There used to be a time when most people knew Thomas Finchum as an athlete and fewer knew him as a musician. In fact, many still know him only as an Olympian.
Now seven years after giving up an elite diving career to pursue work as a musician in Nashville, Tennessee, the script has mostly flipped, and Finchum is rapidly making a name for himself as a country artist in Music City.
“Living in Nashville, people know me as Thomas Finchum the musician, then they find out about my past life and ask how does this happen” said Finchum, now 29. “It’s cool to see a shift in people seeing me as a true musician.”
In his “past life,” Finchum was an Olympic diver who competed at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, placing 12th in the 10-meter and fifth in 10-meter synchronized with David Boudia. He finished third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, where the top two went to London.
Finchum now spends every day in Nashville locked in a studio with another songwriter and a producer, writing what they hope will become the next big country hit.
The Olympian hasn’t earned any gold records yet, but he has recently seen a lot of progress — both as a writer and with his own music.
Two songs he co-wrote have appeared on the hit TV show “Nashville,” and then in March a song he co-wrote called “Kissing a Girl” found its way to LoCash’s new album. Hearing the finished song for the first time let Finchum know his hard work was worth the wait.
“It was crazy. I remember being in the room and recording it. To finally have it happen was the first big step as a writer,” Finchum said. “Having a song cut by a big artist is the proudest moment in my career so far.”
Yet writing is only the beginning for Finchum, who has slowly begun releasing his own music. In late May, he released his first single, “Past the Front Porch,” and that’s just the beginning of his solo career. [Click here to download or stream “Past the Front Porch.”]
His second single is scheduled to be released on July 5, and the next is slated for Aug. 16. After that, he will release an extended play album (EP), which is fewer tracks than a full album.
Finchum describes “Past the Front Porch” as a love song about two people in a young relationship who are about to “take it to the next level.”
“When I wrote this song, I knew I wanted it to be a part of my project,” he said.
Finchum said music has always been a part of his life. He grew up listening to 90s country music, and said he includes inspiration from all genres in his music: “from Bruce Springsteen to John Mayer.”
When he enters a writing session each day, the writers first ask if anyone has a specific song they’d like to write. Sometimes they are out of the studio in a couple of hours. On other days, they may be there past dark to get a song written.
So what happens if they go in there and draw blanks?
“There’s no real way of how it happens when we write a song,” Finchum said. “There are times we go in there and start playing melodies, and we work on different things until a song happens.”
He said the goal in writing is to have one of his songs recorded by a big-name artist — all while making his own music.
The writing doesn’t stop for Finchum when he leaves the studio. He gets ideas swirling in his head at dinner, in the middle of the night or any time inspiration hits.
“A title could pop up in my head and wake me up in the middle of the night. I grab my iPhone and put it in my notes,” he said.
Finchum said he has about 500 different notes for songs and titles in his phone. And when he puts his thoughts to music, it’s not always the same.
“There are times when we’re writing tempos and fun songs, and then times I’m writing ballads,” Finchum said. “Maybe it’s the weather or what’s going on in your life, but it could be a different song every day of the week.”
It’s not as easy as it may sound. Finchum said making it as a musician in Nashville has more valleys than peaks, but it’s about perseverance — something he learned really well in the world of sports.
“It’s not an easy town, and it’s been a struggle at times, but it’s been a steady climb,” Finchum said. “What I learned from diving is how to persevere and overcome adversity. To take frustration and let it motivate me.”
His goals are now his motivations. The first is to win a major award in songwriting.
“That’s my biggest dream right now. The next would be to win one as an artist.”