omewhere along the dusty trails of musical history, the name Nashville took on a greater cause. No longer was it simply the name of a city nestled on the banks of the Cumberland River in central Tennessee. It became the focal point for country music, and the name was soon encompassing both a movement and culture and not just a location. Like countless musicians before him, Trent Summar's obsession with Nashville is the inspiration behind his music. But his is with Nashville the place that is, not Nashville the musical enigma.
"I'm an eighth generation Tennessean," says Summar in a telephone interview. "One of my relatives signed the census way back in 1810. I'm from rural Tennessee. I didn't move to Nashville to do this - I was here anyway."
"I started a band with a bunch of buddies, and it turned into something, so my inspiration for making music comes from this place. It comes from traveling and from just riding down the road and experiencing stuff, And, okay, some of it also comes from staying out in bars late night!"
If you have ever been to one of Summar's rollicking live performances, you will have firsthand experience of how Nashville has worked its way into his music. Summar, who just released "Horseshoes & Hand Grenades" (Palo Duro), wraps his witty observations of everyday life within a torrent of energy-infused sound that he affectionately refers to as "Farm Rock."
Summar's songs are like tales you would hear in a local bar. But they are the ones that have you slapping your thigh in delight rather than those that see you crying in your beer.
"I'm not one of those singer songwriter guys," declares Summar, "I like to rock, And a lot of what ends up in songs comes from hearing things when I'm out and writing it down. I don't believe you can just write 10 songs a year, and they'll be the ones. You got to do it every day. You got to be gathering information all the time. I am always scribbling stuff down on napkins and then working it into songs. But, having said that, I have no real idea what I am doing, but no one seems to care."
Regardless whether he thinks he knows what he is doing or not, Summar is certainly doing something right, A big part of that comes from not taking himself too seriously.
That's not to say that Summar is not serious about creating music. Two dynamic solo albums ("Trent Summar & The New Row Mob" in 2000 and "Live at 12th and Porter" in 2003) and a Hank Flamingo recording (a self-titled disc on the late Giant Records in 1994) certainly speak platitudes about the significance of his musical concerns.
Which makes one wonder whether the humor and wit that Summar embraces within his songs is perhaps a reflection of his approach to life in general?
"I hadn't thought about it like that," offers Summar, "But I'd say you're probably right. I take having a good time seriously, and I take being around my friends and buddies seriously too, And it's definitely the way I look at the band and the music we make. I'm gonna be doing this my whole life, and I realized only recently that I've been given a rare opportunity to make a living at this. I'm serious about working hard. But you don't always have to be so serious about everything."
Even if Summar isn't taking life too seriously, people are taking him seriously. With a publishing deal tucked under his arm, Summar's songs have recently been finding their way into other people's hands,
But despite his self-professed drollness, he has quickly become someone not to be taken lightly.
"I have a silly wit, and I get that from my parents who got it from their parents," offers Summar. "In music, it's all about timing and where the line is. With a song like 'Love You,' we just made ourselves laugh with each line, A friend of mine then heard it and said 'that's what you've got to record!' So I demoed it and put it on my record, Then my buddy Jack Ingram was over at my house, and I played it for him. He asked if I would mind if he cut it, and I said 'hell no!' Now it's gonna put a new roof on the house!"
Along with Ingram's recent rendition of "Love You," Summar's songs have recently been recorded by the likes of Billy Currington and Gary Allan. It is something that Summar feels is important to keeping his music fresh,
And with Ingram in the top 15 of the Billboard country song charts with "Love You," it raises the question as to how the song's author feels about the feat. Might there be a degree of jealously lurking amongst the merriment of success?
"No, not at all," Summar proclaims defiantly, "I have been doing this my whole life, and maybe you get caught up in that a little bit when you are on the road slugging it out in a van and your buddy is touring about in a bus. But Jack was out in a van last year, So, no, I'm not jealous. I just want to open for him and his band and kick their butt every night because I know that we can, And they know it too!"