Tim Gent sees collaboration as fundamental to his work, and his smooth-as-silk vocal stylings belie a fearless lyrical style. image: Chad Crawford

Tim Gent

Home is where the life is

When Tim Gent released Life Away From Home in late summer of 2018, the Nashville-via-Clarksville hip-hop artist had no idea how many doors that new mixtape would open. In the past year, Gent has hosted headlining shows in and outside of Nashville, entertained potential publishing deals and writing opportunities, and received critical acclaim from national outlets like NPR Music — to name just a few of the young MC’s recent accomplishments.

He’s also learned a lot about both his own artistry and the workings of the broader music industry, as he explains over dinner at Las Fiestas Café on Gallatin Pike. He’s joined by collaborator and fellow artist Jamiah Hudson, who appears on several tracks on Life Away from Home, and Zack Cobb, a member of Gent’s management team.

“A lot has changed [since then],” Gent says. “Like my perception of what I want and what I’m working towards. Life Away from Home taught me a lot about myself and how I was doing things, things I needed to change and learn from and grow towards. From last year to now I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know when I dropped that project. I’ve opened for some people and done some dope shows. A lot of opportunities came from Life Away from Home as well. I feel like the biggest thing that sticks out is just, like I said, my perception of what I want out of my career and what I’m working towards.”

Gent self-released Life Away from Home to considerable buzz. He was already a local favorite, thanks, in part, to his 2016 song “Lady America” (featuring vocals by Drisana DeSpain), which landed praise from outlets like OkayPlayer thanks to its frank criticism of hot-button issues like racial injustice, police brutality, and the obvious, deadly intersection of the two. The tape is a compelling collage of hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and pop, with cleverly chosen samples, live instrumentation, and an overarching narrative — complete with skits and interludes — giving the project something of a concept album vibe.

Opening track “Intro (The Yarn)” whets listeners’ appetites with spacey saxophone, atmospheric sound effects, and what sounds like a recording of an actual voicemail. Throughout the tape, Gent shows himself to be a versatile vocalist, as he easily transitions from his quick, agile flow to more than a few singing parts, the latter of which he handles with equal skill.

Gent released the tape with the support of his tight-knit group of friends and collaborators, many of whom — like Hudson (who performs as Jamiah), Case Arnold, Bryant Taylorr, Bammie Davis Jr., and others — appear prominently across Life Away from Home. Gent marked the release of the tape with a celebratory show at Exit/In that also made plenty of room to celebrate his friends’ talent and creativity.

While Gent’s accomplishments around the mixtape are plenty, the Exit/In show is perhaps what he’s most proud of. In addition to giving him and his collaborators a prominent platform for their music, the show helped Gent maintain the momentum from his mixtape and opened some crucial doors for him. For example, he’s now exploring offers for publishing deals, which he hopes will give him greater freedom to plan his upcoming projects.

One example Gent mentions is the official lyric video for closing track “Pain Pills,” which he began teasing in the summer of 2018 but didn’t actually release until late spring of this year. While the final product — which was directed by visual artist Ben Wade and features impressive custom artwork — was certainly worth the wait, Gent wishes he could have released the video closer to the tape’s actual release.

“It would have been cool to roll that out differently, as opposed to putting the tape out and then playing catch-up on certain things. Like I said, [the tape] still opened up a lot of doors and it worked out, but there’s definitely some things I’ll change the next time I release anything.”

That song is one of Life Away from Home’s most powerful moments, bringing together the essential pieces of what makes Gent such a compelling artist: his deft flow, lyrical vulnerability, and an ear for arrangement, combined with a  collaborative spirit (Hudson, Davis, and Taylorr all feature on the track).

Collaboration is at the heart of Gent’s work. He’s one of several artists who anchor Nashville’s hip-hop and R&B community — which, it’s worth noting, gets only a fraction of the attention it deserves, particularly considering the sheer level of talent on display. He explains he met Taylorr at a show in Chattanooga a few years ago, and met the rest of the community through that friendship.

“We just hit it off really well,” Gent says. “I ended up asking [Taylorr] to do a show with us and that’s when he brought out Jamiah. A.B. [Eastwood, Life Away from Home’s executive producer] was his DJ. They had Bam on the drums. It was like magic. We all hang out every day. We live on the same street. We’re always with each other, always hanging out. It’s deeper than music. What’s made it work is it’s genuine. Nobody’s hanging because they think it’s a one-up. I know I can benefit from being around [Hudson] but that’s not why I’m around her, or around them. We’re all literally friends. It’s heaven-sent.”

He and Hudson work together frequently, with Gent offering a fiery verse on “L.A.”, the opening track of her most recent project, 22. Asked how the collaboration came to life, Gent laughs and says, “She begged me to get on it.” (“He’s lying,” Hudson retorts, laughing. “He’s lying.”)

“She was working on her project,” Gent says. “We didn’t even know it was going to be her project, at first. She was working on new songs and working on ‘L.A.’ specifically, and I happened to be in the studio with her and I just loved it. It was produced by A.B., who executive produced my whole tape and pretty much helped me put it all together. She was in there recording and I was like, ‘Man, this is really dope. I’d like to put a verse on it.’ I wrote it in like 15 minutes and we put it out. I begged her to do it.”

Gent has a new project in the works, but unsurprisingly, given his desire for a tighter rollout next time around, is reluctant to share too much of what that project might look (and sound) like. To keep people interested and engaged, he posts occasional snippets and teasers to Instagram, offering glimpses at his writing sessions and time spent in the recording studio.

“I’m kind of teasing just because I’m anxious and I want to drop, but like I said, I want things to be in place before I start releasing,” he explains. “I don’t want to just be, like one of my managers, Eric, says, reactive. Like not being really rational as far as the release and everything like that. I don’t want to do that. So I’m just teasing little things here and there and getting people excited, keeping the content steady to lead up to when we drop. Right now I don’t have anything solidified.”

He’s also continuing to play shows and hone his craft as a performer. A couple weeks after the interview, Gent appeared at Marathon Music Works for Red Bull’s multi-artist show, The Underflow. The show brought together artists from across Tennessee for a one-off event designed to showcase just how much hip-hop and R&B talent we have in our backyard. Gent performed, as did Hudson, Taylorr, local rapper Daisha McBride, producer/Travis Scott collaborator Tay Keith, and several others. Gent brought a live drummer to his set and had Taylorr also join him on stage.

Until he’s able to release new music, Gent is more than content to play shows, work and write with friends, devote himself to planning his next chapter, and spend his downtime with his young son, Benjamin. His ultimate goal is releasing new music by the end of 2019 with help from a publisher and a booking agent. He and Cobb also have some innovative event plans under wraps, which they hope to announce in early fall.

“Since the summer kicked off, my creativity and energy just got really high,” he says. “I’ve been writing so much this summer, because that’s when I really started working with publishers. These last two-and-a-half to three months, I’ve been making so many songs and writing so much material. It’s been fun.”