Interview: Heartbreak, Genes and Good Songs Lead Levi Hummon to Country Music
As the son of famed songwriter Marcus Hummon (Dixie Chicks' "Ready to Run," Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road"), Levi Hummon is no stranger to country music -- but, he initially had plans to be a painter instead of a musician. However, when a girlfriend broke his heart in college, he pulled out the guitar his dad had bought him as a high school graduation gift and set himself on an entirely new career trajectory.
"I've always existed in that songwriter world, and that’s where I’ve watched my dad. He’s also a performer, but for the most part, songwriting is my comfort zone," Hummon tells The Boot. "Becoming an entertainer and becoming an artist, there’s so much work that goes into that as well. I think that’s where I push myself constantly, getting up onstage and not just being able to sing a song, but be able to engage a crowd and be able to tell a story and make people feel a connection to me in some capacity."
Hummon began as an independent artist but earned the notice of Big Machine Label Group after they heard his song "Make It Love," which he wrote for the movie Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro.
"The movie actually got short-listed for an Oscar, and based on that, we decided to make a music video for it," Hummon recalls. "It was very low budget but fun, and showcased me for the first time ever singing a song. Allison Jones, [BMLG's] head of A&R, saw it, and she asked me to come to her office and perform.
"I’d never done anything like this in my life," he continues. "I basically stood in front of her, in her little conference room, which was like 8-by-8, and played it for her face-to-face. [She called label head Scott Borchetta] and said, ‘Scott, you’ve got to hear this!’ ... I sat there in front of Scott and played him the song. About three weeks later, he came to one of my showcases and signed me to his record label. It was that fast."
The record deal itself may have come about quickly, but Hummon has spent the last two and a half years working on his recently released eponymous debut EP while putting the finishing touches on his first full-length album.
"I’ve been playing this set live, and the songs are the more uptempo songs -- the 'crank your windows down and turn up the radio' songs," the tunesmith explains. "But diving into the album, I really plan to show the more artistic side of me as well, and kind of expressing myself differently. I feel like there’s a lot more material; I’ve been writing for two and a half years, sometimes five days a week, sometimes two times a day, so there’s a ton of material, and this is just the first round."
Hummon co-wrote four of the five songs on his EP, which also features hit songwriters such as Tom Douglas, Jimmy Robbins and Matt Jenkins, among others. His Grammy-winning dad doesn't have any songs on the project, but Hummon says that he still deserves a lot of the credit.
"At first, unless it was my dad, I couldn’t get a write to save my life. Nobody wanted to write with me other than my dad; nobody other than my dad, and whoever he was writing with, would write with me," Hummon admits. "It took me making small connections and meeting other people in the industry, and just trying to develop my own circle of writers that I really enjoy writing with."
Hummon adds that "a major step for me creatively was stepping in a room with Jimmy Robbins." Robbins, who was introduced to Hummon via a song plugger, felt such a connection with the young star that he ended up producing Hummon's EP and introducing him to several of his songwriting friends.
"I almost say he’s like my Paul McCartney to my John Lennon," Hummon boasts. "Whenever he’s in a room, we’ll sit there for, like, 45 minutes, and a song always comes out. I don’t know how it is. It’s like a fire that is lit, and you just need to keep getting candles from the fire and keep it lit. Creatively, that was one of the best experiences.
"I do feel fortunate, of course," he continues. "The fact that somebody takes their time and invests in you as an artist, and invests in you as a human being, and invests in you as a creative soul, is super important to me."
The Levi Hummon EP is available for download on iTunes.
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