Age: 45 | Title: Songwriter
Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: Jamie, your songwriting talents have received national attention over the past five years or so. How long have you been writing?
Jamie Trent: I’ve been writing for 30 years. I wasn’t an outcast growing up, but I definitely was artsy, more introverted. I expressed myself in ways such as writing poetry and found my niche. I wrote an awful lot of bad, bad poems back then!
SB: After high school, you joined the military—which laid the foundation for one of your most well-known songs, “Bullet Holes in the Sky.” Why did you decide to enlist?
JT: I joined the service and served during the Desert Storm conflict in ’92. While I was exposed to the conflict, I never served on the front lines. Growing up I was a “military brat”—my dad served 30 years in the Navy so we traveled around the country. Joining the service is sort of what I thought you did, especially if you didn’t have an identity. I spent four years in the military and it helped get my head on straight and put things in perspective.
SB: Where did life take you after the service?
JT: I went to college and started singing a lot, mainly private weddings and parties, which paid my way through school. Then, after college, I started making some connections in the songwriting industry. I met some folks in Nashville who thankfully took me under their wing and taught me how to be a better writer. Along the way, I continued to hone my craft.
SB: When did you feel like you got your first big “break”?
JT: I had two or three cuts with indie artists. As a non-signed songwriter you really have to cut your teeth with not-so-well-known artists. Then about five years ago I wrote a song for my wife called “The Outer Banks and You.”
That’s sort of our little safe haven, and I wrote it for our anniversary. I had no intentions of pitching it because I thought it might be too regionally based.
But I did end up sending it to a guy I work with in Nashville and he said, “Man, that is the best one you’ve ever written.” He set me on the track to pitch it to chambers of commerce and real estate companies. It wasn’t 24 hours later that Southern Shores Realty called me and said they wanted to sign me on the spot to use the song in their national advertising campaign. That was a big win for me not only monetarily speaking, but also street cred—people sort of took me seriously then. That’s when I started hearing from others in the industry wanting to do co-writes. You just never know what songs stick.
SB: Over the past few years, you have focused on writing songs about veterans. Why did you choose that niche?
JT: My wife and I were sitting in our garage two or three years ago and she asked me, “Once our careers are behind us, how do you want to be remembered?” I was sort of taken aback by the question. I wasn’t so concerned about “being remembered” as I was about being a part of something that was bigger than myself. It got me thinking. I love to write, I love veterans initiatives… then I came across Songwriting With:Soldiers. This organization pairs combat vets suffering from PTSD and other traumatic brain injuries with professional songwriters. They write songs about their experiences. Through that organization I met some incredible songwriters (Radney Foster, Darden Smith, Jay Clementi, Gary Nicholson). I really started forming a special relationship with Mary Gauthier, who I ended up co-writing “Bullet Holes in the Sky” with.
SB: Mary Gauthier has quite a resume!
JT: She does indeed. She is a Grammy-nominated artist with song cuts by Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, and Jimmy Buffett. Her songs have been heard on shows like “Nashville” and “Yellowstone.” She also has two TED talks.
SB: What inspired the lyrics of “Bullet Holes in the Sky”?
JT: Mary sent me a text one evening when she was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in the “Johnny Cash” room. She was getting ready to do a show. She said she had a chorus for a song, but needed “the movie” for the song. Right then and there I sent her a line, “It’s the 11th of November in Nashville, Tennessee, free breakfast at the Waffle House if I show ’em my ID.” At that point, we had “the movie.” She calls herself a “midwife” for songs. I had to laugh when she said this song was like a child in the birth canal and we just had to bring it into the world.
As for the inspiration behind the song, many folks—civilians and military—have mixed emotions about serving and the sacrifices we have to make. It’s not a question of being patriotic, just the internal conflicts that we feel sometimes.
SB: Were you surprised by the press the album and song received? The album was featured in the LA Times and nominated for a Grammy.
JT: Short answer, YES. But more importantly, it gave me HOPE. With more than 22 veteran suicides per day, we need to continue to find ways to help our soldiers and their families. If songs can do that, which I believe they can, then this album and song gives me hope that they are reaching the masses.
SB: More recently, in mid-September, you decided to use a song you wrote two years ago to help some residents affected by Hurricane Dorian. That turned a lot of heads as well.
JT: A couple of years ago my wife, Tammy, and daughter, Kardigan, and myself actually spent an entire week in Ocracoke. Having vacationed in the Outer Banks for over 35 years, I had never actually spent a week on that island. It was like no place I had ever been. I loved it and knew the minute my feet hit the beach that I had to write a song about it. I partnered with a songwriter friend of mine, David Kent, to finish the song. (As a side note, David landed a #1 hit for Blake Shelton’s song, “Austin.”) Once I heard about and saw all the destruction that had occurred from Dorian, I felt a calling to do more. So I decided to sell the song through iTunes and Amazon Music outlets and donate 100% of the proceeds to help with the relief efforts. I am partnering with The Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF.org or OBXdisaster.org). This was just my little way of trying to give back.
SB: That’s incredible. What’s next for you?
JT: As a songwriter, it’s all about write, write, write, re-write. Continue to get better. Continue to make connections. For me, it’s therapy and to be quite honest, it’s fun. I realized many years ago that I didn’t have the patience or talent for golf. So many of my Saturday mornings you will find me doing FaceTime or Skype co-writes instead of playing 18 holes.
I’m still writing some songs about the Outer Banks too, actually finishing up one now. I want to continue being involved in the local veteran community. I held a fundraiser at the American Legion three years ago, raised about $20,000. I’m looking to do a golf tournament next year.
SB: Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters?
JT: A very established multi-#1 hit songwriter once told me, “Writing to the radio will make you a liar.” You are just going to come up short and you are never going have anything new to say. Someone once interviewed Bruce Springsteen and asked him the same question. His answer was, “If you are writing a song and 1+1 equals 2, you have failed.” That is about as brutally honest as it gets. My personal advice would be to write as much as you can. Work with co-writers. Make connections. The songwriting community is filled with folks on every skill level. But to work your way up the ranks, you have to get in the game.
SB: How can readers get in touch with you?
JT: Find me on Facebook, Jamie Trent/Songwriter. Or visit Reverbnation.com/obx.