Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
He’s a star on the rise. If you don’t yet know Levi Hummon, you’re about to meet one of the coolest, most genuine young country artists via my conversation with him at CRS 2020.
Just like many things I do, this one had a rough start, with me scouring the crowded lobby of the Omni Hotel in Nashville searching for Levi Hummon. I was told to meet him “in the lobby”, but if you’ve ever been in the Omni lobby, you’ll know it has a few hiding places. Coffee shop? No Levi. Fireplace sofas? Nope. Somewhere in the mass of people milling around the front door area? I don’t see him. It became a new version of Where’s Waldo? I was calling it Looking for Levi. Just about the time I was ready to give up, I was texted further directions and like magic, there he was, on time and ready to rock. So, let’s roll the audio and see what we said, shall we?
Think Country: Levi, now that we’ve found you let’s just get to it. You have a new single out, “Wedding Dress”. Such a great song. Was it inspired by anyone in real life, if you care to share that?
Video courtesy of Levi Hummon and YouTube
Levi Hummon: Thank you! Yes, actually it was. I was at a wedding with my girlfriend and I just looked over at her and thought, “I’d love to see her in a wedding dress, or any really beautiful dress,” so that’s where that came from.
TC: All of your songs are really good, but my favorite is “Stupid” and I’ll tell you why. Well, first, I love that you wrote it with Chris DeStefano. He’s such a great writer and it’s cool that he was a part of this one. I love how it talks about being young and reckless and just going and doing something stupid and not wasting your youth on being too good all the time. It’s like, once you’re an adult you can’t get away with doing all of those reckless things. It kind of gives me validation for all the stupid things I ever did when I was young (laughing). Just a really great song.
LH: It’s funny because I have two younger brothers here in Nashville and they were using “stupid”, “dumb” or “wild”, like, everything has a reverse meaning nowadays, especially in hip young slang. Like, they’d say, “I’m gonna go out to a party, let’s get so stupid,” and I’d be like, “What?” Then I thought about it and I realized that was a really cool way to put it, like, “Who cares? Let’s just be dumb. Let’s fall in love. Let’s make mistakes.” It’s all about a relationship, which is what the song is written for. It’s this no-brainer concept, let’s just be stupid for this one time and not care what our friends say. That title just kind of wrote itself, and then being able to have merch and put “Stupid” on a hat was another selling point for us. Then if you’re wearing a “Stupid” hat and you don’t know who I am it looks extra stupid. (Laughing)
TC: Exactly! It’s perfect. When I first saw the title, I wondered if it was like “Stupid Boy” (Keith Urban song), but it’s thoroughly not like that.
LH: Right. I love that song, by the way. That’s a song of mine that I discovered not all that long ago. I knew a lot of the obvious Keith Urban hits but I didn’t know “Stupid Boy”. For all my music knowledge and growing up in Nashville, I hadn’t discovered that song, but when I did, I really fell in love with it.
TC: Yeah, it’s one of those that once you’ve heard it, you have to just love it.
LH: Yeah. I know Dave Berg too. (One of the songwriters of “Stupid Boy”)
TC: You probably know a lot of people like that I would guess.
LH: I do, but Dave is like the most humble dude, so when I met him I never knew he wrote the song. That was part of the discovery of the song, it was like, wait, this very humble person that I know also wrote this song.
TC: That’s really cool. Actually, let me touch on that really fast. Do you ever feel like sometimes you have to justify that you’re Levi Hummon, you’re not Marcus Hummon’s kid and you want to do your own thing? (For those who don’t know, Marcus Hummon is one of the biggest hit songwriters in Nashville. Google his credits if you want to be dazzled.)
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
LH: Well, in the industry, yes. It’s all about carving your own lane and that’s part of the reason that sometimes I really choose to embrace my dad as a songwriting person, write with him and be present with him, and other times I stay away from it and try to create my own sound and my own writing path. I meet my own co-writers and create my own relationships in town and that’s really important for me, but when you leave the 440 circle, nobody really knows who the Hell my dad is anyway. They know the songs. They know “God Bless the Broken Road”, they know “Cowboy Take Me Away”, but I have to really do it myself anyway. When I’m in Chicago, people are like, “Oh, you’re Marcus Hummon’s son,” and I’m like, “No. I’m Levi Hummon and my dad just happened to write a couple songs.”
