Sugar and the Hi Lows' Trent Dabbs on Nashville: "You Can Throw a Rock and Hit Somebody That Wrote Your Favorite Song"
The Nashville musical duo of Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs, better-known as Sugar and the Hi Lows, have a new sort of bluesy soul. Their sound pays homage to the classics of yesteryear, but their modern spin makes for an infectious sound. Even if you've never heard their record, you probably know their songs. Over the past few years, the duo's work has been featured on such shows as Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Parenthood.
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Earlier this year, the duo released its debut self-titled album, made up of a collection of songs that seamlessly combines modern indie pop with retro rockabilly soul. Simply put, it's the type of music that just makes you want to dance. In a phone conversation with Dabbs from his Nashville home, we spoke about the Sugar and the Hi Lows' upcoming holiday album, Taylor Swift, and the Nashville music community.
New Times: Hi! Are you in the middle of tour right now? Or back at home?
Trent Dabbs: We're at home, in the middle of rehearsing and mastering our Christmas record. We tracked the album a couple of months ago, and we've just been mixing it. But today is the final master day, so we can have it ready for the tour and everything.
Oh wow. That's neat. Can you tell me any of the songs that will be on it?
Yeah, a few. "Home on the Holidays," "Snow Angel," "Jingle Bells," "Naughty or Nice," and "Sugar Cookie."
How did you decide to put out a Christmas album? Especially so quickly after your debut album [Sugar and the Hi Lows] came out...
Well, we write quite a bit, and I think, um, just so we could kind of stay focused on writing. Even on tour, we were trying to write, which is a hard thing to actually pull off. But both of us are actually big fans of holiday albums. I know some people have a tough time with those, but we thought it would be a good challenge to see if we could pull off a Christmas record that we'd be proud of it.
I think they're great. Have you heard the She & Him holiday album?
Yeah. Yeah, I have it on vinyl. I love it.
So, to get a little back story. How did you guys meet?
Let's see. It was at least six years ago. We were introduced through a friend who worked at BMI. Beth Mason said to Amy, "You should write with Trent. I think stylistically you two would enjoy writing with each other." So we met and just sat at the kitchen table, started writing, and one of the first songs that we had written landed on a TV show. It was great. It's always been easy. And that's kind of a hard thing to come by. I mean, we've both cowritten a ton of times living in Nashville with different people. So it's like you go on enough blind dates, [laughs] musical blind dates, and you know what's comfortable.
Obviously Nashville has a big music scene. But what's the indie scene like? Is there one?
I mean, it's amazing. It has everything. It's definitely tripled in size over the last several years. People like Jack White and the Black Keys, and several others are just heading this way because it's affordable and has such a great community of writers and artists.
My wife and I started Ten out of Tenn around eight years ago, which is ten solo artists who all do a tour together once a year and play on each other's songs, sell merch collectively, like ten of our albums together for a certain price. It's like a live iPod shuffle just to let people know that Nashville isn't just gospel and country. There's tons of independent artists that need to be spotlighted. But yeah, it's an eclectic scene. There's everything from country to gospel to singer/songwriter and rock. It's pretty much across the board. You can throw a rock and hit somebody that wrote your favorite song.