Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane

Words by Dale Spangler | Photography by John Hebert
A film by Avery Rost


When asked which came first, motorcycles or music, Conner Troxell – known these days simply by his stage name, Conner – recalls how he was first introduced to motorcycles at a young age. Growing up, his dad raced motocross, so it was no surprise when, on his third birthday, he got his first dirt bike: a Yamaha PW50. 

Conner rode around on training wheels for a short while, but they quickly came off. He’s been hooked on two wheels ever since.

“I don’t think I started racing motocross until I was a little older, maybe five or six,” he recalls. “We had a track in town called Antietam MX, and I remember going there every Sunday, and maybe once or twice during the week for practice.” 

Like many aspiring racers, Conner and his father traveled to races in the area surrounding his hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland, a small commuter town halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. He recalls visiting tracks like Antietam and Budd’s Creek for the Pro National and remembers being around bikes his entire childhood. He also rode and raced BMX when he was younger and won three state championships.

Conner’s introduction to music came a few years later when, on his eighth birthday, his uncle – a lifelong guitarist who toured with major bands – gifted him a guitar. Little did he know back then that music would significantly influence his life, just like motorcycles. 

“I had the motocross side from my dad and the musician side from my uncle, and the two were meshed together,” he explains. “I remember my dad getting hurt so much in motocross. He broke both his wrists and couldn’t work for a couple of months. He broke his shoulder. Someone landed on him. I didn’t want to end up broken up like that. So, I leaned into BMX a little bit more because, even though it’s still not a safe sport, it was a little safer than motocross.” 

After finishing high school, Conner attended West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, West Virginia, a school with a reputation as one of the top party schools in the nation, where – according to Conner – the only things to do were ride motorcycles, snowboard and party. It was during this college period that, for the first time, he began to consider a music career seriously. 

Despite growing up playing music, it had never crossed his mind as a valid career option. He believed the only way to become a musician then was if one were famous and toured in front of tens of thousands of people. Music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music weren’t as readily available or established as they are today. So, he never believed it was possible and didn’t take his music seriously until college.

Despite early doubts, Conner still wrote and played music at WVU, and even performed a few shows under the former stage name C-Trox. Then, one year after classes were let out for the summer, he decided to drive fifty hours from Morgantown, W.V., to Los Angeles (straight through) to live for the summer. There, his focus was on networking and building connections in the music scene. After summer was over, he returned to Morgantown for fall classes. Conner did this for his final two years at WVU.

After graduating, Conner decided to take a chance on a music career and signed the lease on his first rental property in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. There, he assumed the ubiquitous role of the starving artist by doing menial jobs to make ends meet while simultaneously inserting himself into the L.A. music and social scenes. 

One of those jobs was songwriting and producing for other artists. And, as he explains it, he would get invited into a studio session, look at it as an opportunity, and take it seriously. “Even if I just came up with a small guitar part or a couple of lines here and there, maybe that person would go tell their friend, ‘Oh, yeah, Conner helped me with this song,’” he recalls. “The word started to spread until I was invited to more serious sessions. Sueco is one of my favorites. I wrote some songs for his debut album that did really well. He’s on a world tour now, and I should be getting a gold plaque soon. I was doing sessions for Atlantic Records, Warner Records and Ultra Records, and focused on that for a year or two.”

Since moving to Los Angeles, in addition to working with other artists, Conner has continued to develop his musical style by honing his craft, writing songs and riding motorcycles. Early on, he decided his songwriting process would be open, honest and vulnerable, with his lyrics capturing his life struggles and experiences, a decision that’s made him more relatable to his fans.

“I was thinking about songs I respect and artists I look up to,” he says. “And most of them were stories about their own life, where they were honest and vulnerable. Everyone hearing your story and seeing you’re vulnerable can be intimidating. It can be scary. But I made the decision that I didn’t want to be someone who was writing fake songs to sound cool. I want to be super honest and genuine, and I’m glad I took that path, because when people connect to the songs or DM me and say, ‘Oh, this helped me through this situation,’ they’ll know I lived that, that I feel the same way they do when they’re listening to that song. It’s created a cool connection between me and my fans, which I really enjoy.”

Conner is determined to be authentic and lives by the motto “show the world the real you” as he tries to stay true to himself as an artist and a person. “Sometimes, you’ll think you’re the only person who feels a certain way, and you’ll write a song about it and realize you’re not the only person going through that. Thousands of other people in the world have that same feeling. And sometimes that’s validating, knowing I’m not the only person who feels a certain way about something. It’s almost like therapy for me, writing music. And then to have people reach out to me and say, ‘I know what you’re going through,’ and they tell me their story. It’s a healing, almost a churchlike experience.”