TC: Wow. That humble and a great way of putting it.
LH: So, no matter what, I’m out there busting my ass and trying to make people know who the Hell I am anyway.
TC: Good for you! You know, when I talked to your mom (I interviewed Levi’s mom, Becca Stevens, who is the Founder and President of Thistle Farms. Google that too. She’s amazing.), she was very good about interjecting your name. She’s your biggest fan and thinks so highly of you. She’s a rock star.
LH: I love my mom. That’s funny you should say that because we say my dad’s a songwriter, I’m an artist and my mom’s a rock star.
TC: I think you’re a rock star too. You’re young, you’re good looking and you seem to have your head on straight.
LH: Well, thank you. Give me some champagne and whiskey and I’ll prove you wrong.
(We then got into a brief discussion about my birthday which was two days before this interview took place and that somehow led to beer.)
TC: People always ask what kind of great advice did your father give you? My father told me, “Don’t waste beer.” I think that should go on his headstone.
LH: You know, that’s a country song right there.
TC: That’s the exact quote, if you ever want to write it.
LH: I might write it.
TC: You don’t even need to give me credit, maybe just put something in the liner notes.
LH: Daddy’s epitaph.
TC: That’s all you need. So, anyway, where will you be bringing all this music that you have? Where will you be touring?
LH: Yeah, so last year was amazing. We went on tour with Hunter Hayes. He’s incredibly talented, like no other artist.
TC: He can play everything.
LH: He can play everything and beyond that he’s just a good person and he cares about his fans. So, that was super important to me because I really related to his fans. Getting out there in front of him, and looking like him a little bit, “Hey, I’m not Hunter Hayes everybody,” that was the big joke of the tour, but it was just an amazing connection with that fan base. It really set me on a different kind of trajectory than I expected. Then getting to open up for Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, all these amazing artists was just incredible.
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
TC: Even for you, a Nashville guy that’s been surrounded by the music industry, that had to have been so surreal.
LH: Oh, yeah, the experience of opening up for them and sharing that stage and those fan bases, and being able to say, “I opened up for this person,” it’s incredible. On top of that, the best experience from last year where I got to bring my music on the road, was headlining my first little tour. There were 20 dates, really small, I played historic clubs like Joe’s on Weed Street (Chicago). I got to play the Tri-State area, the southeast, it was just incredible, I didn’t know what to expect. It was really, really special.
TC: When you play those smaller clubs you really get to know your audience, don’t you?
LH: Yeah, you do and I really didn’t think there would be anybody coming out and in Grand Ra;pids, for instance, there were like 350 people in the room. I played there once before and everybody knew every word to every song, like, unreleased and everything. It was truly incredible and I’m really excited to do more of that this year. We’re working on more headlining dates and I really want to get back to the UK.
Photo courtesy of The Stache Benjamin Howell Photography and Levi Hummon
TC: Yes, please tell me about the UK!
LH: I am trying so hard to get back there because people over there are so interested in the song and the songwriters. To me, that’s such an important part of this business and country music is unique in that it’s a storytelling genre. So, we come from the Opry and the Opry is like a family tradition, the families behind it and the music that comes from it, generations of inspiration and everything.
TC: I’ve read all about the history of the Opry and it’s fascinating.
LH: It is. The story of how Hank Williams, Sr. got kicked out of the Opry because he was drunk and fell off the stage, and now he’s the most iconic country artist and he’s not even a member.
TC: Then Johnny Cash went and smashed out all the lights at the Opry and got kicked out, but then they let him back in. Hank’s still out, right?
LH: Yeah. I’ll probably have to do something similar to that for my final performance.
