Sam Hunt's freshman Montevallo album wasn't a debut project that was thrown together just to get his music to the masses; the 30-year-old decided early on that he didn't want to fit into a cookie-cutter mold, but rather wanted to create a sound that was unique to him. And while it may seem like a daunting task to go against the grain of what most successful country artists are doing, Hunt found inspiration in another rising star: Kacey Musgraves.

"Shane McAnally played me her original demos, and I was like, 'Wow. This is really awesome,'" Hunt tells Rolling Stone Country. "It was cool to watch her come up while I was planning to release a record of my own -- to see that unfold was inspiring."

The Georgia native also credits songwriters McAnally and Josh Osborne with giving him the courage to create a record that was authentic to him.

"People would say, 'That's not really country' or 'That doesn't really sound like what's happening on the radio now,'" Hunt recalls. "[McAnally and Osborne] really embraced and encouraged what I wanted to do. I felt like, 'Finally, maybe I do have something to offer here; maybe I do have something unique.'"

Not that Hunt wasn't used to standing out. An avid athlete who played football while attending the University of Alabama, he never intended to pursue music as a career.

"I never saw myself as a musician or having any musical talent," he says. "I was just killing time [one] summer, and a buddy had recently bought a guitar. I picked it up one day and on a whim thought, 'You know, I think I want to buy a guitar.'"

But after that, it didn't take long for Hunt to realize his true passion. While his teammates might have been out partying, Hunt used his time to delve into music, learning as much as he could about the craft.

"It was definitely different, because I didn't know anybody else who I played ball with who also played music," he concedes. "It took me a while to get over that.”

Clearly, Hunt's dedication paid off. Montevallo shot to the top of the charts, and his debut single, "Leave the Night On," became his first No. 1 hit, as well as his first platinum single.

Hunt is currently out on his own Lipstick Graffiti Tour; a list of tour dates is available on his website. He is also nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2015 ACM Awards.

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