Sam Hunt’s Not Joking About His Traditional Country Transition
When Sam Hunt told Taste of Country he was dreaming of a more organic, traditional country future, he wasn't being hyperbolic or going through a phase. The "Body Like a Back Road" hitmaker and symbol of country music's rapid shift toward a more cross-genre, pop-friendly approach says his next album is not shaping up to be nearly as progressive as his first.
Speaking with the Boot prior to his set at Country Jam in Grand Junction, Colo., on Friday, Hunt said he's been writing on guitar, which has led to a more organic batch of songs. A soon-to-be brother-in-law's bluegrass band is also influencing him, although he stresses that he's not making a bluegrass album, even if that is part of what he grew up on in Georgia.
"The songs typically, when you pick up a guitar and write ‘em on a guitar there’s a different spirit about it," Hunt says. "They tend to go more singer-songwriter … even more traditional, in terms of the genre."
Sam Hunt, Traditionalist? It's Not Crazy!
Montavello (2014) is not a traditional country album by even the loosest of definitions. Defined by loop-heavy songs like "Break Up in a Small Town," "House Party" and "Take Your Time," his debut album made him an overnight sensation in and out of country music. He blasted through the sturdy fence that defined country's boundaries and artists like Walker Hayes, Kane Brown and Dan + Shay followed. He may be polarizing, but it's impossible to not recognize his influence. However, that "Sam Hunt Sound" is something he's very much trying to reconcile as begins recording V2.0 this month.
"I still feel the pressure because of the songs in in the past that have created kind of an expectation," Hunt says, "so that's what's been tough."
This echoes what he told ToC last June when he noted a shift in influences:
So far, my music has been influenced by pop culture. And I’ve used my pop culture foresight to create a sound that I thought would be effective in today’s times. Now I’m not paying as much attention to that. I think as I continue to write songs, I may lean on country roots I think a little more than where the culture is going, musically. So I don’t know how that will work out, ultimately, but I think it will be fun for me to kind of create a more pure version of the music that’s been influenced by my country background. Tyler Childers is a good example of someone who inspires me as a songwriter and I want to make a record like that at some point, potentially.
"Body Like a Back Road" and the 2018 follow-up "Downtown's Dead" are not likely to make the album. Hunt says he released those to buy him more time to start recording, something that was further delayed when Luke Bryan asked him to go on tour in 2018. This year his calendar is clear, leaving him plenty of time to create — time he's used re-connecting with old friends, family and hobbies like fishing.
“I wanted to kind of re-center myself a little bit,” he says, later adding he's hopeful fans will be able to hear the results before summer ends.
Friday night's set was the third of three scheduled shows in 2019 for Hunt, but from the stage he alluded to a fourth.
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