Trent Dabbs must never sleep. The acclaimed singer-songwriter recently released his ninth solo album, Believer, and performed at the Ryman Auditorium with Ten out of Tenn, a tight-knit collective of Nashville artists he helped assemble ten years ago.
He also runs his own record label, produces other artists, and is one half of the popular Americana duo Sugar + The Hi-Lows. In his spare time, he co-writes hit songs with everyone from Ingrid Michaelson to Kacey Musgraves.
We asked "Tireless" Trent Dabbs about his new album, his connections to Musicians Corner, his food truck predilections and more.
How would you describe your new album Believer?
I would describe it as Hymns for the hopeless. I don't mean that in a dark way because I wanted to write songs that challenged my own thoughts and yet felt true to what I believe. Sometimes I feel like we as artists have to cater to what everyone wants to hear rather than maybe an instant creative choice that comes suddenly. I know for me, I needed to hear simple, straightforward songs that encourage commitment and lend themselves to a light at the end of the tunnel. I think songs come to you at certain times for certain reasons and this entire album came within a week time span so I wasn't going to argue with it.
How would you describe your approach as a producer?
I am and always will be a massive music fan. If I am producing an artist it means I am a fan of that artist. All I can do is try to take the elements that make me attracted to their music in the first place, more amplified. Then try to surround them with all the talent I don't have myself. Hopefully, I get them to feel so comfortable that they can feel free and shameless and that's when the surreal part takes place.
How was the Tenn out of Tenn Ryman show?
Speaking of surreal. I don't even know how to answer that question. This is actually the first interview asking me about that show! All I can say is that if you came to that show then you know. In the past few weeks I have had people approach me on the street and stop and share the excitement of what we all witnessed. I felt like a spectator more than performer and I believe that was the beauty of it all. Each one of us felt a joy that only 10 years in the making could bring. I have never in my life felt that much emotion and, as Nick Cave says, "transcendence" on stage.
It was beyond powerful to see people drive all across the country to sell out the greatest venue on earth. I was looking into the crowd most of the night and I saw faces running the decade time span who have helped put us on that stage...not to mention all of our friends and family. Every artist played at the top of their game and it could not have been a sweeter night.
You're surrounded by Nashville food trucks. Which one do you go to and what do you order?
Maybe the fact that I am surrounded by so many is why I have put it off for this long. I did however try the Grilled Cheeserie and the B&B of Tennessee is quite tasty. I mean...you had me at cheese.
What's the last great concert you've been to?
Well...I went to the Ryan Adams show two nights after the Ten out of Tenn Ryman show and that show was more than great. If you scroll through the titles of his songs from that show you realize that he is easily one of the best (if not the best) songwriters of our generation. The show was flawless and filled with every emotive moment you could ask for in a show. He didn't need big production to distract the audience away from the songs because he has so many great songs. When he played the song "Shadows" off his latest release and ripped a loud electric solo right in front of the pinball machine, what he brought on stage, it was next level.
Also, I have been a fan of his since 'Whiskey Town' and I hadn't heard him play a 'Whiskey Town' song since he played Exit-In maybe 15 years ago. When Jason Isbell and his wife played "16 days " with Ryan I could've just retired from concert attending because it was worth the wait. That show was truly another reason I would never want to live in another city besides Nashville.
What are your thoughts on Musicians Corner?
I have many thoughts about Musicians Corner because I remember being a part of the first days of the project with my wife, Kristen. I remember taking ladders around and trying to help set up the stage when it was much smaller than its current state. All of the folks who have been involved with Musicians Corner have always been hard working for the betterment of the city and its evolution. It makes me happy to see some of the same faces still attending and see these acts from across the country play to an ocean of onlookers with big smiles. You can't live here and complain about missing shows because even the best ones are free. I think it has become a staple and exceeded all expectations we had from its original conception honestly. Cheers to you guys!
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