Country Hitmaker Sam Hunt Returns

Country Hitmaker Sam Hunt Returns

By David DeRocco                   

It’s a funny thing about overnight sensations: they only emerge after years and years of hard work. Take multi-platinum-selling, award-winning hitmaker Sam Hunt for example.

After years of honing his craft, writing songs for other artists and developing his music, Hunt released his Grammy-nominated, Triple-Platinum-selling debut album, “Motevallo”, which topped the Billboard Country Albums chart & produced four No. 1 singles. All ten tracks on “Motevallo” are RIAA certified with six achieving Platinum or Multi-Platinum status including “Leave the Night On,” “House Party,” “Take Your Time,” “Break Up In A Small Town” & “Make You Miss Me.” His sophomore album “Southside” debuted to critical acclaim and was one of the top country albums of 2020, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Named one of the Best Albums of the Year by The New York Times & US Weekly, the project featured 12 songs written by Hunt including his No. 1 hits “Kinfolks,” “Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90’s,” and his 8x Platinum-selling, GRAMMY-nominated smash, “Body Like A Back Road.”

Since MONTEVALLO’s release, Hunt has accumulated over 12 billion global streams and has earned 39 million RIAA certified units. In promotion of his upcoming August 12th appearance at the OLG Stage in Niagara Falls, Hunt took time to talk to about country music, his try-out with the Kansas City Chiefs, his chance with Taylor Swift, and what he bought after his first big payday.

GoBe: What’s got you excited about the country music industry these days.

Sam: The fact that I’m still around, on the radio and touring, doing it with my family and the same guys I’ve been doing it with for years, I finally like I’m upper class in the country music world. At peace and smelling the roses these days.

GoBe: The evolution of country music continues. I worked country music radio and saw multiple trends evolve. What are your thoughts on the accessible nature of the country music genre now.

Sam: I think it’s been a good genre for lots of different people who socially might not otherwise spend much time around each other. It’s become broad enough to accommodate a lot of different tastes. We have country music festivals throughout the year with multiple country acts and lots of different styles up on stage. Lots of different people showing up to concerts now whereas in the past you may not have had such a diverse audience at these shows. I think it’s bringing people together in a different way.

GoBe: And it’s really doing wonderful things for the diversity of song styles. Country music often gets a bad knock for the homogenous sound but there’s really a variety of song styles emerging.

Sam. Yes, there’s a whole spectrum of songs in the genre. There is a shade of it that could be considered formulaic at times because the format fits that approach for songwriting. There’s a lot of aiming at radio, but I think that may be correcting itself right now. There’s a lot of fresh voices stepping into the genre.

GoBe: When you wrote songs for other artists (Kenny and Keith and Rita) did you ever think after, I should of kept that one?

Sam: There was a song on my first album, “Cop Car,” that I wanted to keep. It was kind of an ace in the hole. At the time I hadn’t finished my record and I thought, that song might be an important part of my breaking through the noise. It turned out not to be as important as I thought it might be. Looking back, that was one I may have held onto a little tighter.

GoBe: What was your first thought when your first hit #1 with your debut? Was it shock, validation, or joy?

Sam: It was unreal. Things were moving so quickly at that point it was quite the whirlwind. I was trying my best to experience it and really rap my head around it. At the same time it was buses and touring and playing stages and trying to capitalise on the opportunities coming my way. I never felt there was much time to celebrate because it was just push forward push forward push forward. I remember feeling like if it all goes away tomorrow, there was some peace to find it that after all the hard work.

GoBe: What do you remember about those early days trying to hone your talents. What kind of time did you allocate daily and weekly. Were you always practicing?

Sam: I don’t know if there was anyone who came to town when I was there who worked as often or as much over those first few years. A lot of opportunities came my way that I can’t take credit for. There was a lot of happenstance and blind luck. But I put the work in either way.

GoBe: At the core of your job responsibilities as a musician, what do you enjoy more: writing and recording songs, or playing those songs live. Do you enjoy the manufacturing process or the delivery? (written for others)

Sam: I really enjoy the creation of the songs. It’s starting with nothing and slowly building up this little story with music and lyrics and melodies. It’s really fun for me to tinker with songs. A lot of people just want to write, get them to a producer in a couple hours and record them. I really enjoy getting my hands on them and tinkering with them.

GoBe: What’s your process for creation. Do you keep a little notepad, because lyrics and inspiration can come out of the ether at any time.

Sam: I think my memory sort of has a value system and it tends to cling to thoughts, ideas, lyrics and melodies that have the most potential. In the meantime, I put it all in my phone. It’s not very organized but it’s all in there. You just never know if it might turn into something.

GoBe: You created some evocative imagery with the song “Body Like a Back Road.” When my ex first mentioned that song to me my first through was, “oh, dried up and dusty.” You must have been imaging a more inspiring body.

Sam: Yes, it definitely requires a little imagination. That was an obstacle for sure. When you first think of an old road you think of dusty roads full of potholes. It made me focus on the lyrics.

GoBe: Too bad your tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs wasn’t successful. You might have been writing that song about Taylor Swift.

Sam: (Laughing) Maybe so, but she might be a little bit out of my league.

GoBe: You’re coming up to Canada again. You’ve been here before. What do you enjoy coming up here.

Sam: We’ve always enjoyed coming up to Canada. We went to Canada early on quite a bit and for whatever reason our music really caught on in Canada and we were able to build a real connection with folks up there. The folks who have been living to us since the beginning have really been connected to the songs. We’re thankful for it.

GoBe: What’s your experience with Canadian audiences. We sometimes get a reputation as a well-behaved, tame and mellow group. Do you notice a vast difference between rabid US fans and Canadian fans?

Sam: It seems like Canadian fans are, I don’t want to say easier to win over necessarily, but they are more receptive and they’re there to have a good time. In the States people have the artists they like and don’t like. In Canada it seems like the folks show up to have a good time and they’re not as critical. A lot of time in the States criticism can get in the way of a good time. In Canada it’s a warm welcome.

GoBe: It might be that our beer is stronger and we prepare for a good time by drinking it.

Sam: (Laughing) It could be. It could also be that your winters are longer so no one’s going to mess up a good time in the summer.

GoBe: So what can fans expect on this tour. Do you have new music you’re testing out?

Sam: We’ve been rotating songs it figuring out how to get the set just right. We had a great set last year, probably the bet set we’ve ever done. We’re trying to mix it up and make it a little different.

GoBe: So in your dream scenario, what do the next two years look like for you?

Sam: Im at sort of a turning of the page point right now, having just put out some music in the last year, thinking what direction I want to take next, finding that family/work balance. There’s a lot of music I want to make and I have to sort of pick and choose. I’m trying to spend as much time with my new babies as I can. I’m kind of just getting out and living life and not necessarily work work work like I have the last 10 years. I feel blessed to be here and I’m so grateful for the fans. I’ll just dive back into writing and see where it takes me.

GoBe: Final question. When you first got a big cheque, whether from a label advance or residuals, what indulgence did you treat yourself to?

Sam: I never really have ever spent any money on anything other than food. I just started ordering appetizers. I could finally afford to get appetizers.


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