Barbequed with a hint of barley smoke could describe Sony Music’s new Western tunesmith and vocalist Trent Willmon.
But whatever you do, don’t call him a cowboy. Having grown up with the Real McCoy on a ranch in West Texas, Trent reveres that special breed—the guys who don’t have a retirement plan and work dawn to dusk for $60 a day. “My heroes have always been cowboys,” says Trent, matter-of-factly.
If not cowboy, then how to describe this new kid who’s found himself on Sony’s menu? Chef—he owns his own catering business—songwriter, boat builder, welder, singer, horse trainer, jockey, repairman and dad. If he hasn’t cooked it up and added it to his slate of talents, give him a few minutes, and he’ll find the ingredients.
After receiving his first guitar at age 16, Trent started mixing his own musical brew. Still, per-forming wasn’t on his top shelf. Instead, honors received from both 4-H and FAA won him a scholarship to South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Despite his desire to obtain an agricultural degree and follow the family into ranching, he fell into the “boys gone wild” stew during his first year away at college—doing everything but studying and passing exams.
Losing his scholarship turned into a good kick in the stomach. Forced to take a hard look at his self-styled menu, he investigated the various degrees South Plains College offered. Leaving agriculture, he decided to marinate his skills in its music program.
A year later, Trent knew he wanted to slather his own special sauce on the songwriting world of Country music. A glance to the future revealed Nashville simmering on the horizon. In 1995, he packed his old pickup, left Texas’ Lone Star Beer and headed to Music City suds.
But too many cooks flattened the foam on his mug. Trent lamented, “Coming in at 10:30 in the morning to write a song with another writer in an office, I just didn’t feel like I was doing what I was meant to do here.”
It didn’t take long for him to realize he missed performing. Hence, he clocked out of the office scene and began a three-year hitch with his own house band, which allowed him time to hone his skills both as a vocalist and performer.
With all his experience, one would expect a recording contract at the next turn. Instead, a leaky roof, bad sound and outright band guffaws scratched Trent right off the bill of fare at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. The success chuckwagon went down the ol’ In-Sink-Erator.
Time for this part-time cowboy and chef to pack his guitar and barbeque grill and go home? Nope. Friends kept him cooking. Eventually, another pot began to ferment with a different record label.
Sony Music’s Nashville President John Grady says, “When I first saw Trent perform, I knew right away that I wanted to work with him. He connects with people.”
Here’s to “Wishin’ Well” for Trent Willmon. May all his future brews foam all the way to platinum.
Visit twmag.com to see Trent Willmon’s video, “Dixie Rose Deluxe’s Honky Tonk, Feed Store, Gun Shop, Used Car, Beer, Bait, BBQ, Barber Shop, Laundromat.”
Sandy Whiting, a member of the Western Writers of America, makes her home just off the Chisholm Trail in South Central Kansas.