Country singer-songwriter Levi Hummon has put in his time. And now, it’s his time.
Hummon’s readiness has been a decade in the making, and you can hear it in his break-out hit “Paying for It,” the instantly infectious collaboration with Walker Hayes, and in his brand new song “Bottled Up.” Both tunes offer bona fide proof that working on his songwriting, playing and performing for the past ten years is paying off and giving fans a chance to hear Hummon at his best.
While Hummon spent his 20s practicing his art, his immersion into country music started much, much earlier: the day he was born. His father Marcus Hummon is one of Nashville’s most prolific Grammy-winning songwriters, having penned The Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road,” Tim McGraw’s “One of These Days,” Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly” and hundreds more. So growing up with his dad composing at the piano meant that the soundtrack for Levi’s childhood was almost always country music.
“I just turned 30, but when I think about how I just grew up in country music, my music now is the best example of how I’ve grown up,” he says. “This year I am really digging into who grown-up Levi is, and how does he want to represent himself with his music. My songs have always been a good reflection of where I was at that time, and now that I’ve been at it for a decade, I’m making music that is more about who I want to be and know I can be.”
Being raised by a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist meant that Levi had master classes early and often, from the time his dad taught him his first three chords on the guitar. “I wrote about a million songs with just those three chords. That was the only way I knew how to write a song. So even though I didn’t listen to country music much as a teenager, whenever I picked up a guitar,” he recalls, “it would always come out sounding like a well-structured country song.”
Inheriting his father’s musical genes led Hummon to where he is now: poised to be one of Nashville’s most highly-anticipated artists. One who is now just as at ease in a songwriting session as he is in the studio and on stage.
Hummon honed those skills opening for nearly all the country music greats. Not just because his family was in the industry, but because he earned his place on those stages with his earlier music. He credits artists like Keith Urban, Hunter Hayes, and Kip Moore with taking him on the tours that taught him how to tour. “I pulled away a better artist every time I opened for someone new. I learned something from every one of those artists, and I know what a blessing that is.”
In fact, he still has the hat that McGraw gave him when he was about 8 years old, at a No. 1 party in Nashville with his father. “Tim took his hat off and goes, ‘This is for you kid. One of these days, you’re gonna do something like this.’ Then in 2019, I got to open up for him in Michigan, and it was at that show that he told me he was going to cut a song I’d co-written called ‘Not from California.’ It was the happiest moment of my entire life,” he recalls, “because I realized that I found the most joy in the making of music.” Even on his early EPs -- Levi Hummon, Patient and 36/86 – you can hear how much that music making comes naturally to him.
As Hummon was leaning towards all kinds of artistry after high school, he landed at an arts school in Florida, where he learned the most important lesson about himself: that songwriting was the art he loved the most. “The music, the lyrics, the melodies. I loved all of that so much more than the other art forms. So I starting sending songs back home to my dad. About one a day. And he finally said, ‘Levi. You’re in Florida trying to be a songwriter, but you’re from Nashville. Just come back home.’ There was no doubt in my mind when I got home that music had taken over my life completely.”
Both Hummon’s grandfather and great grandfather wrote some of their own music, but it was his father who was the first one to make a lucrative and legendary career of it. Levi will be the second. In order to create his own path as an artist, he knows that he owes it to the family to hit country music with his best shot. “There’s something in our blood, and I won’t ever deny that,” he says. “I embrace it.”
The viral sensation of “Paying for It” demonstrates that country fans are embracing it, too. And his follow-up tune “Bottled Up” is starting to reveal more of who Hummon is: a little countrier, with a roughness to his edges, and a little more grungy and dirty. “The song is about how I bottle up my emotions and also literally bottle up with a beer at the bar — instead of talking it out. It’s about admitting to yourself that, ‘This probably isn’t the healthiest coping mechanism to get over you, but it’s what I do you. And, if anyone needs me, you know just where I am.’”
Meanwhile, country fans are falling in love with the sound of 90s country music all over again, and Hummon is able to take that nostalgia for a spin as well. “That frequency is relevant again,” he says, “and I am tuned right into it.” It is very apropos that Levi -- the son of a songwriter whose hits were so massive in the 90’s – is hellbent on carrying on the family legacy, which has been happening in a very organic way.
As for Hummon’s future plans with new music on the horizon -- and a steadily growing fan base -- he insists that he will be his best self, build on his birthright, and keep showing up for his fans. “My dream is to tour until the wheels fall off this wagon.”