Trent Dabbs is a Nashville treasure. A singer-songwriter that released his first solo record in 2005; the same year he co-founded the musical collective Ten Out of Tenn. Since then, he has released nine albums, including his latest labor Believer, written songs for artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Mat Kearney, Ashley Monroe and The Civil Wars vocalist Joy Williams, and created the successful duo Sugar & the Hi-Lows with fellow singer-songwriter Amy Stroup.
With a new album recently released, a second Sugar & the Hi-Lows album on the way and the 10th Anniversary of Ten Out Of Tenn, this may be Dabbs’ busiest year yet. In a brief moment of downtime, I got to chat with Trent about his career milestones, his Music City staples and how he got the group back for the upcoming Ten Out of Tenn reunion show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Chris Vetrano: You’re one of the most talented singer/ songwriters with a list of accomplishments that goes on and on. As you release your 9th solo record, what do you consider the biggest career milestone to date?
Trent Dabbs: Thanks for that. Any time I feel recognized for my songwriting, it’s a milestone for me!
I remember one time an industry insider told me that running my own indie music company was next to impossible. But thanks to companies like Secret Road, I have been fortunate enough to have my music out in different outlets and it gives me freedom to write the music I love. 10 years after that conversation, I got to sit on a music panel with that same industry insider and talk about our indie record label and the music I’ve gotten to be a part of. That moment made me excited to encourage other artists to pursue what they want to do.
Chris: You’re about to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Ten Out Of Tenn, the collaboration of Nashville singer-songwriters you and your wife Kristen founded in 2005, at the Ryman Auditorium in April. What was the process like in getting the artists involved in this special reunion?
Trent: We went back and forth about it for awhile, which is crazy to think about because now we can’t imagine not doing this Ryman show. We started with the idea on what it would look like to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. From there we started putting feelers out there to past alums and seeing who would be in town. Everyone’s excited to get the together again for this show!
Chris: How many of them will return for the show?
Trent: We have a full cast for the show! MPJ [Matthew Perryman Jones], Katie Herzig, Butterfly, Lister, Tyler James, Andrew Belle, Amy Stroup, Erin McCarley, KS Rhoads, Andy Davis, and of course some surprise guests [Paper Route was recently announced as making a special appearance].
Chris: Speaking of Ryman Auditorium, it’s been said that the stripped down production of Believer was inspired by a performance you saw there. Can you tell us more about that show and how it impacted the sound of your new record?
Trent: The show I attended was nothing but pure, honest music. They had four overhanging mic’s and no fluff whatsoever. I felt like I was sitting at a crossroads with my own music because I have been collaborating so much that I had forgotten what sounds the most true to my own artistry. The crossroads was more of whether I had to top my last records sonically and if this needed to be the “big” one, when in fact the more layers I was adding, the less you could truly hear. That performance made me realize that it’s all about the song and the delivery of the song.
When I watched that folk artist perform, I felt a true conviction and I’m thankful I did because more people are gravitating to this album more than any of my others… So, 9th record’s a charm? Ha.
Chris: You work with some of the biggest names in music. Who — that’s active in music right now — inspires you and/or your music and why?
Trent: I gotta say that I have known Ashley Monroe before the MySpace days and that girl couldn’t be more true to who she is with each of her records. It was fun to see her collaborate with everyone from Jack White to Vince Gill and have each song feel constant. I think she is classic and incredibly inspiring.
Chris: You work with another Nashville singer-songwriter, Amy Stroup, to create the super-duo Sugar & the Hi-Lows. With the release of your solo record and the Ten Out of Tenn reunion this year, will we hear any new music from Sugar anytime soon?
Trent: Very soon! The new record is being mixed as I [speak] by Vance Powell (Jack White, Leagues, Jeff and the Brotherhood), we are hoping to release a single in April and the album will be out in June…we also have some shows in April/May with Kacey Musgraves coming up.
Chris: Spending most of your professional career in Nashville, you’ve seen a lot of change to the city in the past year and heard plans of continued change. How do you think the rise of Nashville’s popularity has either helped or hindered the music industry in Music City?
Trent: Hmm. I think having the focus on the city has boosted everything here in town for sure. I have never heard more people say they want to move to a city more in my life. We will have to keep our eyes forward and move on with music because we live in a day and age where anyone feels the liberty to create music and oversaturate what is an already oversaturated market. Hopefully the songs will just get better and better and people can continue to cheer each other on. All that being said, this place most definitely lives up to the name Music City.
Chris: A lot of our readers are looking to visit Music City. What are some of your top recommendations of places to check out when visiting Nashville?
Trent: Without question I would recommend seeing a show at the Ryman. Breakfast at Fido is classic and City House for dinner. Oddly enough I’d probably go downtown and do a boot-scoot or something…ha…then go to Santa’s pub for karaoke!
[Note: What’s Trent Dabbs’ go-to karaoke song? Check out his Take 5 interview coming next week.]
Chris: And finally, as if you’re not busy enough, what is next for Trent Dabbs?
Trent: Try to write a good song tomorrow!!