Photo courtesy of Grand Ole Opry and Levi Hummon
TC: When you do I want to be at that show, so maybe give me a heads up when that’s gonna happen. Of course, I don’t think you can do that nowadays and get away with it.
LH: No, not anymore. Too much social media.
TC: Yeah, so the UK. You need to get back. They’ll eat you up and not let you out again.
LH: We did C2C in 2018, the Kristian Bush tour which was incredible. We did Scotland all the way down to London which was just amazing. I loved Bush Hall (West London), that was my favorite. It’s a really cool spot. It was so funny, because we did the full tour with Kristian Bush and our only night off was St. Patrick’s Day in London, and the next day we had our show at Bush Hall. So, I went out with Kristian and we all went out and had a good time.
TC: He’s so nice.
LH: It was so fun, but I literally felt like such crap the next day. I’d been overseas for two and a half weeks and the big throwdown was the night before the last show. That last show, we literally threwdown the night before, but it was incredible. We were like, “We’re just putting it out there. We don’t feel good, but we’re just gonna go out there and do it.”
Video courtesy of Lauren Bayram and YouTube
TC: You felt awful but you were gonna go out there and put on a great show even if you felt like you were dying.
LH: Oh, yeah, and honestly, it was probably the most incredible show of that whole run.
TC: Really? Well, hey, as long as you show up. Waylon Jennings did it.
LH: Hey, I did it. I love the UK. They’re so supportive over there. It was so cool because one of the first times I ever played “Stupid” live, I actually released it when I was in Europe, the first time I ever sang it live in London everybody already knew all the words to the song.
TC: Does that freak you out? Everybody always tells me that. In the UK people know all the words to their songs.
LH: Part of the reason we could tell the song was gonna do well was we went over there and “Stupid” was the best song already and it was out for like a week.
TC: That’s nuts.
LH: Then the next time we went over there it was “Songs We Sang”. I released that song when I was in the UK again. Tried to put that mojo on it.
TC: You have the mojo apparently.
LH: Well, I have great fans too.
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
TC: You must and if we can make more fans, that’s great. So, what do you do when you’re not doing music?
LH: Oh my gosh, I work out a lot and I eat a lot of food, so I do both, like opposite sides of the spectrum. My new thing lately, honest to God, has just been boxing. I love boxing. It’s been a really great thing for me to get all my anger and frustration out. The music business, and a lot of people don’t know this, but it’s 90% “no” and the other 10% is “yes”. It’s the 90% that kind of frustrates you and beats you down, but it’s also what you literally use as fuel. So, to me, boxing has been a really fun thing to do.
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
TC: That’s interesting.
LH: I love to travel, so I try to travel as much as possible.
TC: Where was your last trip?
LH: I just went to Mexico. It was partly work because I had to play one show, but I had six days just to chill in Mexico.
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
TC: Did you do anything fun in Mexico, or was it just laying on the beach and drinking tequila?
LH: I pretty much just layed on the beach, but it was incredible because it’s been so crappy here weather-wise.
TC: You got to be where it was warm and sunny.
LH: Other than that pretty much everything I do is music.
(I had a game sitting on the table called “Chat Pack” which has cards with random questions on them. I asked Levi to pick any card and read the question on it and answer it.)
TC: I’m going to ask you to pick a “Chat Pack” card randomly next.
LH: Awesome. (Picks card and reads it out loud) “What moment of glory have you watched another person celebrate that you too would love to experience if you could?” That’s a really deep one.
TC: Yeah, it is.
LH: Wow. I think watching a bunch of my peers being nominated for or winning Best New Artist at the CMA Awards. I feel like that’s a goal of mine that I really want to achieve in the next couple years. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it yet, but I think everything starts with a song and it’s all about having the right music, but that’s something I want to do.
TC: That’s great. I think you picked the right question.
LH: Yep. I hope that’s the right answer. I say if you put it out in the universe it’ll happen.
TC: You just did. I think it will. Can you feel it? I feel it. It’s gonna happen. When it does, I’ll be watching TV going, “It happened!”
