When Sam Hunt wrote his debut LP, Montevallo, he was pulling from a life before the spotlight: one of small-town romance in a shifting south, where both Usher and George Jones offer equal solace for a broken heart. But after a year of incessant touring, CMA nominations and three platinum singles, the country singer with an R&B flair (or, debatably, vice versa) has a new challenge — finding inspiration in a worldview that is more backstage than front porch.
“Before [Montevallo], I was writing about my life at that moment, and the years prior,” Hunt tells Rolling Stone Country, “and now I am living a completely different lifestyle. I am trying to draw inspiration from that, but it’s pretty much been stages and hotel rooms for the past two years. So I’m trying to figure out right now exactly what I want to say, and what I want my voice to be for the second record.”
Hunt, who released Montevallo last October, began work on his second album two weeks ago. But before that, he admits, he hadn’t written a song in 18 months due to his rigid touring schedule, which had him balancing his own Lipstick Graffiti headlining run with Lady Antebellum opening slots.
“As much as I enjoy traveling and playing on stage as an artist, I really find my true sense of purpose in a room writing a song,” he says. “That’s something I have missed, because I haven’t figured out how to write on the road. I realized after writing songs for years how important it is. Whether it provides a living for me or not, that creative outlet is something I need.”
For his new material, Hunt is once again partnering with co-writers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, as well as Montevallo producer Zach Crowell, who co-produced with McAnally. All three were vital creative forces in crafting the album’s unique — and polarizing — point of view. Though it might seem forced for the ex-football star to still spin tales inspired from his Cedartown, Georgia, upbringing, he also doesn’t think that his new world — which glows from arena lights, not Friday night ones — is too far from the human experience to no longer ring true with listeners.
“I think there is a way to write about my life and be honest about where I have been the past two years,” Hunt says. “And even though that experience might not be as relatable, I think it can be. I’m still experiencing the same emotions I was before. Hopefully I can blend the worlds, and make music that connects with everyone.”