Levi Hummon has been making a splash in Nashville with his track “Don’t Waste the Night,” but there’s much more to this country singer than his voice and songwriting skills. He previously spent summers on aid missions to Rwanda, Uganda and Egypt with his family, keeping perspective on his life and career based on these experiences.
“Making music and being famous are not the only things that matter in this world,” Hummon, 25, tells PEOPLE. “A smile on the face of child whose country was falling apart 20 years ago puts it in perspective.”
It’s these trips and encounters that have helped shape his outlook on the music industry, his career and his life. “I took a trip to Uganda and Rwanda [right before I signed my record deal],” Hummon explains. “It was 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda … there were these widowed wives and orphaned children and it made me feel like, ‘Wow.’ They were happier then I’ve ever been and it took that to really remind me — each of us matter so little in a lot of ways.”
Here are five more things to know about the up and coming singer — plus, watch the premiere of the “Don’t Waste the Night” video above.
1. He can dazzle you with his lyrics … and a paint brush
Writing music and performing is his passion nowadays, but before he discovered lyrics, it was the paint brush that allowed him to express himself. “It took me a long time to actually discover that I liked music,” he says. “We didn’t really have TVs [growing up], so drawing would be my way to invent characters — I was forced to have this imagination.”
2. Son of a preacher wo-man!
Hummon admits to “causing a ruckus” with his brothers growing up, but confesses his mom always kept them in line. “My mom is the rockstar of the family — she’s always preached and I’ve been going to church since I was a little child. She preaches about love, and how love is the most powerful force for change in the world and not to combat hate with more hate, but more love.”
"To heal a village you must heal the women"… Last week all of Nashville celebrated the 20 year anniversary of @thistlefarms and this amazing woman, who I am so blessed to call my mom. I have watched my mom plant the seed of love and have seen it grow into a forest of hope. I'm so sad that I missed the amazing celebration at @theryman with performances by Reba, John Prine, and Jason Isbell last week, but I was there in spirit. I love you @beccastevens13 and if you taught me anything it's that love is the most powerful force for change in the world, and I believe it. #ThistleFarms #LoveHeals
3. Volunteering with USAID is a Hummon family tradition
After his grandfather spent time doing economic development with USAID as his father grew up, the Hummons have continued to volunteer with the organization years later. These experiences — including working at a hospice care center in Botswana — and his mother’s work as a preacher have left an indelible mark on his life. “[My mom] would bring communion to [people in hospice care], and me and my dad would bring guitars and play for them. I quickly learned that the songs they love the most are John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Bob Marley, so I learned “No Woman, No Cry’ and a bunch of Bob Marley tunes and sang to them,” he explains of his time volunteering.
“There’s actually a picture of me and my dad [Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon] performing for this woman who was dying of AIDS in this little shack. I remember she was so sick and couldn’t say a word to my mom during communion. We brought out the guitar to sing “No Woman No Cry” and she sang along, cheered up and smiled. All her kids were there … that was one of the most special things — it was unbelievable.”
4. Fit as a fiddle
The singer has been a devoted CrossFitter for years — see the Instagram evidence.
5. He’s followed his dad’s footsteps (and advice) in the music industry
Levi isn’t the first Hummon man to make music his career — his dad Marcus has penned a number of country hits, including Rascal Flatts‘ “Bless the Broken Road” and the Dixie Chicks‘ “Cowboy Take Me Away.” “I remember my dad’s songs being so different than anyone else’s — he never wavered from his unique voice and he always was true to himself,” he tells PEOPLE. It’s this individuality that has inspired Hummon’s musical career path. “That’s what I’ve tried to do in my brief career so far — stick to my unique voice and not let people try to change [me]. I’d rather be comfortable and be myself.”