Conner recently released his first full-length album, Life in the Fast Lane. In many ways, the album tells the story of his life early on, living and working in the Greater Los Angeles area. “It was when I was living in my friend’s house who had recently hit it big, signed a multi-million dollar record deal, bought this crazy house in the Hills, and invited me to move in with him. So, I was living this crazy Hollywood nightlife with celebrities everywhere, and I’m this kid from a small town. It felt like I was living life in the fast lane. I didn’t have a car. I rode a dirt bike around town, doing wheelies up and down Sunset Boulevard on a street-legal KTM. I wrote the song ‘Bite the Bullet’ and came up with the line ‘Full speed, don’t stop,’ which is about me being on my bike. It was genuinely life in the fast lane.”

When asked what influences his music, Conner quickly mentions his motorcycle and how many of his song ideas come to him when not thinking about music. “I used to have a 110 pit bike that I built BMX jumps for,” he explains. “When I was hitting the jumps, ideas would always come to me – when you’re in that flow state, where you’re just enjoying life and not thinking about responsibilities, what you have to do later, or what email you have to send. That’s when ideas seem to hit me, when I’m doing something I genuinely enjoy. Surfing is another big one. I get a lot of ideas while surfing as well.”

As far as musical influences and how he describes his musical style, Conner admits he’s evolved his sound over time. While in college, his sound was more hip-hop-based, but he still loved the guitar, so it was hip-hop music influenced by guitar. However, once he moved to L.A., he began hanging around other talented musicians who could play instruments and teach him things. During this period, his music shifted toward more of an alternative rock, pop-punk sound. Lately, he’s been focused on U.K. Garage rock and lists Oasis, The Cure, Blur and Radiohead as recent influences.

Another thing he cites as having influenced his music are the three places where he’s spent most of his life: Hagerstown (where he grew up); Morgantown (where he went to college); and Los Angeles  (where he currently resides). Going from a small town where everybody knew one another to an isolated college town with forty-thousand students, to Los Angeles – one of the biggest cities in the world – was a culture shock for him. 

But with each successive move, his music seemed to grow and evolve, with each location influencing the sound of his music. “It was crazy because it just kept elevating,” he recalls. “It felt like it was going from one level to the next, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. These places inspired my music. I started writing more small town-type vibes, then I was writing college party-type songs, and now I’m in L.A. trying to write stuff that the whole world will like.”

Conner is currently working on his next full-length album, a project he envisions as a complete brand experience. The album will be called Crash Course and is mostly finished, except for the final details of mixing, mastering and finalizing the tracks. He intends to do a Crash Course clothing brand alongside the album for a unique, one-off experience. “I have a lot of cool stuff that I’m planning around the album as a brand,” he shares excitedly. “I want to turn it into something more than just music. It’s a concept album that follows Life in the Fast Lane and continues my story. Life in the Fast Lane was that moment when I was living in the Hollywood Hills. And now I’m in Silver Lake, and this is my Crash Course over there. It’s been like starting a new moment for myself and my career.”

With sound and vibration an integral parts of the motorcycle and musical experience, drawing a parallel between them becomes easy. To Conner, the best songs are the ones you can feel – that hit you somewhere inside, deep in your heart, and pull you in. Something he feels translates to being on a bike as well. “If you’re racing and going through a whoop section, holding on for dear life, there’s nothing else you can be focused on. Your entire focus is not falling off the bike. All those things are what make riding motorcycles so exciting. It’s your only focus. You’re not thinking about other things in your life; you’re just enjoying the moment, and you’re pulled in because of the sound of the bike and vibration and how the handlebars shake. That’s what makes motorcycles and music so similar.”

Along the way, Conner has been able to perform in front of live audiences, which – in his mind – elevates the musical experience to an even higher level. All those people focused on the sound, excited, clapping, singing along – he equates the adrenaline rush of performing on stage to being on a motorcycle that goes a thousand miles an hour.

Whether riding or making music, Conner has learned to tap into that adrenaline and find his flow state to write his songs and lyrics while continuing at full speed toward musical success. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked being outside. I was always that kid who, as soon as I got home from school, would go down to the BMX jumps and dig all day while my other friends might be inside playing video games.” 

That’s still true today in Conner’s day-to-day life, and when he’s not actively making music at home on his computer, he’s outside doing something like riding his motorcycle, going as hard as he can to make it to the top.

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