At first glance, Sam Hunt might seem like a fairly typical young country singer—he grew up in a small Southern town; spent his school days concentrating on sports, but feeling his attachment to music grow deeper and deeper; and came to Nashville with little idea of how the music business worked, but with big dreams. But a closer look instantly reveals that there is nothing typical about the music that Hunt makes, nor about the way he has introduced his work to the world. In a short time and on his own terms, he has become one of Nashville’s most hotly anticipated new artists, and his debut album, Montevallo, delivers on the buzz and the promise—and then some.
The album follows Hunt’s recent four-song album preview, X2C, led by the Top Five, gold-selling track “Leave the Night On.” Of course, even though he was a recording rookie, Hunt was no stranger to the country music charts, having already written hits for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Billy Currington.
His songs started to experiment with ways to mix more modern beats and tones with the narrative and wordplay that define the best country music. Some of the other songwriters were skeptical, but when Kenny Chesney recorded “Come Over” (written by Hunt along with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, who remain his close associates) and it became a Number One hit, he sensed that he was on to something. When the even more sonically daring “Cop Car” became a hit for Keith Urban, Hunt was convinced that he had found an exciting new direction, and began to shift his focus from being a songwriter to stepping out front as a solo artist.
The results are a bracing mix of sounds and styles, from the aggressive dance beats of the opening “Take Your Time” to the more melodic “Make You Miss Me.” On “Break Up in a Small Town,” Hunt talk-sings the verses, an accident he and Crowell stumbled on in the studio, before unleashing an explosive chorus. With “Raised On It,” he wanted to write about his small-town upbringing with images that expanded upon the now-predictable trucks and dirt roads of countless other country songs; the results are both more specific and more universal than the standard fare.
As for the album’s title, Montevallo is the name of a small Alabama town where Hunt often retreated these past few years, to visit friends and escape from the pressures of starting a new career in Nashville. He also points out, however, that the word means “mountains and valleys” in Spanish—which, he says, “feels about right, too.” Because as his remarkable set of songs demonstrates, for Sam Hunt, contradictions are meant to be embraced, rules are meant to be broken, and creativity knows no limits.Back to Artist Lineup