LH: I love it. Let’s do another one. I like these.
TC: The Cadillac Three wanted to do another one too.
LH: (Reading the question on the next card) “If you had to spend an entire summer working at one of our country’s national parks or historic sites which one would you choose?” Alright, so, my dad never spent his songwriting money on anything nice, it was always like, trips, travel, we went to Africa eight or nine times…
TC: I love that. Those are experiences.
LH: Yeah, so I got to hang out with my brothers and do all this amazing stuff and one year we hit every single national park, well, not every single one, because that’s a lot, but we went out west and tried to hit as many as possible. We actually did it three summers in a row, but I love Yellowstone National Park, that’s an obvious one, but Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks, actually most beautiful places on Earth, it’s incredible. I would spend my summer there, just fly fishing, relaxing, hiking and avoiding bears.
TC: Avoiding bears is very good advice.
LH: I’m very scared of bears after I’ve hiked a couple times and ran into a couple.
TC: Did you? Did they chase you?
LH: There was one experience where I was actually separated from the group but my mom and my two brothers literally ran into a grizzly bear on the trail. They had to just run away and it was very frightening.
TC: Yikes. That’s scary. So, you would go there. You picked two really good cards. You had the answers right away. The Cadillac Three had an interesting one. They had “What was a moment where you wished you had taken a photo but you didn’t?” They had an interesting answer.
LH: I did have one moment where I wish I had taken a photo. I just opened up for Tim McGraw this past year which was incredible, but onstage I was telling this story and I just wish there was a photograph of it, It was my dad’s number one party for “One of These Days” which was a huge Tim McGraw song back in the 90’s, and Tim McGraw literally got on his knees and took his hat off, and I had a hat on and he switched hats with me. I don’t know what he said, but it was something like, “One day you’re gonna be an artist and you’re gonna want this hat back, but I’m not gonna give it to you.” I just remember that moment of him handing me that hat and I just wish I had a photo of that moment.
TC: Somebody has to have a picture of that.
LH: I did have the hat in my parents’ closet for a long time. I do remember telling that story during my whole high school experience and my first couple song writes and people were always asking me, “Does Tim McGraw have hair?” That was the only thing people cared about. Turns out, he did.
TC: He did? Did you look good, or was it so obvious you couldn’t help but see he had hair?
LH: It was just there.
TC: Fun fact. Tim McGraw had hair under his hat. One more thing, I do remember a story you told at the Opry about another number one party for your dad at BMI. You were a little kid and you jumped in the fountain and your mom had to fish you out. I think our readers would enjoy that one.
LH: Yeah, so at BMI they have these little fountains with pools of water and I famously pulled off my pants and jumped in the water at BMI and was swimming around. My mom had to hike up her skirt, go out into the water and pull me out. So, that was my claim to fame at the BMI Awards for about five years.
TC: I think it’s not for five years. I think it’s forever.
LH: Well, yeah. A little naked kid in the water.
TC: It was probably cute.
LH: They said I was the only person to ever swim in the BMI fountain.
TC: I hope that stands. I won’t take my granddaughter there. She might break your record.
LH: Me and my brothers, we were wild.
TC: Your mom told me you could be at times.
LH: I’m just now beginning to calm down. The middle one is calming down too, he just got a serious girlfriend which I think helps. The youngest one is still off his rocker. It’s just part of the Hummon experience.
TC: It’s keeping your mom and dad young.
LH: My poor parents, I feel bad for them.
TC: Nah, they like it. It gives them stories.
LH: That’s true.
Photo courtesy of Levi Hummon
TC: Well, it’s been a pleasure Levi. Thanks so much for talking with me today.
LH: Awesome, likewise!
My advice to all of you out there in Think Country Land is not to wait until Levi Hummon is a superstar and selling out big shows before you become a fan. Do it now. Go get his music, follow him on social media and absolutely go to a show. If you get to meet him, please tell him Think Country sent you!
Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country
Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic/Think Country
Levi Hummon Website: http://levihummon.com/#home
*Featured image courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country