Most young artists get a little nervous when they are about to kick off a headlining tour, but as Levi Hummon prepares to hit the road this week, he’s armed with a great voice, an arsenal of strong songs, and something extra that most newcomers don’t have—the wisdom of a Grammy winning singer/songwriter father, who is about to become a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Levi’s dad is Marcus Hummon, a legendary Nashville tunesmith responsible for such hits as the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly” and Tim McGraw’s “One of These Days.” He will be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame at a special ceremony in Nashville on October 14. “Being in the music business myself now, I know how much work it takes and how hard it is to even get a cut, much less a single, much less a hit. It’s a lifetime achievement,” Levi tells Sounds Like Nashville sitting next to his dad backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, shortly before they take the stage.
The elder Hummon says getting news that he was being inducted left him speechless. “I actually got verklempt. I couldn’t speak,” he says humbly. “I immediately thought about Levi’s grandparents, my mom and dad. I thought about how they really, really would have been tickled. They would have appreciated it and it was one of those things that dad and I actually talked about before he passed away. That was the thing that occurred to me first and then I was really thankful.”
Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Levi has been building his own successful career and making his dad proud. He was named the face of Amazon Music’s official Introducing: Country playlist along with the cover of Spotify’s Hot Country playlist. The talented young artist has earned 33 million streams on Spotify alone.
Levi was raised in a creative environment by two extraordinarily accomplished parents. In addition to his father’s success at country radio, he also writes plays. His mother, Becca Stevens, is an Episcopal priest, author, speaker and founder of Thistle Farms, which provides housing and jobs to women who have been victims of trafficking, battled addiction or been involved in prostitution, giving them a second chance at life. Stevens was named a 2016 CNN Hero and a White House “Champion of Change.”
Unlike some children of celebrity parents who avoid talking about their family as they try to forge their own identity, Levi proudly talks about his parents and two brothers. “They are such impactful people in my life. It’s hard to have a mother who is a CNN Hero and not have an impact from that,” he smiles. “It’s hard having a Grammy-winning father that you are obviously inspired by—and he’s taught me so much—and not give him credit where it’s due. But at the same time I find myself constantly doing my own thing and wanting to explore who I am as an artist, and understanding that I have my own place in this world. I discovered that touring with Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum and finding my own fans, who have no clue who my parents are. If want to follow me on my journey, then you discover there’s a really cool background. I have amazing brothers too. It’s a part of my story, but it’s fun to make my own tracks with my own footsteps.”
Marcus says he and Becca knew early on that Levi would most likely pursue a creative career. “Both his mom and I noticed early on as a little boy that he would pick up an instrument. It was kind of a natural thing,” Marcus says. “There were a couple of times when he and his brother formed a band and we put some gear in the basement, but the thing I always noticed is when he sang, he could really sing. He also had that thing which is very rare. Even as a little boy, he could command the presence, like he’d have the microphone and suddenly be funny. There would be like adults there and they’d find him funny. Of course, he got a lot of that from his mom because his mom is a preacher and she’s funny as well as being a preacher.”
Levi says he’s learned a great deal from his dad too. “When it’s my dad’s song, I know the chords are played different and the energy is different,” he says. “He comes in as an artist and it’s unapologetic and fearless. It’s also just unique and I just really appreciate that about the songwriting craft that he taught me. I’ve taken that into my co-writes without him and on my own as an artist and on the road. I try to be unique and myself. He’s instilled that passion to love what you are doing.”
Marcus is proud of his son’s passion and his writing ability. “He naturally writes songs that are meant to touch people’s heart. It’s like in his DNA,” he grins. “I see it and I knew it even when he was younger, before he really started to work professionally early on as a singer. As a writer, he has that natural sensibility. You’ve got to find the heart of the message. People are hungry, hungry for poetry and stories and they want you to be bold. I can see it in his work that he lives by that code.”
Levi initially went to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL and majored in visual arts then returned home to Nashville to attend Belmont University and focus on music. Six months after returning to Nashville, he signed a publishing deal and began writing with such music industry notables as Jeffrey Steele, Tom Douglas and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. He signed a record deal with Big Machine, but later opted to strike out on his own and parted amicably with the company to pursue life as an independent artist. Earlier this year, he released a new EP titled Patient, and has spent time touring with Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Darius Rucker.
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Marcus is happy his son is forging his own path in the music world, but a little concerned too. “I’m proud of him in terms of his craft and how he moves in the world, but as a parent—I’m a father first in this situation—you know I’m really aware of how tough this business is. Even if you are successful, to create longevity for yourself is an extraordinary thing and it requires toughness, talent and a certain amount of luck too.”
Both father and son will be busy in coming months. Marcus continues to write and have his songs recorded. Garth Brooks’ daughter Allie Colleen’s debut single, “A Work in Progress,” was co-written by Colleen, Hummon and Greg Beick. Marcus also co-wrote the title track of Runaway June’s debut album Blue Roses. He has also been working to launch a new play, “Frederick Douglass: The Making of an American Prophet.”
The younger Hummon is embarking on his headlining tour, which kicked off with an October 2 show in Oxford, OH. Levi says his dad has taught him to be unique and unapologetic, and he’s carrying those words of wisdom with him as he forges ahead, creating his own distinct path in the music community. “I feel like I truly have learned the love of songwriting. I feel there is just no doubt in my mind I’m a songwriter first . . . but I just feel like I had to tell my story, so that’s what brought me into wanting to be an entertainer. I already knew how to be a songwriter just because of my DNA, but I’ve been tracing my steps and figuring out how to be this person that’s telling the story, the one that’s finding the fans, the one on the road consistently. It’s been an awesome journey.”
Join Levi on that journey this fall. Here’s the remainder of his itinerary:10/10 Lexington, KY—Tin Roof 10/11 Chicago, IL—Joe’s on Weed 10/18 Birmingham, AL—Tin Roof 10/19 Atlanta, GA—Smith’s Olde Bar 10/25 Tifton, GA—Terminal South 10/26 Savannah, GA—Saddlebags 11/1 Charlotte, NC—Tin Roof 11/2 Raleigh, NC—Tin Roof 11/7 Columbia, SC—Tin Roof 11/8 Greenville, SC—BlindHorse 11/14 Uncasville, CT—Wolf Den 11/15 Stamford, CT—Stamford Center for the Arts 11/16 Foxborough, MA—Six String Grill 11/30 Charleston, SC—Music Farm
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