Sam Hunt Is Embracing the Simple Life While Creating His New Music
In October, Sam Hunt's debut album, 2014's Montevallo, will turn five years old. The three-times-platinum record, followed in 2017 by the absolutely massive, cross-genre hit "Body Like a Back Road," helped Hunt find country superstardom -- so much so, in fact, that, half a decade later, he's still headlining shows on the strength of that music alone.
An admitted perfectionist with no desire to rush his creative process, Hunt has announced only three shows for this year -- his Friday night (June 14) set at Country Jam 2019 in Grand Junction, Colo., was the final one, according to his website -- in order to (finally) get into the studio and record his sophomore album. And the music that comes out, he tells The Boot, will likely sound different than the conversational, R&B-influenced hits to which fans sing every word.
"More recently, I've gone back to just picking up the guitar and writing songs," Hunt told The Boot backstage at Country Jam 2019. "Typically, when you pick up a guitar and write on the guitar, there's just a different spirit about it, and they tend to go more singer-songwriter, more introspective ... more traditional in terms of the genre, so that's definitely where the songs are leaning at this point.
"But I still feel the pressure because of the songs in in the past that have created kind of an expectation," Hunt adds, "so that's what's been tough."
Both "Body Like a Back Road" and Hunt's 2018 single "Downtown's Dead" are still in that beat-driven vein, but Hunt says they will "probably not" be on his second album. The singer, with a laugh, calls them "interim songs that I was trying to put out to buy myself more time."
"This new music will, most likely, anyway, be just all new stuff," he continues.
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At Country Jam, Hunt dropped a stripped-down, acoustic guitar-accompanied cover of Waylon Jennings' "Belle of the Ball" into his set; in 2018, a '90s country medley held that spot, whereas in 2017, Hunt was performing a mix of pop and country covers. Previously, the artist has cited Tyler Childers as a recent inspiration; now, Hunt says, his mandolin-playing future brother-in-law has been one as well.
"It's been a little bit nostalgic," says the Georgia-born Hunt, noting that he grew up listening to that "rural country bluegrass" type of music, "but also inspiring, just because I love that genre of music. That's not necessarily gonna influence my music, but it has influenced the spirit of the way I approach the write."
Hunt's been making both his loved ones and himself more of a priority lately, in fact. "Touring and living the lifestyle that comes along with being a new artist in country music ... does something to your brain," Hunt says. "I wanted to re-center myself a little bit, because I felt like I was just -- it was sensory overload for, like, three or four years."
Hunt got married in 2017, and he's also recently been spending time with family members and friends "who had kind of been on the back burner." He went fishing; he hung out in the woods; he "spen[t] time doing anything other than going to the studio, getting on the bus, getting onstage."
"Those things have been good for [my] overall well-being, mental well-being," Hunt admits. "[I've] kind of been making a point to take care of that."
That re-focusing has made him, Hunt feels, "a better husband, better brother, a better friend, a better family member in general." Both he and his wife want kids, and while Hunt says he's "looking forward to that opportunity," they're still "maybe a year or two away" from that point.
"I'm starting to feel a lot more like I did before I got into all this," he adds, "and that's been helpful for me."
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