Local Musician Jamie Trent Chronicles His Daughter’s Life Through Song
Photos by Ashlee Glen
Everyone knows the “Happy Birthday” song played at parties and sung right before the birthday boy or girl blows out the candles on the cake. Lynchburg local Jamie Trent transforms the idea of the classic birthday song when he creates a new song for his daughter’s birthday every year.
Since she turned one, Kardigan’s father has written her a song and played it over a slideshow of photos for her birthday. The songs feature lyrics about her and her life. Trent’s wife came up with the idea and suggested it to Trent as an original way to capture memories.
Trent has been a musician his whole life. His father and other relatives sang at church, he played in high school bands, and he even performed as a way to help pay his way through college after he served in the military.
About ten years ago, Trent took his music in a new direction—one of healing. He started volunteering with SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a nonprofit that connects veterans and songwriters, where he would partner with wounded veterans and those who suffered from PTSD to write songs as a way to process their experiences.
“Music is such a powerful tool. You don’t have to be famous or make money from it,” Trent said. “It grips at those emotional heart strings, whether it’s a happy song or a sad song. It can take you places you never thought you could go.”
After finishing eight songs for Kardigan, Trent has a process laid out. He jots down notes throughout the year on everything from milestones to little moments in Kardigan’s life. When he sees something that catches his eye, he might snap a picture of it to put in the slideshow that accompanies the song.
By the time her next birthday rolls around, he has about 50 ideas. However, he condenses them into a single song, often cutting 90 percent of the list.
“As she gets older, it’s becoming more demanding. She’s expecting these songs now,” Trent said. “She’s very in tune with it. In a couple months, she’ll start saying, ‘Dad, what’s up with my song? You started taking any pictures, you got any ideas, what’s the title gonna be?’”
For the past few years, Trent has collaborated with Arlis Albritton, a professional songwriter based in Nashville. Together, they keep the songs fresh and stop them from being redundant.
To kick off the songwriting process, he tends to start with a title or bigger picture of what he wants the song to look like.
“I’m a very good title and idea guy. [Albritton is] a very good rhythm and chorus guy,” Trent said. “I start with the idea, then bring the music in afterwards. You know what—I say that now, but it could be the exact opposite the next time. I don’t fight it. It’s whatever comes naturally.”
Though he originally had other artists sing the first few songs, Trent now sings all the songs he writes for Kardigan.
Through trial and error, Trent has discovered what type of songs his daughter likes the most. He avoids writing sappy ballads, since Kardigan better appreciates a fun, upbeat song where the chorus is something the listener can sing along to. He describes most of the songs as upbeat with a country flair.
According to Trent, music “puts a sparkle” in his daughter’s eyes.
It’s hard for Trent to pick a favorite song. Each song is better than the last, because as Kardigan grows, so do the songs.
Due to the emotion behind it, Year to Remember was one of the most rewarding songs for Trent to write. Trent wrote it during the lockdowns of 2020. That year, he and his family grew closer together and realized they didn’t need the outside world as much as they needed each other.
One of the lyrics Trent is most proud of writing is one that references when Kardigan hit the head pastor at their church with a water balloon. Though it happened years ago, Kardigan still remembers the lyric and what happened.
“It’s moments like that when it’s like, man, she is gonna remember these songs,” Trent said. “At nine years old, she’s thinking back to five years old about [that verse] in the song. I feel like [they resonate] with her, and that’s the goal.”
At the heart of it all, Trent wants to show his daughter how much he and his wife love her.
“I want her to know how deeply we love her.
She’s adopted, so … I would never want her to think that she isn’t massively loved … that she wasn’t loved to the moon and back. That’s first and foremost,” he said.
Trent hopes that other parents find their own way to capture life’s special moments, whether it
be through songs, scrapbooking, or eating together at the dinner table. To put it in perspective,
Trent references Kenny Chesney’s song Don’t Blink because he knows others don’t want to blink and miss out on life’s special moments.
“We only have so many Sundays, so many weeks left in our kids’ lives until they’re out the door,” Trent said. “That time is precious, and these songs are a constant reminder of that for me.”