Authentic, genuine, sincere, talented. Those are respectable words to describe rising country artist Levi Hummon. But spend a little time with the young Nashville native and another word rises among the adjectives.
“If I’m not saying, singing and feeling what I’m singing, then I shouldn’t be singing it at all.”Levi Hummon
And with the release of his six-song EP, Patient, listeners finally hear the results of that drive.
One of those rare artists that was both born and raised in Nashville, Levi cultivated a lot of that determination on his own, but some of it is pure DNA. His father is GRAMMY award-winning, singer/songwriter Marcus Hummon and his mother is CNN “Hero of the Year” recipient Reverend Becca Stevens. Levi witnessed firsthand how to dream big and how to make those dreams happen.
But growing up in Nashville and being the eldest son of such accomplished parents didn’t cement his destiny in the city’s ever-evolving music business. In fact, there was a time when Levi didn’t even consider music as a future.
Levi remembers, “I would be going to these country music events and meeting people like the Dixie Chicks and Rascal Flatts, and I would be listening to music like the White Stripes and Outkast, but every time I would pick up a guitar, it would be country music. I never picked up a guitar and wanted to write a rock song. One of the first songs that I wrote was called ‘Dance with Me,’ and out of all the crazy punk music I liked, it was about a guy and a girl that wanted to dance together in a church.”
Fast forward a few years and it was actually another activity that became the unconventional and eventual doorway to Hummon’s musical career. “I loved skateboarding and music is really ingrained in that culture as well,” he says. “For me, it started with the Ramones, The Clash, then it became Jeff Buckley, then Mumford and Sons. I think that was just another element of me searching for my creative self.”
Still hoping to carve his own path, he enrolled in college in Florida to pursue a degree in visual arts. However, he combined painting and sculpting with music, creating his own hybrid of art and design. It seemed inevitable that he would return to his roots.
Levi admits, “I was always searching for what I wanted to do creatively, whether it was painting or sculpting. I wasn’t sure what was going to be my thing. It turns out songwriting was the most honest version of myself. Melodies were the thing, that’s what got me into music because I love this idea that you can sing notes that make people feel something and that are unique and interesting. Yes, my dad is a musician, but he pushed us to be painters, he pushed us to go outside and just live. I wasn’t searching for something musical, music just found me in that environment.”
Returning to Nashville and enrolling in Belmont University, Levi began developing his songwriting, refining the craft with the help of other writers, but forming his own voice.
Inspired by his father’s catalog of country hits, including Tim McGraw’s “One of These Days,” the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly,” and Wynonna Judd’s “Only Love,” Levi dove in to Nashville’s rich writing community and began with a loose philosophy for himself. “It’s so important for me to be honest. I think that’s the number-one thing in music. I just want to write what I’m feeling and who I am. If I’m not saying, singing and feeling what I’m singing, then I shouldn’t be singing it at all. How I’ve learned how to do that is sitting in rooms with great writers and figuring out ways to be excited, because you write so many songs that are all about love or other things you’ve written about before. Figuring out new ways to say that keeps me stoked. He continues, “Your listeners are going to sense dishonesty. If you have a no holds barred attitude with everything you write, I feel like it becomes way more authentic and that integrity that I need in my life exists in my music.”
Of course, he can credit his mother equally for instilling a commitment to integrity and doing the right thing. Becca Stevens is a best-selling author, ordained priest, and founder of the non-profit organizations Magdalene and Thistle Farms, facilities that assist survivors of human trafficking, prostitution, and drug addiction. Her efforts have enlightened an entire community and inspired her son to write a song entitled “Love Heals.”
“I grew up watching her create Magdalene and Thistle Farms here in Nashville,” he says. “It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen and it’s truly an example of how love has the power to change people’s lives. ‘Love Heals’ was an example of me writing for her ministry. As an artist, you search for something to lift up and to lift you up and that just kind of fell in my lap.”
As often happens in the music business, Levi eventually secured a recording contract, but the label offered him an out when his project was delayed. He took the opportunity to regroup and get some solid advice from his dad.
Without a trace of bitterness or regret, Levi says, “It’s just part of the path. It’s so important to me to remember that there’s a reason for everything. I feel like I’ve taken a journey and become a better artist, musician, and a better songwriter especially.”
“My dad had multiple record deals, and it really was rough for him,” he says. “’God Bless the Broken Road,’ ‘One of These Days’, and two other songs were on his first record. None of them went to radio, nothing happened with them, but those are some of the greatest songs from that era of country music. My dad just stayed true to himself and kept making amazing music and kept writing.”
“I had a conversation with my dad the night that I made the decision to walk away from the label and release music independently, and he said, ‘Now you get to figure out how bad you want it and what you’re going to do to get it,” Levi remembers.
He clearly wants it bad. When the opportunity arose for him to beef up his performance chops, he took it. He smiles and says, “I’ve had the privilege of opening up for artists like Sam Hunt, Kelsea Ballerini, Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride, and it’s unreal. You go out there, you put your heart on the line, and then you watch the headliner and learn a little bit from each of them. You become an amalgamation of all the people you’ve watched before.”
On the surface, the affable 27-year-old may seem like other young men his age—one of the guys, a favorite among the girls, a ready smile, a quick wit, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. But dig a little deeper. He is more than the sum of his parts. When he talks about his future, there is no mention of awards, Platinum albums or chart-topping hits, but instead, there is integrity. He thoughtfully says, “I just want to be an artist that sang the songs that he wanted to sing and made the music that he wanted to make who exists in his own lane and isn’t competing with anyone else.”