Having grown up in the music business as the son of Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon, Levi Hummon knew he wanted to pursue a career in the arts, but it took a good stretch of soul-searching before he landed on music.
It also took a thwarted label deal, considerable creative exploration and roadwork for the 27-year old to release his new Iconic Records EP, Patient, and a video for the song “I Still Do,” which is premiering on Billboard below.
“We’ve been touring with these songs for about two years trying to figure out which songs stand out,” says Hummon. “These six have the same kind of vibe going on and represent where I’m at as an artist and my state of mind right now.”
Initially eschewing a musical career, Hummon attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., majoring in visual arts. “When I was growing up in Nashville, my parents never pushed us to do music, but they would always push us to be creative,” he says. His mother, Episcopalian priest Becca Stevens, founded Thistle Farms, a residential and training program for female survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction, and was a 2016 CNN Hero. His singer/songwriter father has penned such hits as Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road,” Tim McGraw’s “One of These Days” and Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly.”
“I have absolutely amazing parents,” he says. “A lot of people ask me, ‘What do you think about talking about your parents all the time?’ but I’m so proud to be their kid and proud of them as my mentors and their true guidance in my life for both music and how to live in an honest and respectful way.”
Hummon also credits them with fostering his creativity. “Whenever I had a stick, it became a sword, or when I would pick up a pen I would start drawing for hours, so I’ve always been creative,” he says. “I’ve always loved the act of creating. Music just kind of took over when I was in Florida and from there I was done.”
He returned to Nashville and within six months had signed a publishing deal with Desmond Child and began gaining notice as a songwriter, co-writing with Steven Tyler, Tom Douglas and Jeffrey Steele, among others.
That led to a deal with Big Machine Label Group’s Valory imprint, but somewhere in the middle of launching his self-titled EP in spring 2016, something felt amiss. He and the label parted ways before the project could be promoted. “I was in the development process, but my head was on a swivel. I didn’t know who my voice was,” he admits. “I was a little bit lost, especially creatively, and it just made sense to step away from that.”
Hummon says the Big Machine split was friendly, as he decided to strike out on his own. “I needed to believe in myself and say, you know, ‘This might be my path or I might crash and burn, but at least I’m going to do it swinging.’”
Touring with Kip Moore, Michael Ray and Frankie Ballard helped Hummon, who is managed by Iconic Entertainment’s Fletcher Foster, discover himself as an artist. “It’s kind of crazy because it’s gone so well…just going out there and figuring out who my fans are, what my voice is and what my lane is.”
That includes discovering who he is as a video artist. The video for “I Still Do,” directed by CeCe Dawson, focuses on love and its sudden absence. “I had a line that I ended up using in this song, ‘It’s crazy how the same room looks different without you in it.’ That was the theme behind the video,” he says.
The clip opens with a loving young couple before their relationship hits the rocks. “I showed my parents the video and they were like, ‘You guys have chemistry.’ I’ve never done a video with a girl before and so it was kind of like a blind date, but it was really special and what we did was just had fun and pretended like we’ve loved each other for so long.”
That autobiographical song addresses one of Hummon’s first breakups. “It’s so hard to let go sometimes and you keep telling yourself over and over again that you don’t want to love somebody, but you still do and so you are playing the role in that music video of both the person madly in love and then as a person who is heartbroken,” he says.
Heartbreak is just one of the emotions fueling Patient. Working with producer Matt McVaney, Hummon crafted a set free of any expectations but his own. “My perception of country music is, ‘Write for radio’ and ‘Write for this or that or the record company,’ and what I’ve discovered creatively is I’m more at peace and happiest when I’m writing things I love,” he says.
Hummon has been writing a lot through his new publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. “We partnered up, me and Desmond Child, who is [my] co-publisher with Sony/ATV. I’m finding new people that are just amazing, young, hungry writers that are calling me, writers that want to grow up with me as well.”
Hummon, who co-wrote Tyler’s “Red, White and You,” also continues to co-write with his dad and established tunesmiths such as Douglas, Chris DeStefano and Josh Thompson. He’s got more than 400 songs in his catalog ripe for the picking by other artists. “I think with the new Sony/ATV deal we’ll probably be pitching a few more songs than we used to,” he says. “It will be fun to have some artists cut songs that I’m not using and hopefully give them a whole new life that I could never do.”
In addition to writing and making videos, the CAA-booked Hummon is touring with Corey Smith and will spend part of 2019 on the road.
Hummon is enjoying the indie life, but if another major label comes calling, he feels ready now to pursue that opportunity. “I’m really excited because I’m a different artist than I was and I think I have a better head on my shoulders,” he says.
Even though he admits his sound is more pop-flavored than some might expect, he’s not thinking about borders or any boundaries. “If I go with what I’m feeling and what I believe in and just sing as honest as possible, it turns out cool,” he says. I don’t think about the fence, I think about the horizon.”