Levi Hummon Answers His Country Calling
For Levi Hummon, spending 18 hours with Steven Tyler was no big deal. Okay, it was kind of a big deal, but by the time the 24-year-old country newcomer turned to greet the rocker-turned-country-troubadour, he’d grown past the geek-out phase of his life.
Hummon — son of songwriter Marcus Hummon and one of the more promising newcomers in Nashville — recalls Tyler’s voice coming through his telephone one day. In the snap of the finger the young singer was at the icon's studio, waiting for instructions on how the Aerosmith singer wanted to approach a song called "Red, White & You." It’d become a single, a highlight of the WE Fest performer's live show, and a famous commercial.
"Yesterday I saw the Skittles commercial where he’s talking to himself," Hummon reveals, "and I’m like, 'I’m that Skittles poster.'"
Growing up with a songwriting father meant he'd pass by artists like the Dixie Chicks or Rascal Flatts in his living room on his way to school. Marcus Hummon wrote "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Bless the Broken Road," but didn’t immediately push his talented son into the profession. Levi started school at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was supposed to be studying visual arts, but he admits he spent most of his time at the beach with pretty girls, or with a guitar in his hand. From time to time he’d share his ideas with his father, who’d encourage him to move back to Nashville.
“I was like, ‘Can I drop out?’” Levi says, smiling. Instead he transferred to Belmont University so he could immerse himself in the songwriting culture. Within three months he scored a publishing deal, which allowed him quit school with his parents' blessing.
“That day was the day I chose to be an artist, chose to do this and started really developing my sound and dedicating myself,” he says, seated at his record label (Big Machine Music Group).
As an artist, he's influenced by the Clash, Bob Dylan, EDM music and rapper Yo Gotti. The blue-eyed soul of Ed Sheeran is the most direct comparison, but like so many young artists, you can't dump the songs on his iPhone into a specific genre.
“I really like to write like a Jackson Pollock painting. Like a giant canvas, with just splatters everywhere,” Hummon says. “For (my own music), it’s like a little one by one inch of that paining where I kind of exist and hone in and work."
The Levi Hummon EP includes five commercial country songs that he says represents who he can be as an artist. His full length album will go deeper. The Keith Urban-influenced “Window Down Days” and personal “Chain Reaction” are highlights. A girl inspired the ballad, penned about an unending cycle of hook up, hangout and break up.
“That day I went and played her the song, and I think … that became like ‘Okay, it’s finally over.’” Later she’d text that she liked it — a lot. Hummon smiles and shifts as he recalls ignoring the message.
"Red, White & You" wouldn’t have made the EP or his upcoming album, Hummon says. Tyler brought that song to life after hearing only part of the demo. “Dude Looks Like a Lady” writer Desmond Child is his mentor, and he introduced the rocker to the catchy love song. He flipped out and asked Hummon to cut a guide vocal.
“I spent like 18 hours basically in the studio, locked in with Steven Tyler singing songs,” he shares, smiling in a ‘that didn’t suck’ kind of way.
There isn’t an official radio single from Levi Hummon, but fans may hear “Guts and Glory” in commercials for Dodge Ram trucks. Stream the EP on Spotify — fans of Urban and Sheeran will appreciate his style, songwriting and sound. He'll also play the Cannery Ballroom on June 7 during the 2016 CMA Music Festival.
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