Sam Hunt never thought he was going to end up a hitmaking songwriter. The Georgia native had his eye on a different ball after graduating high school…football, that is, having established himself as a standout player for both the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Middle Tennesee University.
Things didn’t work out exactly as planned, however. Hunt graduated and attempted a career in the pro league, working as a free agent for a short time for the Kansas City Chiefs. When that proved unsuccessful, he decided on a complete change of pace: He packed up his bags and moved to Nashville to try his hand at a musical career.
Hunt went into the new endeavor not knowing what to expect, but excited to start fresh: “I was pretty gung-ho about music and pursuing that and figuring that whole thing out, so I was wide-eyed and ready to go when I moved to Nashville. I never looked back,” he explains. “I drove right into the music with the same sort of attitude as I went into the football stuff with. Just found a routine and hard work and it helped me progress a lot faster.”
Where he initially found his footing was songwriting, As it turns out, Hunt had already started fooling around with music and had some informal songwriting under his belt already. “When I graduated high school, I bought a guitar and at first, didn’t really think I’d get into the songwriting thing as much as I did,” he notes. “But after learning a few songs of other people’s to play on the guitar, I got bored with that and just started writing songs on my own and that’s kinda how it came about.”
Hunt managed to score a publishing deal through his efforts, crediting the “work mentality” he’d honed during his sports years – “that sort of helped me from getting caught up in some of the distractions that may have been a part of moving to a new city like Nashville,” he says.
The dedication paid off. Hunt found himself in the enviable position of claiming co-writer’s credits on several hit country songs, including Kenny Chesney’s “Come On” and Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight.” Earlier this year, Hunt watched Keith Urban perform yet another song he co-wrote, “Cop Car,” on the 2014 Grammy Awards telecast.
Hunt did more than write for other people. He managed to generate a powerful buzz for his own performance skills as a musician, having put out a mixtape in 2013. He followed that up with the infectious single “Leave The Night On,” and has just released the four-song EP X2C to much fanfare.
When asked about how he feels regarding the high-energy vibe surrounding his new music, he replies simply, “It’s exciting because it’s just an indication that the music has made an impression on people.”
When asked which world is harder to make it in – professional sports or music – Hunt smiles. “I really didn’t spend enough time in the NFL scene to get the full gist of it, but [music] is similar to the college scene as far as how tough it is and how hard you have to work and how competitive the competition is,” he muses. “Nashville was a little tougher for me because I was coming in that situation sort of with my hat in my hand. I didn’t really consider myself a musician or a singer or a songwriter – I was learning.
“Football is something you do – I was doing that as a child, that was a big part of my upbringing, but music was brand new. So it was a tough learning curve but I loved it so much that I enjoyed catching up!”