Wayfarer State to perform in Hampden

Trey Yip has traveled the world, from the United States to India to China. During his journey, the New Orleans native has accumulated innumerable experiences that he’s used to forge narrative-driven folk and blues songs chronicling his life on the road.

Yip, who performs under the name Wayfarer State, will bring his guitar, harmonica and unique style to the Antreasian Gallery in Hampden at 7 p.m. Friday, July 27. It’s the first show on a tour through the Northeast.

For Baltimoreans, the concert will present a unique opportunity to observe a performer who crafts his songs in a literary format.

Working as a salesman gave him courage to perform.

“I’ve always been drawn to a good story,” Yip said. “I tend to be drawn more toward narrative songs. When I started out as a musician, I didn’t know many people taking that approach in style.”

The Gallery is happy to have him perform. “Baltimore has become a great music town for both locals and out-of towners,” said Robert Antreasian, owner and curator of the Antreasian Gallery. “When I heard Trey Yip has been traveling and playing music in Asia, I thought wow, great opportunity to put an international spin on the gallery. One of my past musical guest, Raffi Wartarian, has played and will be playing next month in Yeravan, Armenia, I find it all exciting, we have been having some really good evenings here.”

Yip began performing after he moved to Memphis from New Orleans. He learned how to play multiple instruments, but it was the songwriting aspect of musicianship that stimulated his urge to perform.

Illustrious for its music scene, Memphis showcased an atmosphere that was infectious with blues-based rock and brimming with talented musicians. Around that time, Yip grew influenced by folk singer John Kilzer, Teenie Hodges guitar player – Al Green, and Gann Brewer, another traveling folk singer.

Yip decided to keep traveling to establish his music career. While he was a college student, Yip’s excursion took him to the Dakotas, where he sold encyclopedias. Acting as a salesman instilled a confidence that carried over into his stage presence and birthed his realization that traveling and music naturally feed off one another.

“It gave me some courage,” Yip said. “I loved the road and I loved going to new places. I’m a believer in the Hank Williams school of thought that you have to go out and get your songs. I’m experiencing my material firsthand. Every place I write about, I’ve been to.”

The next stop for Yip was Santa Monica where he started busking. The routine contributed as a means of income, but Yip said it led to a lack of inspiration.

In 2009, he departed for Asia. After spending time in South Korea, Yip eventually found a residency near Beijing. Since leaving the U.S., he has recorded and independently released seven albums. His upcoming release, Chinadoll Chinatown, was written over the past six months while teaching part-time.

“The album has a lot of influence from other people,” Yip said. “I’ve been living the Gouching Hotel with five other foreign teachers, two Irishmen and a Canadian. They teach me different things, unique to their cultures, and I think you can hear that diversity in my music.

“I have one conceptual release, Faustian Bargain,” he added. “I wrote Festival of Lights while I was in India. In Darma Sala, I climbed a rooftop with a young girl and she played guitar. My albums are collages of the people I’ve met. You never know what you’re going to come across.”

Traveling has not only leant itself to songwriting material for Yip, but has given him an abundance of musicians to work with.

“There are a lot of talented and creative musicians out there,”  Yip said. “I had the chance to play with a Ph.D. in guitar in Robert Katz. I worked with Better Magic Music, who blend a variety of musical styles. I have about 10 guys that are that I can call up when I’m in their town and I know they’ll come join me on stage. They’re like brothers.

“For the next four shows, Robert Coates will be playing with me,” he said. “He’s the best guitarist I’ve ever met, hands down. He’s skilled at six-string, eight-string and every style of guitar.”

Yip says he enjoys the artistic freedom of performing on his own but also enjoys the camaraderie band-mates share. “There are certain constraints when you’re with a band. Traveling is really hard. But when it comes to the performing aspect, I love playing in a band.”

He also is grateful for the chance to play his own style of music instead of having his creativity and artistic expression compromised by the demands of a record label.

“For working musicians, it’s hard to do the type of music you want to do and make a career out of it,” Yip said.

One challenge working musicians face is consistently being able to produce new music. Yip tries to overcome this by setting self-imposed deadlines. He releases one or two songs for his fans on his website every Wednesday. Firewall restrictions in China have prevented Yip from maintaining that output, but he is always striving to create new material.

“If I haven’t wrote anything in two weeks, I’m upset with myself,” he said. “I want to be able to play four of five shows in a row, in different cities, without playing a song twice. I want the sets to be different.”

As Yip prepares for his upcoming tour, he will attempt to alternate setlists often. He hopes to share one message with his listeners, including the crowd at the Antreasian Gallery in Hamden this Friday.

“My general theme is to go out and explore the world,” Yip said. “I don’t really have a home. 2008 was the last time that I was in the U.S. I encourage people to travel and get different perspectives. Immerse yourself in other cultures.”