Levi Hummon Ushers in a New Chapter of Honesty With ‘Bottled Up’

He also shares how working with Walker Hayes and teaching Leslie Jordan a TikTok dance was like!

Written by Jeremy Chua
Levi Hummon Ushers in a New Chapter of Honesty With ‘Bottled Up’
Levi Hummon; Photo Credit: Cece Dawson

Following the massive success of his collaboration with Walker Hayes on “Paying For It,” Levi Hummon is kicking off 2022 with yet another hard-hitting jam, “Bottled Up.”

Hummon has proven to be one of the most hardworking and promising independent artists in Music City over the years. Just in 2021, he released his 36/86 EP, which featured the romantic ballad “Wedding Dress,” before dropping one of his biggest songs to date, “Paying For It.” With its infectious singalong melody and an accompanying TikTok dance created by Hayes — who co-wrote the song — and his daughter Lela, it’s no wonder the track currently racks over 6.3 million streams on Spotify alone. Now serving his follow-up to the smash hit, “Bottled Up” takes a songwriter’s honesty to a whole new level.

Co-written by Hummon, Mason Thornley, and Grant Vogel, the euphoric feel-good anthem candidly chronicles the heartbroken Nashville native’s pent-up emotional state post-breakup. While it’s often frowned upon to repress one’s feelings, Hummon doesn’t play bad cop in the song. “Bottled Up” mutes the pressure to always do the right thing. It acknowledges that sometimes, one doesn’t want to have life figured out — and that’s okay. 

Sounds Like Nashville spoke with Hummon last week about his brand-new song, the incredible year he’s had with “Paying For It,” how he taught Leslie Jordan a TikTok dance, and what fans can expect from him for the rest of 2022. Check out the conversation below!

How was your 2021, Levi? Sounds like you had a great year with “Paying For It” and a co-headlining fall tour?

2021 was crazy because I got to put out a song with a guy named Walker Hayes. It happened to be at the perfect time of my life and his life as well to do that! [chuckles] We also co-headlined my first ever tour with Roman Alexander, played about 19 shows throughout the midwest, and got to finish my year with a sold-out show here at The Basement East in Nashville, TN. That was an amazing way to end my year. I’ve been writing like crazy last year and enjoying the somewhat normal life again.

“Paying for It” is one of your biggest songs to date. What’s the story behind the song? Did you have a hunch that it would be this big of a hit? 

“Paying For It” was my first-ever co-write with Walker Hayes. It was me, Walker and Eric Arjes. I’ve been a huge fan of Walker’s way before “Fancy Like.” I loved “You Broke Up With Me” and all of his songs. I ended up bringing this idea called “paying for it” to the co-write. The idea was, “I’m still paying for it, I’m still paying for your bills and my tab” and everything like that, but I had it over these sad minor chords. Walker was like, “I love that idea! Let me just put it over this swampy [riff].” We left the co-write thinking how we were going to put this out and get this out to the world. Walker’s first idea was to pitch it to Jake Owen because it’d be a huge hit for him, and I was like, “That would be amazing, but I would honestly love to put this out. Or Walker, you put it out and I’ll feature on it. Let’s figure out a way to do this with us.” But Walker said, “Well, I just put out this whole (Country Stuff) EP that’s got all these other collaborations. How about you put it out and I’ll feature on it?” I was like, “Sounds great!” It all happened in just twenty-four hours after the write. Of course, I said yes to doing it, and that Wednesday, he puts out the dance to “Fancy Like” and the rest is history. 

@levihummon #duet with @walkerhayesofficial from paying for it to drinking about it 😂 #BottledUp #fyp #countrymusic #ITriedItIPrimedIt #walkerhayes #fancylike ♬ Paying for It – Levi Hummon

Timing is everything. You released “Paying for It” while Walker had momentum going and just before “Fancy Like” blew up? You couldn’t orchestrate such an opportune time, right?

It’s straight up the wild west. You never know what to expect. It’s also a good sign for everyone in town to never give up on anybody because any moment is somebody’s moment. I feel like that’s the perfect example of Walker, and our song together was such a blessing. I think the song itself was really great and Walker’s success allowed it to have a whole new audience I never expected. Getting to go out and play some shows with Walker and sing the song together was amazing, too.

I reckon everyone in the crowd sings along to that song now?

We played this show at Joe’s On Weed Street in Chicago and everyone knows all the words to it. I’ve never been to radio or done any of that yet – one day I hope to do it – but it feels like a No. 1 song. You can stick the microphone out not without even having to worry about remembering the lyrics. It’s amazing. It’s fun also with the dances on TikTok. I never expected that to be as enjoyable as it’s been, but it’s just been awesome to see fans relate to a song in a new way. Now it’s not just on TikTok, but on Facebook and reels on Instagram. People are just relating to it and making it their own thing.

You also taught Leslie Jordan how to do the “Paying For It” TikTok dance?! How did you both meet, to begin with?

