Interview: How Trent Harmon Let His Fans Have a Say in His New Album
During his days on American Idol, Trent Harmon was known for giving performances in a wide array of styles and genres, but he always felt most comfortable in the country format. That's why, for the past two years, the singer has been writing and recording his debut album in Nashville.
On Friday (May 18), Harmon released the project, You Got 'Em All. In advance of the disc's debut, he told The Boot that he has enjoyed becoming part of the Music City songwriting community since his Idol win in 2016.
"Everyone's welcomed me with open arms. My calendar's full of co-writes right now," he says. "When we started the process [of making an album], I didn't even know if I could write. I knew that I'd tried, but I never really had a reason to before, because I didn't have a record deal, and I didn't have a hope of making a debut album ...
"Obviously I had to be able to sing to win the show, but I wanted to be able to say that I write, also," Harmon adds. "I feel like that not only carries a lot more weight in Nashville, but also carries a lot more weight with me and the artists that I listen to. Looking back at this point when I'm 20 years down the road, I wanted to be able to say that I wrote these songs. I wanted to say that I wrote a given lyric, and that there's a reason why this line comes before that line.
"In the country format, we live and die by authenticity," he concludes, "so I thought that was a good first step forward."
Harmon co-wrote all but three of You Got 'Em All's tracks, and each of those three he didn't write was included on the album for an important reason. The record's third track, "Hold On," was co-written by Chris Stapleton.
"It was an honor just to be handed a song that Stapleton wrote on," says Harmon, who also performed two Stapleton tracks during his time on Idol. "I wanted to write as much as possible, but I also thought that if there was a special song I came across that I thought would apply to me and what I was trying to say on this record, then I would want to hear it.
"I think the message of this song is very applicable [in the current moment], and I love singing songs of hope, you know?" Harmon says of "Hold On." "There are enough sad country songs, and I love sad songs, but they can be so easy to write. It's hard to write a good, happy, believable song."
In a nod to the Idol performances fans know and love, Harmon also decided to select a couple of the songs he performed on the show for You Got 'Em All.
"There are enough sad country songs, and I love sad songs, but they can be so easy to write. It's hard to write a good, happy, believable song."
""Falling" was the last song I'd ever performed onstage on the show, and also it was co-written by Keith Urban, so that song was special to me," Harmon explains. "Then, while I was thinking about which Idol songs to include on this album, I polled fans ... That poll came out overwhelmingly in favor of [my Sia cover], "Chandelier.""
The ubiquity of social media provides artists of all stripes the chance to speak directly with their fans, but Harmon says, as that story proves, he uses the platforms to give his listeners some input over the music he puts out and how he showcases it.
"I use social media not so much to speak, but rather to listen," Harmon explains. "I'll ask fans: 'What songs did you like from that set? What parts did you like, and why?' Rather than just telling them, 'This is what we're doing and I know you're going to like it,' I'll ask them what they like and try to do more of that."
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