Trey Lewis Admits ‘Country Music Saved My Life’ Upon Release Of New Album, ‘Troublemaker’

“I feel like everything I’ve been through in my life has built up to this moment,” Lewis shared.

By

Lexi Liby

| Posted on

March 1, 2024

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Trey Lewis; Photo by Marisa Taylor

Rising singer/songwriter Trey Lewis, often recognized for his breakout hit, “Dicked Down in Dallas,” is showcasing the depth of his artistry with the release of his full-length album, Troublemaker

Out now, the 14-track project encompasses autobiographical songs that enable Lewis to showcase vulnerability as he guides listeners through various chapters of his life. 

“My overall goal is that I hope that people listen to it and love it. I want them to say something like ‘Man, I want to get me some more of that Trey Lewis,’ or ‘I want to go to see this in a live show,’ Lewis told us.

Trey Lewis - Troublemaker
Trey Lewis – Troublemaker

He added, “I hope that there’s something on this album for everybody, whether you’re a troublemaker or not. I felt like I did a good job of representing myself and the kind of music that my fans want to listen to as well as representing the people that aren’t fans yet. I’m excited to get this thing out and start working on another one.” 

With his new release out now, check out our exclusive Q&A below to learn more about Lewis and the project. 

Why did you choose “Troublemaker” as the title for this album?

So it actually took a little while to figure out. I write songs for Sony Music Publishing in Nashville, and I’ve probably written 400 songs in the past couple of years. Since Dicked Down in Dallas came out, I’ve put out a lot of other songs. A lot of those songs I just teased on TikTok or whatever, and then I would just drop ’em. When I signed my record deal at River House, my goal was to put out a record. So we would get my River House team, my team, my manager, and then my publishers at Sony, Tom Luteran, and Rusty Gaston together, and we would have these big listening meetings where we would just go through songs that I had either written or songs that had been pitched to me. Outside songs are what they call them. It was probably our second meeting, and we had listened to probably 10 songs that day. My manager said, ‘What about Troublemaker?’ I had a demo of it, so I said ‘Sure. Play it.’ I mean, I love that song, but I didn’t think that they would like it because it’s more of a story song. It’s not like a radio smash per se, but I said ‘Sure, play it.’ At this point, there were songs that I felt strongly about and others that I didn’t. After listening to about 15 songs, you’re like, ‘Dang, are we ever going to put this thing together?’ So, we played it, and then Rusty Gaston from Sony Music Publishing said at the end of the first chorus, he was like, ‘Wow, this is really good.’ When he says something’s good, you don’t take that lightly. Then after the second chorus, Lynn Oliver-Cline was like, ‘That’s it. That’s the title track of the record.’ She said, ‘We’re going to build this whole thing off of that,’ which I loved because originally, when I wrote that song with Davis Corley and Kyle Coulahan, I went and demoed it immediately and really loved it. Then I ended up tracking it and I was going to put it out, but then things just happened and it kind of fell by the wayside. Honestly I just didn’t think about it. My manager is not really a song guy because he works more on the business side of things so it was just really cool that out of everyone in that room that knows music like they do, he was the one that knew which song it should be. I just thought that it was really cool how that happened. 

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Would you consider yourself to be a troublemaker? 

Yes, I mean, I was always labeled a troublemaker as a kid. I went to rehab when I was 19, and I’ve been sober ever since, so almost 17 years. My sobriety is definitely the most important thing in my life, but country music saved my life. I think when I tell people that I’m sober and I’m the guy that put out a song like ‘Dick Down in Dallas,’ people are kind of taken aback. I don’t know; I feel like the song is about my life. I was, as a kid, always labeled a troublemaker. The second verse talks about people always telling me, ‘Man, you ought to grow up and get a real job and start acting like the way you were supposed to, instead of being out here on the road chasing a pipe dream.’ I just never gave up, and I always stayed true to who I was. I didn’t really know where my music was going to take me. I just knew that I loved doing it, and I felt like that’s what God put on my heart to do. So that’s what I did. It all worked out, and it is just a song that speaks to the underdog and the troublemakers out there that don’t really have it all figured out yet. Eventually, though, you get to a point where you take that trouble and you put it to good use.”

You haven’t released an album since 2013. What will it feel like to have a new body of work out there for fans?

It’s really cool because my 2013 record was more or less, I didn’t even know what I was doing at that point. I always just knew I could sing. I had a friend that wanted to produce some songs for me and I hadn’t really played shows at that point, but here I am all these years later. I’ve done everything. I’ve done it all. I’ve been on the road for the last 10 years. I played a million cover gigs, and then I had a song blow up.  I’ve played three years of just being an artist, being out on the road from the van to the bus, back to the van, whatever. I really feel like these songs represent me the best. This is the best batch of songs that I’ve ever put together. I’ve put out singles since my viral hit, and I’ve put out an EP, but it feels really cool to have 14 songs that go together. I’ve really put a lot of time, and a lot of people have put a lot of effort and love into this thing. So I’m really excited about it. It feels good to potentially be in the album world where I’m just putting out albums and not singles.

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Ahead of the release, you shared a few tracks and music videos – which was your favorite to create?