Yes! I was at the Titans suite for a Titans game, Leslie was just sitting in there, and I went up to him and said, “Leslie, I’m a huge fan of yours. You got me through quarantine, thank you for being so funny and amazing.” We sat there, talked for 45 minutes about life, and he [mentioned] how he was coming back to Nashville to do a show at the Ryman. So I told him, “Well, when you’re back, there is this TikTok dance that I’d love to teach you. If you want to find the time to do it, let’s do it!” He pulled my phone right out of my hand, gave me his number and said, “Text me when you see me back in Nashville in November.” I thought he’d never answer me but well, he did and said, “I’m at rehearsals with Sara Evans, come by and we’ll do the dance!”

Last Friday (Jan. 28), you released a brand-new song called “Bottled Up.” Would you talk about what inspired this one? 

I wrote this song with Mason Thornley and Grant Vogel. They’re two younger writers in town but they’re two super talented. I’ve had the title “Bottled Up” on my phone forever. I didn’t really know how to spin it, because I feel the original title was like, “I’m bottled up and I can’t express myself.” And then I thought that there’s a quirky way to put a spin on this because he’s talking about being bottled up at a bar and not dealing with the fact that he’s not over his ex, or not communicating, or going to therapy or doing those necessary steps to deal with it. I wanted to talk about something like that where it’s just unhealthy coping mechanisms, but in a funny way where it’s lighthearted and kind of ‘jammy.’ I had that idea, we wrote it, and it turned into this “Whiskey Glasses” meets “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” kind of vibe. I just put it in my live set and it did so well. Every night, everybody would be bopping their heads and really jamming to it. The reaction has been really awesome!

@levihummon Let’s see if Dad approves 😂 #BottledUp #dad #countrymusic #songwriter #fyp ♬ original sound – Levi Hummon

“Bottled Up” touches a little on your recent breakup. Have you leaned on songwriting to cope with that?

Well, I’m 30 now, so I’ve been through some breakups. I think that when you’re a songwriter and yo go through a breakup, the healthiest way to deal with that is to write songs. For me, the healthiest way is just to be very honest and to honestly, get my money’s worth out of a heartbreak! [laughs] I think “Bottled Up” is reflective of that. In the past, sometimes I don’t tell people I’m sad. I just go to the bar act happy and deal with it in a not-necessarily healthy way. But the juxtaposition of that is, I’m saying I’m dealing with it in an unhealthy way while I’m actually dealing with it in a healthy way with songwriting. This is kind of the moment where I’m going to be a more honest version of myself, talk about those relationships, and be willing to do that going forward.

Has the pandemic and not being able to tour for a while changed your perspective on life?

I think what the pandemic did for me is that it did slow down my life in a lot of ways and in ways that wasn’t necessarily the reality I lived in. But it did make me feel like I can appreciate being busy again. I feel like I really longed for touring when everything shut down, whereas, before that, I took it for granted. For the most part nowadays, I’m just not taking any of this for granted anymore. I’m really, really thrilled to go out with my friends and go see fans. While we’re still not totally out of the pandemic, it’s loosening up to a point where you can appreciate things again. Now, I’m just not taking any of this for granted and work is actually a blessing in a lot of ways. 

What can fans expect from you in 2022? You mentioned more new music is on the horizon?

I’m working on so much new music right now. This is the first iteration of a lot of new music to come. I have been in the studio like crazy. I’m going to be in the studio for the next two to three months, and I got so much new music coming that I’m excited about. I just signed a new (publishing) deal with Reservoir Records here in town, with John Ozier and Greg Gallo and other amazing people. I’m excited to start releasing new music in a really new way. I’ve also got a lot of touring stuff that will hopefully be announced soon! This year is going to be super slammed! I released “Paying For It” in July of 2021, and I hadn’t put out anything for six months. But the truth is, I’ve been trying to find myself and figure out who I am as an artist, and how I want to represent myself going forward. For the longest time, I’ve been this clean-shaven, clean-cut, happy-go-lucky guy. I feel like that’s a part of who I am, but the other part of me is someone who’s a little rough around the edges, has a lot of tattoos and is a pretty honest person. I want to show that side of me more because that’s the most honest version of myself, and I’ve got a platform to do it now.

Finally, what’s at the top of your goals for 2022, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I’m getting into boxing right now, so getting back into the fitness world is where I want to be. I kind of took a year of chilling on that. I have a lot of fitness goals that I’m trying to reach right now. I’m a college athlete and played ball in college and high school, so getting back into that is important. On the music end, I’m just so ready for all these songs to come out. I think “Bottled Up” is the first of many. I think the best songs are coming soon, honestly. I’m so excited about the collaborations I’m working on too. The second I can tell everybody about them, I’ll just be so much happier! [laughs] The new music is kind of like a new version of myself, and “Paying For It” has been able to help me lean into this. It’s not a rebranding thing, but I’m ready to be as honest as possible and these songs are going to represent that.

While you wait for more music from Levi Hummon, listen to “Bottled Up” here.