Trent Harmon rewrites the ending to a real-life heartbreak story with his first country single, "There's a Girl." The American Idol winner once did just what the song says, going to great lengths – including driving hundreds of miles – to impress a woman, only to be rejected. But when hit songwriters Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins helped him put the story to music, their creative juices flowed a different direction.
"We were gonna write more like a sad country song and it just didn't work out," Harmon tells Rolling Stone Country. "I was dating this girl and did all these things that just didn't matter, it didn't work out. But the song took its own life and ended up being a happy song — which is even better."
"There's a Girl" is the first taste of the 25-year-old singer's upcoming album for Nashville's Big Machine Label Group, whose founder Scott Borchetta (also an Idol mentor) describes the project as what a Justin Timberlake country album would sound like. While Harmon admits that's a daunting description, he's also quite flattered and hopes to prove his boss right, as he continues writing and recording for the upcoming LP.
On Idol, Harmon proved an exceptionally versatile singer, tackling jazz, pop, R&B, soul and, yes, country. In fact, Harmon sang "Tennessee Whiskey" on the show and says that George Jones' version — and not Chris Stapleton's — was on his set-list long before trying out for the show. (He also sang Stapleton's "What Are You Listening To.") But standout, game-changing performances like his cover of Timberlake's "Drink You Away" and Sia's "Chandelier" have a lot of fans now asking, "Why country music?" Harmon, who grew up on a farm in Mississippi and got his musical start singing in church, goes back to his upbringing to defend his album's direction.
"Country has always been what I was most comfortable doing, because it's what I sang the most of when I was home," he explains. "You're kinda playing the game when you're on one of these shows. It was so expected of me to sing country, especially for the very first audition. . . When I walked in, they were playing "Green Acres." So I thought, OK, let's flip it. So I sang a jazz song."
Harmon is still working on his debut album and says that in addition to highlighting his country roots, it will introduce a side of himself that most fans haven't seen yet: his songwriting side. He's well aware of the importance of striking while the iron is hot, as the end of American Idol makes its way out of the headlines. But he's also adamant about taking whatever time is needed to create surefire hits — and to make friends in the country music world.
"I want to get it out as fast as possible, but I also want a quality product," he says. "I don't want to get it out just to get a product on the shelf. With country music, you have to maintain and create close-knit relationships with radio stations. If I were to just put an album out, there's no one to play it! You have to pay your dues."
Watch Trent Harmon's "There's a Girl" video here. The fun-loving clip, which made its world premiere on Rolling Stone Country Monday, features the singer on a multi-vehicle road trip to see a woman — and meeting several other lovely ladies along the way.