experience shaping what the words meant to me. And certain spiritual words carry so much weight that even the word God can be unbelievable for many because of the trauma they may have experienced in church as children. It is a word with weight. I haven’t set foot in a church in probably 15 years.
But I always felt there was something there. It’s a bigger mystery, blown by the wind during a walk or seen in the trees. And this experience with my voice has taught me something. I thought God was watching people suffer, but this turned out to be God actually suffering with you. It was a turning point in my life and the whole album revolves around it. Also, having grown up in a place like Idaho, there’s a lot of lyrical content.
Martin: I am a 6th generation Idaho.
authority: Oh that’s amazing.
Martin: I still have family there, so it’s still home to me.
authority: Like many people, when you’re young you can’t wait to get out. So when I turned 18, I decided to leave. I am moving to another country, or at least moving to another state. And then what happened was, I started doing music and when it started to take off, I could start touring. When I moved back to Idaho after being away from home for an extended period of time, my perspective changed. The definition of home has changed.
Martin: Why? How did it feel different?
authority: It felt sacred. Because everything in my life started to feel so chaotic. That comfort was no longer like a spider web you couldn’t get out of. I felt like I could leave and come back again. Idaho is absolutely gorgeous, an amazing place and full of beautiful people. It’s an endless source of inspiration for songwriting. However, I still have a very complicated relationship with this issue. Because sometimes people here have a hard time allowing others to be themselves. And it really hits the heart.
Martin: Can you describe the moment your voice returned?
authority: I came back slowly. Even when we recorded the demo, some days were much worse than others. One day we turned to it. idaho alien “” was one of those songs where I deliberately recorded specific lyrics on a difficult day for me to sing.
Healing is not linear. This was also a great revelation, as it wasn’t this that suddenly woke me up with voices. I am still healing, my body is still recovering. That patience, being in pain for a really long time, is the beginning of being a teacher.
Martin: was idaho alien Was it written before this happened?
authority: I had a sketch, but I didn’t really know what it was. We had some lines and some melodies, but nothing was formed yet. And when I started experiencing this experience with my voice, it affected the song, especially the chorus. Because this is written through a narrator’s lens, but in reality, I suffered with my body feeling like a prison.
“I don’t remember how it happened. The clawfoot bath filled with blood. I fear no borders.”
To be honest, I was struggling not to kill myself and looked to the song as a way to train those evil spirits.
Martin: Trevor, it’s really hard. Tell me how you got out of that emotional and mental darkness.
authority: very slowly and carefully. Those thoughts and mental places are nothing new to me. I think I was new to the extent of the situation I was in, but I have dealt with anxiety and depression all my life. And I’m pretty open about it with people who know me. That tolerance really saved me. Whether you’re open with your therapist or with friends and family, there’s a lot of healing power in keeping things private. Because the moment you try to hide something, it turns into an unconquerable beast.
That’s why songwriting is such a sacred space for me. Because music allows me to get things out of my system that I can’t otherwise. And even talking about it becomes very difficult, because I do what I can and say only through music.
martin: I’m sorry, but I want you to talk about it.
authority: No, I’m sorry. It’s fun to talk about, but it can also be frustrating. What happens at the end of an interview or at the end of a conversation with a friend being asked a question is frustration with yourself. I really wish there was an easier way to analyze what it is, but there isn’t.
Martin: You have spoken several times about spiritual revelation through losing your voice and finding it again. What is the big lesson you learned from this series of events?
authority: i know i am not alone. surely. I used to suffer from this feeling of loneliness even when I had people around me, but now it’s gone. Even if you are on an island somewhere, you will never feel lonely. It took months of suffering and feeling like my body was a prison to begin the process of accepting myself and learning to love myself.
Find a forest or find a bedroom where you can sit and think. It’s okay not to watch TV, it’s okay not to talk to anyone, it’s okay not to do anything. Our culture is so distracting.
Martin: Did you have to learn to get over your loneliness and be okay with being alone?
authority: That’s right at all. That’s how it was for me. Just be alone. Just be really alone. I think you are not alone in it. I think you start to reach this point where you feel something else inside of you.