Sam Hunt (Yes, Sam Hunt) Says His New Music Is More “Traditional”
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Sam Hunt will be heading into the studio soon to start recording his long-delayed second album. And according to the man himself, he says the music he’s working on is more oriented towards traditional country music than the R&B pop of his previous album released now nearly five years ago. Of course there’s a lot to unpack and analyze about just exactly what that means. Because after all, this is Sam Hunt we’re talking about—the man that is arguably most responsible for country music making a massive turn toward pop in history.
“More recently, I’ve gone back to just picking up the guitar and writing songs,” Sam Hunt told The Boot last weekend while 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.”
Now granted, “more traditional” for Sam Hunt could mean just about anything, since at the moment his music isn’t country at all, let alone traditional. Literally any tiny little traditional country element in any song would sound like a revolutionary shift in direction for Sam. This is the reason the “Still more country than Sam Hunt” meme has been evoked many thousands of times over the last half decade to call things country that aren’t even remotely close. Nonetheless, Hunt seems serious about this potential move, also citing his soon-to-be brother-in-law who is a mandolin player as really getting him excited about the rootsy side of country music again. He also continues to curiously play Waylon’s “Belle of the Ball” in concert.
Also remember, when Sam Hunt first showed up to Nashville, he was just a songwriter, and penned some more traditionally-oriented material, namely the #1 song for William Michael Morgan “I Met a Girl.” The whole EDM/R&B style that made Sam Hunt famous as a performer almost seemed to be his way of separating himself from the herd of mainstream country hopefuls—something that he hasn’t been shy about saying no longer really interests him like it did before. In July of 2017 Sam Hunt said,
“My inspiration and the type of songs that I want to write don’t necessarily all aim in that [commercial] direction. So, now that I’ve established myself and am in the position that I’m in now, going forward, I’d like to explore writing songs that probably won’t be as commercially viable as some of the songs that I’ve written in the past.”
But he is still a mainstream performer, and Sam Hunt also said as part of his recent comments that he’s under the gun to continue the direction that was so commercially successful for him in the past. “I still feel the pressure because of the songs in in the past that have created kind of an expectation,” Hunt said, “So that’s what’s been tough.”
Anyone would be a fool to believe at this point that Sam Hunt will turn into the second coming of Tyler Childers, who Hunt has gone out of his way to praise previously. But who knows, it’s certainly not hard to listen to Sam Hunt’s previous songs and not see how he could feel they’re shallow, and now that he’s a millionaire many times over, how he wants to do something that’s more meaningful to himself and others. Sam Hunt does seem to to be a pretty introspective and thoughtful person compared to the shallow character he seems to portray in many of his songs. Then again, accomplishing a sea change with his music through the sausage factory that is Music Row will be a difficult task. Most certainly they will want him to record some singles that will see similar success to “Body Like a Backroad” and “Leave The Night On.”
If Sam Hunt’s new music turns out to be more traditional, it could be a step in the right direction for country, even if it isn’t any good. At least it would mean the EDM/R&B style he helped launch would continue to be on the wane. And it is on the wane. That’s why artists like Luke Combs, Midland, and Jon Pardi have been doing so well lately. As strange as it seems, more traditionally-oriented country music is hot right now, and someone like Sam Hunt may have to convert to survive. But remember when Justin Timberlake said he was going to put out a traditional country record? That’s why it’s all just talk until you actually hear the music. But the talk at the moment is interesting, not because we should expect Sam Hunt of all people to transform into some traditional country savior. But perhaps he will at least cease to be the “country” music devil that he’s been for the last many years. And that would be a good thing.
June 23, 2019 @ 10:42 am
I mean it’s one thing to talk the talk….. If he did put out something more traditional he wouldn’t be the first one to play the Nashville game to do what he wanted to later on. See Jamey Johnson and Honky Tonk Badonkadonk
June 23, 2019 @ 10:43 am
I hate to say it, but I’m actually interested to see what he comes up with for the next album. Something about him seems more sincere than his fellow-mainstream artists, as it seems as though he would actually prefer to be out of the spotlight and does not care about chasing the trends for the sake of his career. I think he intends on doing what he feels is right this album and could care less about the commercial success. Maybe this could result in a more country oriented album?
September 11, 2019 @ 7:22 pm
I agree completely and I love that about him!
June 23, 2019 @ 10:55 am
So basically, this guy sees the success and integrity of up and coming artists like Tyler, sees a bit of a shifting tide (thanks in part to his recent bombs), gets “inspired” and TALKS about WANTING to write songs that “don’t necessarily all aim in that [commercial] direction, but it’s “tough” because integrity and tradition are good and all, but shit, mo money mo problems.
June 23, 2019 @ 11:00 am
The bloke has a decent voice IMO, so I hope he can make country music this time round
June 23, 2019 @ 11:10 am
This article is 100 fucking percent on point. I’m going to try and be open minded because to hear clips from him at stagecoach, or just around town the dude has pipes, and an excellent voice. I’m curious to see his interpretation of “traditional”.
I’m also not expecting this to be down home like the new Tanya Tucker record, but I’ll give it a try.
