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Trent Tomlinson Gets Personal on New Album, ‘That’s What’s Working Right Now’

Trent Tomlinson opens up to SLN about his past struggles and what inspired his new album, 'That’s What’s Working Right Now.'

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Trent Tomlinson Gets Personal on New Album, ‘That’s What’s Working Right Now’
Photo courtesy Essential Broadcast Media

If you look at the artwork for Trent Tomlinson’s new album That’s What’s Working Right Now, you would be correct in saying it’s a different look for the Kennett, MO native. When the singer-songwriter broke in 2006 with his Country Is My Rock disc, he was sporting a bandana on his head – looking more like Bret Michaels than George Strait. Was Tomlinson trying to be an individualist with his look? Not exactly. As it turned out, his look was out of necessity.

“I was going through a tough time when I was making that record,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I had an accident on the farm where I spilled some acid on my head, and I started losing my hair based on a lot of that.” The accident happened just as the singer was set to release his first album, and it caused him to have to re-think his look in an industry where – for better or worse – image is everything. “I wasn’t a guy who wore a cowboy hat. I rode motorcycles, so the only thing I knew to do to be presentable without looking like a freak show was to wear a bandana. Our radio tour and dates were already scheduled, and this happens. So, without delaying anything, I had to improvise a complete overhaul of how I was going to look and present myself. I still wore do-rags and jewelry, because I wore motorcycles, so it was the next natural fit for me.”

Thankfully, for the new album, Tomlinson was able to take a different image approach. “If you look at this new record, you can see that I’ve worked real hard with doctors to get the look that I wanted to have that back then. I was one of those guys who didn’t want to make excuses. I just wanted to keep moving forward, and at that time, it was an embarrassing thing for me not to have the hair I wanted to have. I just hadn’t come to terms with it, and didn’t know how to handle it. So, the best thing for me was to put the do-rag on it, go on down the road, and handle my business and not saying anything about it.”

Of course, the main ingredient that sets the album is the music, and Tomlinson delivers a solid set of life lessons on the album. From a heartbreaking divorce to the closing of his record company, Tomlinson is glad to be on the other side of the storm – with new music in hand.

“When Lyric Street folded, and my second record never came out – along with a lot of other artists – it was just a hard place to be. You try to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go find another record label, which is really hard to do. People in the industry looked at that whole situation with the label as a failure, not realizing that I was on the New Faces Show six months prior, as voted on radio as one of the next big things to pop. It was hard to have that momentum going, then the label shuts down, and you’re just holding the bag without the funding or the means to service radio in any capacity. It was tough. I had to go back and do what I did best, and that was to write songs. Now, I’ve done enough of that where I could put myself into position to financially release this record as an independent. Hopefully, we can shake the sugar tree a bit, and see if we can get some things going on the terrestrial radio side of things.”

The current single, “When She Goes There.” Is starting to make impact at radio. Tomlinson admits that the style of the song is a little different for him, as well as the inventive wordplay.

“It’s a change sonically from things I’ve done in the past. The music has changed, and everything has evolved. I’ve always been a hook writer, and have played on words. I’ve always been that guy, not a one-word title kind of guy. It’s an interesting concept where she’s coming to pick up her stuff, and I’ve been there before. If I just leave, and I’m not there to see it happening, maybe it’s not really happening. That was the thought process behind writing the song, and it’s been great with satellite radio getting behind it, and there’s alsp been some major market and other terrestrial stations picking it up based on the power of the music.”

The singer is grateful for the loyalty of his fans, who have been clamoring for new material for quite some time. “I figured it was time for me to make a new record. The fans on Facebook and Twitter kept asking me about it. The fans really stuck with me after all this time. I think they probably thought I was just crying wolf. I’d keep telling them the new music was coming. But, now was the right time to do it. So, here we are, and we’re excited.”

Though Tomlinson has been absent from the airwaves as a singer, he has continued to find his voice as a songwriter, with cuts by William Michael Morgan and Love & Theft’s “Whiskey On My Breath.” He says his writing kept him in the game.

“That was a really tough time, and my only saving grace was that I knew how to write songs. That was the only way I had to keep myself relevant in the Country Music world. It got to a point where everybody was recording my songs, so I thought ‘Maybe I need to record them too.”

“My first album was pretty much riddled with party and drinkin’ songs. Of course, I was much younger then, and more out and about than I am now. I think a lot of that comes with age, and I’ve definitely grown up a ton since then. I’m sitting in my life now, and I’m single, but at the same time, none of this means anything if you don’t have someone to share it with. So, I have found myself writing more stuff that is heartfelt about finding the right one. That’s where I am at this moment in my life, and I think it’s reflected on this record with the lyrical content.”

That’s What’s Working Right Now is available for purchase HERE.