It takes guts to cover Whitney and Mariah, and it takes even more guts for a male vocalist to break through the machismo of country music and sing the hits of famous divas, but Sam Hunt’s not afraid to take a sharp left-of-center turn. On The Bobby Bones Show earlier in the month, Hunt gave a preview of the acoustic medley he’s performing on his Lipstick Graffiti Tour, which includes snippets from classic tunes by Houston, Carey, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Bonnie Raitt and Wynonna Judd.
“That’s the interesting thing about having only one record out,” Hunt told Rolling Stone Country back in January, during his tour kickoff party in Nashville. “You have to play a little longer than the album, if you were to play it top to bottom. You run out of songs. So it’s been cool to find ways to elongate the set. Covers are tricky, because people already know the songs and have emotional attachments to the artists. So you have to find a way to do covers that fits with what you do.”
And true to Hunt’s style, he’s set the songs to acoustic guitar, finding a uniquely breathy place in his voice that splits the difference between crooner country and smooth R&B. In the performance below, he mixes McEntire’s “Fancy” with Yearwood’s “She’s in Love With the Boy” and Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.”
For the video for “Take You Time,” the latest single off Hunt’s debut Montevallo, the envelope-pushing artist decided to take another departure from the norm by addressing domestic violence. It’s a very dramatic plotline to lace alongside a song that could have lent itself to the typical romantic, snuggling-in-a-car scenes. Instead, the clip ends with Hunt saving a woman from the last blows of an abusive partner. Again, a gutsy move — Garth Brooks tackled a similar issue in his 1991 video for “The Thunder Rolls” and it was quickly banned by CMT.
Hunt’s sold-out tour will continue through May, when he’ll link up with Lady Antebellum for a string of dates and festivals. In the meantime, keep expecting the unexpected. “Hopefully all those walls break down, and music is just music,” he says.