Earlier this year, we published a quote about Jack Hummel, calling him “one of the most talented up-and-coming songwriters we’ve heard” in this new wave of country music. Since then, Nashville has started to take note of the Midwest-raised songwriter. We sat down with Hummel at his East Nashville home studio to discuss his early music influences, moving to Nashville and why being “just a songwriter” is more than enough.
“It sounds cliche, but music has been a part of my life since birth. I’m the oldest of two kids, and when my mom had me, she didn’t know any lullabies. So ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N Roses was the first song I ever had sung to me,” Hummel says before adding, “I didn’t grow up in a musical family in the sense that no one really played music but they were huge music consumers — of all genres. Around my house, there was always music playing and it could’ve been anything from a Motown record to Sinatra to country to classic rock. I think that’s what set me up as a music lover.”
There was one album in particular that changed things for the music lover. When he was nine or 10 years old, his parents went to a concert for a then-new artist named John Mayer. They brought Hummel back a CD and when he heard the music and the guitar, he was “hooked.” Not long after, he got his very first guitar.
Shortly after, he enrolled in guitar lessons but his appreciation for the classes didn’t last long. He didn’t get to play what he wanted to play but, looking back, he’s grateful that they taught him to read and write music. In high school, the guitar took a backseat to sports — until his junior year. That’s when everything changed.
“The guitar came out of the closet, and I really took to it. It came back relatively easy and so did the reading of music… My whole path kind of changed once I started writing music. What started as this writing ‘exercise’ became a genuine passion. I wasn’t doing anything other than that.”
Once he had some songs penned, he shared them with guitarist friends (and even a few who just had good taste in music). They seemed to be impressed with his talent. “I think, at first, some didn’t believe I actually wrote them.”
“So I really started trying to ‘figure out’ how to write songs. And I knew Nashville was the place to go,” he says over his black coffee. “I’d never been to Nashville, so a few buddies and I took a trip here for the weekend. We did the tourist stuff but then I woke up on Sunday morning and took a cab to Music Row… Seeing all the publishing houses and labels, banners of number one songs in the front, seeing all of that, I think, turned this far-fetched idea I had in my head into a tangible goal. A career.”
Immediately, Hummel started taking his songwriting career seriously. He set up as many meetings and co-writes as he could. He took any advice given to him and tirelessly began to pursue his dreams.
“Jenn Schott, who’s an incredible writer in town, was one of the first people to lend a hand when I reached out. The folks at BMI, their support and help has been unbelievable.”
Unlike many other dream chasers that come to Music City, Hummel never had the dream of being an artist. It was always all about the song for him.
“I didn’t start music going out and playing covers or live shows — that was secondary to sitting in a room, by myself or with others, writing the songs. That first love has always been the writing,” he says. “In my eyes, the best compliment, the biggest achievement that I could ever have, is an artist taking a song I’ve written — whether they’re sitting in the room with me or they got it sent to them — and have it speak to them to a point where they want to put their name on it. For me, that’s second to none.”
Despite making a ton of progress with his songwriting goals, not every day in Nashville is an easy one. “Nashville can have its days. You learn to hear no a lot, especially starting out. But it’s also a town of opportunity. If one door closes or gets slammed in your face, [just] walk next door and keep knocking.”
Hummel’s going to continue knocking on doors while dreaming big. He hopes to co-write with some of Nashville’s most talented (he mentioned names like Jeff Hyde, Casey Beathard, Ross Copperman, Lori McKenna, Nicolle Galyon, Luke Laird and Ashley Gorley) and hopes to land a publishing deal in 2020. If his progress thus far is any indication, he’ll be signed to a deal with a hit song under his belt by Dec. 2020.