music morsels indie music July 2007

CROSSROADS - Magellan Co-Founder Trent Gardner
by Mark E. Waterbury

Trent Gardner

Although touring and performing live is a virtual necessity for most bands and musicians to become successful, there are some who have found ways to become primarily recording artists, thus gaining popularity for their music without taking it on the road. These people or bands do have to possess the same tenacious work ethic in regard to promoting their music, albeit focusing their energies in directions other than live performances. Trent Gardner knows this, and his hard work and targeted fervor have cultivated solid success for his progressive rock brainchild Magellan. So, in some cases, it can be done without touring, but not without busting your butt, while also being open to diversifying your business ideas. You can also do it without having to be on a record label.

“Music has really been a lifelong passion for me,” notes Trent. Growing up, Trent developed a passion for the keyboards, while his younger brother Wayne opted for the six string. “We were always plinking around on the piano or picking guitar chords that sounded funky. And listening to everything from the Beatles to Rush to whatever.” Trent and Wayne played in different bands throughout middle and high school. Along while honing their musical craft, the brothers also began writing their own material, and as they grew older, the more serious they became about undertaking music as a career. “What we realized coming out of high school is that there are so many virtuosos out there, no matter the instrument,” Trent recalls. “The only thing we felt that we could do was to do our own music, and put our unique own stamp on it so we leave something that was uniquely us. Otherwise, you are just merely another musician and another player.”

Trent also played trombone while Wayne opted for the trumpet so the two also spent some time in various jazz bands as well as rock bands playing keyboards and guitar respectively. They both toyed around in cover bands and other projects before finally deciding they needed to pool their writing and playing talents to produce a unique and targeted project. “We did plenty of experimentation and tried to learn numerous different facets of the progressive rock genre,” Trent recalls. "We really wanted to improve on our chops enough to where we could put a quality project out.” So in 1991, they recorded the album “Hour of Restoration,” naming their collective project Magellan. They had a good stroke of luck as they happened across fledgeling prog label Magna Carta. “They just acquired distribution and were looking for bands who did not have the ultimate album yet, but were at least prolific enough to write more than one album. We sent a three song demo to them and they asked us if we could do four more songs, and they could call it an album.” “Hour of Restoration" became a success in Japan, charting high in the country and giving Magellan a decided lift right out of the gate. To support that release, they performed at a few clubs, but no real tours developed. “What we felt would be more effective would be to work with other musicians. That was one of the great things about being on Magna Carta - I could meet so many great musicians. So I had a good opportunity to learn from these people as well as work with them on their projects and on mine."

There was enough of a buzz after the first album that several more followed on Magna Carta including “Impending Ascension,” “Impossible Figures” and “Test Of Wills.”  Along with the Magellan projects, Trent worked on projects with some of the other musicians he was meeting, as well as appearing on tribute albums. Among the projects were the well received “Leonardo” and “Explorers Club,” where Trent worked with stellar musicians including Steve Walsh, Billy Sheehan, John Petrucci and James LaBrie. Other projects afforded him the opportunity to work with legends Ian Anderson and Steve Howe. “These projects working with people of that level really helped us get our game together and give Magellan some more light. We weren’t really doing any more live shows so it helped us keep the name out there and generate some sales.” Trent stayed extremely busy, sometimes doing as many as four albums a year, whether they were Magellan albums or projects of others that he played on or produced. “It is a matter of always doing something. So many bands get an album out there, let it run its course, and take a couple years off. I can’t do that. I have to keep working.”

After recording four Magellan albums for Magna Carta, Trent moved the band to another prog label Inside Out who released the next two Magellan efforts “Hundred Year Flood” and “Symphony For a Misanthrope.” Trent was starting to realize that perhaps being on a label was not the greatest way to promote his music. So in early 2006, Trent created his own label Muse-Wrapped Records. “One of the things that was good about being on the labels was I had at least gained some valuable insight about how the business of being an artist works. The more I did that the more I didn’t like that, so I figured creating my own label as the best course of action.” When Muse-Wrapped was launched, the next Magellan album was in its early stages, so they released three CDs that were ready to go; solo CDs by Trent’s Muse-Wrapped partner Jack Foster III; Kansas vocalist Steve Walsh; and Turkish songwriter Cenk Eroglu’s project Xcarnation. It actually took until the Spring of 2007 before Trent could release the newest Magellan album, “Innocent God. The album was recorded with former ELP spin-off 3 guitarist Robert Berry and release on May 15, 2007. “For me the new Magellan album has allowed me to be more independent than I ever have before. One reason I am enjoying the aftermath of the release of this album more than my previous ones is that I can see immediate results. It is really refreshing to do this on my own and it is more practical. I can wake up in the morning and see results right away, and get paid right away without having to wait for a royalty statement. I personally think putting the music out on your own is much better than a label deal.”

Trent shows no signs of slowing down. He just concluded work with Jack Foster III on the latter’s third album, and is working all the marketing facets for the Muse-Wrapped releases, with the exception of some business aspects he has farmed out to other companies. In another year or so, he thinks he will be ready to go into the studio to create the next Magellan project.  Trent has discovered he works well under the pressures of balancing the music and business sides of his labors of love. “When there is no pressure, there is no fun!” Trent muses. “It is much better being busy than being bored. For me, I am most pleased about there being a new Magellan album because I have been busier these past two years than I have been in my entire life. I’m amazed that with all the business aspects going on that I was able to do any music at all. So now I am much more inspired to create even more Magellan music.”


Trent Gardner’s advice for musicians: “I worked with so many incredible musicians who I managed to learn quite a bit from. These people were also incredibly humble in respecting what I was trying to do musically and listening to and respecting my ideas. Actually, the people I have had problems with have been the wannabes. It is almost always because of their ego problems. If you are going to have a band, the more you can get everyone involved and get everyone’s input out there, the better you are going to be. You can’t let your ego get in your way. All these bands that are successful do it that way so that is the model you have to follow as well. Also, don’t give up your mastering and distribution rights to anyone. Don’t wait around for a major label deal to happen. Just take it a day at a time and have an entrepreneur type attitude to get your music out there.”

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