July 24, 2006 - Posted at 4:10 p.m. CDT
KENNETT, MO -- Country music is constantly evolving and always pushing the envelope...you just saw the CMA Festival in Nashville air on KAIT. But for every shining star, there are thousands of hopefuls trying to make it to the top. Often it can be a long, tough road for artists who are looking to develop a unique sound to set them apart from the crowd.
'Country-Rocker' Trent Tomlinson attacked the music charts earlier this year when his single "Drunker Than Me" broke the Top 15...he's gained fame with other hits including "Hey Batter Batter" and "One Wing In the Fire."
But many folks may not know that this rising star has roots right here in Region 8. In fact, his road to success started in the Bootheel of Missouri.
If you've never heard him before, Trent Tomlinson puts on quite the show. His music...a combination of styles.
"Open up a can of beer, sit in a lawn chair, lets have a party kind of music," said Trent Tomlinson, "But about the same time, it runs the gamut of country, rock and roll roots from southern rock to gospel. It's all those things rolled into one and one thing is for sure, I like to have a good time and the music is very up tempo, very in your face and a good time."
"It amazes me to see the reaction of people and just to see him up there doing what he always wanted to do," said his mother Brenda Tomlinson, "Not everybody gets to live their dream and he's getting to do that."
Born in Blytheville, Arkansas, and raised in Kennett, Missouri, Trent started singing in the First Baptist Church Choir when he was in grade school. But it wasn't long before he was singing along with the 'classics.'
"He would tape record himself singing Kenny Rodgers songs and I still have some of those tapes. He doesn't like anybody to listen to them, but we go back and listen to them at Christmas," smiled his mother Brenda Tomlinson.
His father, a former University of Missouri basketball player, spent years coaching the 6'2" Trent...but even he knew his heart was in the music.
"He was a good athlete," said Don Tomlinson, "He was pleasant to coach and he had some talent but I think I always knew about 15 or 16 years of age that his interests were going to be in music and he would try to do something in that field."
His junior high and high school choir teacher remembers his determination.
"He worked hard. He worked very hard. He was fairly serious, not geeky or a nerd about it, but he wanted it to be good and he wanted it to be right. And he certainly understood that everybody had to work hard. He wasn't the type of student that because he was more talented then others, he expected any special treatment," said his former teacher Viretta Sexton.
Trent moved to Nashville after graduating from Kennett High School in 1994 and a semester at Murray State University.
"I'm an overnight success in 12 years!" laughed Trent Tomlinson, "I've been playing music my whole life....writing songs at an early age, shortly after I got out of high school. Twelve years there in Nashville of really hard work...putting gas in my car $0.42 cents at a time. You know really just beating the street with it. Everybody says its overnight success, but it's really not. It takes a lot of years of preparation and persistence I thank the good lord we are here."
"It takes the right combination, the right break at the right time and finally it all fell together for Trent," said Don Tomlinson.
Today he lives in Nashville with his sister Tara. He released his first album "Country is My Rock" in March and now tours all over the United States.
"I can believe this is my life because I worked so hard to get here. But sometimes I go, 'wow this is really cool' when you are singing up on stage a song that you wrote in an apartment that you struggled to pay $500 dollars worth of rent on. These people in the front row are singing that song back to you. And at that point, it's like 'wow!'" remarked Trent Tomlinson.
With a supportive family behind him, this Region 8 native uses his down-home roots as a background for nearly all of his music.
"I write songs that are about my life and what I have went through and what I have lived. I think that if I have lived it and went through it, chances are somebody else has too. I think my music is very relatable to everybody from all walks of life from kids to grandparents," said Trent Tomlinson, "So, I really think that what I do...basically, I just put my life on paper and chances are somebody else has lived through it and went though it or knows somebody else who has. I think it appeals to everybody."
His relationship with his father served as the inspiration for "One Wing in the Fire."
"His short comings, his good heartedness, his willingness to fix my car when it's broken down. You know, just everything that's gone on in my life is a testament to who I am and what I am and I try to write about him. He's been very influential in what I do, the good and the bad. Thank God he understands that and doesn't get mad at me when I write about the bad," said Trent Tomlinson.
He's written songs for Sara Evans and George Straight and opened shows for Bon Jovi and Jon Melloncamp. But he says the highlight of his career were his appearances on the Grand Ole Opry.
"When you go into the Grand Ole Opry, you stand on this little bitty circle in the middle of the stage, where it's the original wood from the old Ryman Auditorium where Hank Williams stood and Patsy Cline and all these people stood. Its very knee buckling, surreal experience, you know. You're running the gamut of emotion for sure. And to be a part of that heritage and that tradition, it's overwhelming."
But no matter how big he gets or where he goes, Trent Tomlinson says he'll never forget where he came from.