Country superstar Sam Hunt has not had a very long career as a solo artist to date, but there’s no denying that he’s absolutely crushed it from the minute he was handed the baton. Hunt’s debut album, 2014’s Montevallo, broke numerous records and spawned a whopping five singles, earning critical acclaim for his facile genre-bending abilities.
Mixing different influences into country music is no new territory at this point in time, but Hunt stood out effortlessly from the hordes of bro-country peers with his clear and magnetic approach, following up his debut with the equally wildly successful standalone single, 2017’s playful “Body Like a Back Road.” The hit made its way onto the pop charts and pushed Hunt’s already burgeoning fame into household territory.
Given all these notches quickly acquired on his musical belt, it comes as no surprise that there is a near-rabid demand for Hunt to provide fans with a new album. What does come as a surprise is that the singer-songwriter — who originally pursued a path as a pro athlete — is thoughtfully considering where he’s going to go next in life.
And — even more surprisingly, given that he’s at the absolute peak of his game at the moment — he isn’t sure it will be solely in music.
“I’ve grown up a little bit since my first record, and I feel my first record was inspired by an era of my life that really left with something to say and something to sing about,” Hunt, 33, explains. “And at this point … I’ve gotten into some other things outside of music that I really enjoy. Just other interests of mine that have nothing to do with music.
“I don’t know where my career will go from here, but my sole focus hasn’t been on making music all the time like it was in my 20s. I’m not writing as many songs. My interests have changed.”
Hunt, who started his career purely as a songwriter (he has penned hits for Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney, among others), notes that he understands fans are eager for new music from him, but that there’s a reason he’s been taking his time with it. As a seasoned writer, he has no problem creating tunes for other artists, but when crafting a song for himself, “the bullseye becomes a lot smaller,” as he terms it.
“It’s hard to explain to folks who aren’t necessarily writing songs or in this business,” he says. “When I’m singing a song as an artist, there’s only so much that I really want to say or have to say. I haven’t had a whole lot to say in the past year. So I’ve been writing songs that I don’t really feel are representing me, so I haven’t put out a record in the past year.”
That said, Hunt has been experimenting with a variety of musical ideas, but admits his explorations haven’t gelled into a cohesive whole yet. “I haven’t really found the next thing that I really want to turn into a project. I just have a lot of songs that are scattered all over the place. It hasn’t come together in a way that would really make a great album.”
Hunt adds that lately he hasn’t been interested in putting in the massive amounts of time “that it takes to produce a record at the level which I’m operating right now.”
So, what is he concentrating on instead? After initially demurring, Hunt reluctantly revealed that he’s been going in a scholarly direction. “I was an economics major in college, and got really obsessed with politics, economics, and philosophy,” he explains. “I’ve been reading a lot in the past year just trying to educate myself. I got married last year, and I’m in my 30s now, and I feel I’m not as educated as I should be. So I’ve been spending a lot of time just reading and informing myself, outside of putting out songs that work on the radio. Just been trying to broaden my horizons.”
That said, Hunt has no intention of abandoning his music career. He is releasing a single in the next few weeks, followed by another shortly after, and plans to continue thinking about his specific musical direction while out on the road in the coming months. He’s embarking on a stadium tour with American Idol star Luke Bryan at the end of May, and will also be playing select key dates such as the first-ever Bud Light Getaway July 14 in South Carolina (tickets available here), along with a multi-genre lineup including Dashboard Confessional, Lil Jon and rising star Harry Hudson. This marks the second time he’s partnered with Bud Light, the first being a similarly eclectic artist mix at 2016’s Stagecoach festival.
“I’m just looking forward to getting on the road,” Hunt states. There, he’s hoping to connect with fans, enjoy the vibe of playing live, and find what he’s looking for in terms of continuity for an entire album.
“I have a lot of ambitions but I don’t know,” Hunt says. “I just haven’t really found that inspiration yet. I think it’s just taking the time to find the inspiration while on the road.”
In the meantime, we’ll all be waiting.
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