Man, the ‘Up Yours’ video is really fun. I feel like that song didn’t really get the love I thought it deserved, but maybe it will when this album comes out. It was a really funny one. In the video, there’s a girl who smashes a beer bottle on my head. When she smashed the bottle to my head she did it really hard. Those bottles don’t really hurt, but she did it so hard that if you look closely, my head was actually bleeding. She did it so hard, and it was like the first scene that we shot that day, and it hurt so bad. Anyway, I’d say that it was probably my favorite video. I also really love the ‘Always You’ video. Even though it’s just a visualizer, the way that they shot the video was amazing. It’s on secondary radio right now and it’s currently our highest stream song off the record. It’s a song that I just really love and really believe in. They wet the floors down, so it gave this cool look with the camera, and then they were flashing the lights. I really, really enjoyed it.

You’ve mentioned that this album is personal to you and that it showcases many of your real-life experiences. Were you ever hesitant or nervous to be so vulnerable and put your life out there?  

Honestly, I never really have been. I believe that everything in life kind of happens for a reason and that everything just kind of builds off the next. When I first got sober, I went to 12-step meetings, and I would walk in there feeling nervous or scared. If somebody came up to me and talked to me, I’d walk away and act like I was on my phone. The longer I stayed in 12-step meetings, they’d tell me to keep coming back. I kept coming back, and the longer I kept coming back, I started to do the things that were required of me to stay sober. The more I did that, the more I felt a part of it. When I made the leap to move to Nashville, I just kind of took the same approach. I would go out to bars to shake hands, meet people, and do things like that. There were many nights where I went home and felt like, ‘Dang, man, I really struck out tonight’ or whatever. But I was like, you know what? Tomorrow’s another day. I would’ve never had that approach had I not done the things I needed to do to learn how to get sober and stay sober. That leads me to believe that everything builds off the next. I just had to go through that shyness period early on in my sobriety. With music, I feel like it’s something that was a gift from God, and I’ve just kind of run with it. I’ve never really been nervous to be myself. I think that my painful past is my greatest asset.

You are very transparent about your sobriety journey and you are currently 16 years sober.  How do you use music to help you through this journey and how do you expect this album in particular to help others struggling? 

I use music as my therapy. It’s really, other than my relationship with God, it’s really the driving force. I mean, that’s what I think about every day. I’m always doing music in some form or fashion every single day. I think the biggest thing for this album, and for who I am as a person, is to just really show my transparency. If you stay transparent with your life and stay true to who you are as a person, the end result will always be the best. That’s what I always try to do. 

What advice would you offer to those heading down a downward path?

I would tell them that there’s help out there. If I can do it, anybody can do it. For a long time, I liked to blame other people because this thing happened or this other thing happened, or maybe I didn’t get a fair hand somewhere. Once I started just looking at the things that I could change about myself, and I started seeing similarities with other people that had struggled with the same things I’d struggled with rather than looking for the differences, I was really able to make that change. The biggest thing is that you don’t have to do it overnight. You just have to do it one day at a time. It works if you really want to change and if you really want to get some help. There are all kinds of things you can do to get help out there. You just have to ask for help. That was the hardest thing for me. Asking another man or just anybody in general for help. There are all kinds of solutions out there. Beyond your wildest dreams is just waiting for you on the other side.

Which song from the album was the most difficult to write and why?

Well, I wouldn’t say ‘Troublemaker’ was hard, but it did take two sessions to write. Normally in Nashville, we go to a writer’s session, and we write a song in two to four hours, and then we’re done. I had the idea for ‘Troublemaker’ on my phone, and I got together with Davis Corley and Kyle Coulahan. We sat down, and we started writing the song. I think all we had was a verse and a chorus, and I was like, ‘Man, I really love this song.’ Davis was like, ‘Yeah, man, why don’t we just come back to it on another day?’ I was thinking, dang, does he hate this song or what? Because normally when people say that, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m never writing with this guy.’ Which I knew wasn’t the case because me and Davis Corley, we’ve written probably 80, 90, maybe even 100 songs together. We’ve written a lot of songs together, and he’s one of my favorite writers in Nashville and one of my closest friends. We came back to the song on a Saturday, which is rare because nobody writes on Saturdays in Nashville anymore. I mean, during Covid, it was like all the time. We didn’t have publishing deals, so we would just write all the time whenever it hit us. Well, we got together on a Saturday and finished the song. Now, this next part is really cool. I’m a big mental health advocate, and I go to therapy once a month. My therapist moved buildings to start the year in 2023. Davis, he was with a different publisher at the time, and we wrote the song in this room in the RCA building in Nashville. We wrote ‘Troublemaker.’ I think they moved out of there or whatever. My therapist moved buildings, and I showed up to go to my therapist appointment one day, and her new office is in the exact room that we wrote the song in. I just thought that was so cool. There are just all kinds of little things like that with this song that have really just been little God moments or God links or whatever you want to call it. I would just say that it was kind of the hardest to write. It wasn’t really hard; it was just my life and my story, which has taken some time to tell. I’ve had to go out there and live it. Some of that hasn’t been pretty; some of that has been fun for some people and not fun for me, and some of it’s been fun for some people and offensive to others, so I just had to live it. I’m so grateful that we took the time to write it the best way we could, and I’m so pumped that it’s the title track.