June 23, 2019 @ 11:18 am
The blame is on the label executives, I’m pretty sure Sam hates/really dislikes the shallow songs he’s put out. I’m really interested to hear his next single, I’ve read some interviews he did and he seems like a clever guy.
June 23, 2019 @ 4:17 pm
That’s being far too generous to Sam. He came out of the gate with his first album as a radical revision to “country” music, which had only the slightest of semblance to actual country music — and the semblance was superficial (“dirt roads,” “small towns,” etc.). He’s fully responsible for that. He was smart, from a marketing and money-making angle, to exploit the mainstream country market, precisely as a market.
So, if he wants to earn my respect, he’s got a hell of a lot to do. As it stands, only Keith Urban — carpetbagging turncoat — is more of a parasite in Nashville.
June 24, 2019 @ 2:55 am
It was his debut album, and I think he had no choice but to record what his record label wanted him to. Keith Urban is way worse, he deliberately chose to start putting out awful non-country music just to stay relevant; with 20 years in the business with many #1 singles I’m sure he had the clout to say no.
I’m not saying Sam Hunt is a great artist, but I think he can and want to improve.
June 23, 2019 @ 11:54 am
I believe it when i hear it.
But hey…the guy co-wrote “I Met A Girl”.
Next step…Grammy & CMA Awards because his voice is decent.
Maybe…just maybe…he is not a puppet on a string for his label & his producer Shane McAnally.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 24, 2019 @ 5:05 am
I doubt he’s any more of a “puppet on a string for” McAnally than Kacey Musgraves is – he had even had fewer McAnally co-writes on his debut than she did on hers, or on Pageant Material.
He doesn’t deserve the excuse of blaming his label or producer for Montevallo. The long and short of it is that he’s a fairly talented songwriter, with a good voice, who nakedly sold out to make a buck.
But that doesn’t preclude him from doubling back, now that he’s made that buck, and putting out something decent.
June 23, 2019 @ 12:17 pm
This is one of the scenarios where I’ll have to see it to believe it. I’m really curious how his next era will perform given the time that has lapsed between BLABR and whenever he’s done with the album. Taking a “break” especially when you are relatively new has never worked for anyone so I’m curious to see if he’ll be an exception.
Hey, if the music doesn’t sell because it’s traditional, musicrow could always blame it on the sound smh
June 23, 2019 @ 2:39 pm
Plot twist: Sam Hunt’s next album will be more traditional than Sturgill’s next one. 😂
June 23, 2019 @ 2:56 pm
Step aside Cody Jinks, there’s a new sheriff in town.
June 23, 2019 @ 3:12 pm
He better run like he’ll actually…there’s a guy that’s thinking, if it’s not too tough, about wanting to aim kinda in the direction of maybe being a part time sheriff’s admin, in town.
June 23, 2019 @ 3:16 pm
What Sam meant to say is he will hire a drummer who uses real drums this time rather than use Pro Tools for beats, so you know, it will sound traditional.
June 23, 2019 @ 4:27 pm
“He also continues to curiously play Waylon’s “Belle of the Ball” in concert.”
The fact that he plays a Waylon tune in the same set as “Body Like a Backroad” is a damn disgrace.
June 23, 2019 @ 5:49 pm
He seems like an opportunist to me. He sees the tide turning to traditional sounds and wants on that bandwagon. If a traditional, Waylon-loving singer/songwriter is who he truly is, he never would have put that garbage album (what’s it called, Montevello?) out. I am just having a hard time forgiving his sins. He might be a Tyler Childers wanna-be right now, but if that doesn’t work for him, expect more of his pop/R&B crap or whatever is in fashion on Music Row at the time.
June 23, 2019 @ 7:18 pm
I wrote with Sam for a couple of years when he came to Nashville. He was very traditonal in a a soulful Travis Tritt sort of way. This was before Shane MacAnally started producing him. He’s very talented and could go traditonal easily.
June 23, 2019 @ 7:31 pm
As much as I’ve despised most of Hunt’s music (and Keith Urban’s past several albums), I still think “Cop Car” was a really cool and unique song.
June 24, 2019 @ 7:31 am
Considering how long a break he’s taken, I’m far more inclined to give him a chance than the average EDM/R&B “Country” star.
June 24, 2019 @ 7:50 am
I’ve always said that Sam Hunt could write country songs [he certainly has song writing skills] but he choose not to which is frustrating because he is certainly one of the reason why I am avoiding country altogether. As many others, I will believe it when I will see it!…
June 24, 2019 @ 8:29 am
I’m not actually from Missouri, but the purposes of this article, I am. I’ll believe it when I hear it and will give it no further thought until then. And even then, it would have to be some very good traditional country music for me to give a shit as opposed to let’s say, pretty good pop country music likeLuke Combs. Because he’s done some damage.
June 24, 2019 @ 1:36 pm
Ya lost me at Sam Hunt…
June 24, 2019 @ 6:15 pm
Cheated on the good guy, married old rich guy who now watches porn in a nursing home, and now has come back to the small town for some side action, you know, for old time’s sake, because it was so beautiful.
June 24, 2019 @ 10:57 pm
This is lining up to be a weird scenario where Sam Hunts last album will be more country than Kacey Musgraves.