Can you talk about what it was like to write “3 Feet Tall” and how that song relates to you personally?

Oh yeah, I’ve done a lot of cool things in the last three or four years, but that by far was the most validating for me on so many different levels. I have a viral song that was kind of a joke between friends and not even meant to go viral on the internet, but it did. For a while, and still to this day, some people still only see me as that guy. Then I did it again. I had a song called ‘Single Again’ that went viral. It was number one on iTunes, but I moved to write songs. I thought I was too old to be an artist. I thought that maybe I was just supposed to move to Nashville and learn how to write songs, and I would write songs for other people. But as we finished this album, we went out, and I went on a writer’s retreat. Tom Luteran, my publisher, set up this writer’s retreat. We got a little house outside of Nashville on Old Hickory Lake, and I went with Jordan Walker and Trannie Anderson. We sat down and started writing this breakup song. The last few years of my life, I’ve been in this on-and-off again relationship. So we rewrote this song. It was like if you came here to make it right, you came to the wrong place, kind of just like a breakup ballad. While we were writing that song, Trannie Anderson was like, ‘What side of the breakup are we writing from?’ I said, ‘Well, hell, I’ve been on both sides of it.’ She was like, ‘Wow, that sounds like another idea.’ I was like, ‘alright, well let’s finish this one first.’ So we finished that song. We didn’t really have a song title for ‘3 Feet Tall’ or anything like that, but we just started writing it. Jordan Walker and Trannie Anderson, I mean, they’re such great songwriters, and I felt like I just kind of told my story and tried to do the best I could. That song just kind of fell out, and it was really cool. I sent it to Rusty Gaston that day, and I was like, ‘Man, this is the best song I’ve ever written. Listen to it when you get a chance.’ He was like, ‘This is the best song you’ve ever written.’ I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, and then he was like, ‘What do you think if I sent it to Cole Swindell?’ I was like, ‘Man, that sounds awesome.’ The next thing I know, Cole Swindell sends us a text, which was crazy to me. I mean, I grew up listening to his music riding around in my Jeep Wrangler, listening to that 2014 record and all of a sudden I have a text on my phone from him. He invited us to the studio, so we got to hear him record it, and then it came out. The day that it came out, all my songwriting friends and people I barely even knew texted me the day that it came out. They’d just say, ‘Man, what a great song’ and all that stuff. It’s really cool. I mean, I lived all that stuff, and that stuff wasn’t cool when I was a kid.I would never blame my drug addiction on my parents. I mean, I think that I could’ve had the best childhood in the world and still probably ended up where I did. I think it was just my road that I went down. A lot of that stuff was confusing and painful as a kid. I had a lot of my emotional stuff and my pain was self-inflicted coming into my adulthood. I lived all that stuff, and there’s a lot of things that I don’t remember. I just know that I always grew up kind of feeling like I didn’t fit in or I was less than. To have a song that’s like that, it’s just super validating in a writer’s sense. I’ll never forget, me and my girlfriend went out to the Stockyards to see my roommate Ella Langley perform. She was opening for John Pardi, and we were coming back on the plane. Right before the plane took off, I got a text from someone showing me my song, ‘3 Feet Tall,’ was playing on the highway, and I just sat there on the airplane and I just cried. I cried like boogers and snot tears coming down my eyes. I like things to make sense in my life these days. As I get older and I mature and I spend a lot of time praying, questioning myself, what the hell am I doing? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I working hard enough? Am I not working hard enough? What should I be doing? And just right there in that moment, it just hit me that, Hey man, you got a major label cut and a song that is about your life story. It’s as real as a song can get, and you are a writer on that. Nobody can ever take that away from you. Cole Swindell thought it was good enough for him to take and make his own version of it, which he crushed it, but it was just super gratifying and super cool. I get a little restless or I get a little tired sometimes of people sending me videos of them singing “Dicked Down in Dallas’ at some bar in the middle of nowhere. But I love it when people send me videos of ‘3 Feet Tall’ playing because while I love ‘Dick Down in Dallas,’ don’t get me wrong, it changed my life, ‘3 Feet Tall,’ was something new and something different. It’s serious and it is the real me.

With it being a new year, what would your “word of the year” be? 

We did vision boards at our house this year where you cut pieces of magazines out. Ella does it every year. I usually just write mine in my phone, but Ella was like, ‘We’re doing vision boards tonight and you and Brooke will do it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So I have two words on my vision board this year and they are hope and consistency. 

Fans can keep up with Trey Lewis on Instagram.

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Lexi Liby

Written by

Lexi Liby

I am a senior at Kansas State University, where I am majoring in Communication Studies. Throughout my time at college, I’ve had the opportunity to publish a few of my pieces in the University’s newspaper, The Collegian, and I’ve created my own website. I’ve previously interned for Country Insider, an iHeartMedia-owned country music industry newsletter and I am currently interning for CountryNow, a Red Light Management owned publication. I’m very passionate about music and writing, so I hope to find myself in a career that incorporates both of these passions.