Sam Hunt: From the Magic City to the Music City

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WIAT) — The main room at Rocketown in Nashville is empty, save audio technicians, publicists, and a band. The lead singer is attacking the performance to none as if it was in front of thousands. Sam Hunt doesn’t care how many people are there to listen; just that he gets to make music. “I’m able to remember those experiences when I was first getting started playing at places like Zydeco [in Birmingham] for very few people,” remembered Hunt.

“Believing in the idea that I could turn it into something.”

“Something” is an understatement for where Hunt sits now.  His list of accomplishments belies his limited time in the country limelight:

  • His album “Montevallo” was the no. 1 and best-selling debut album for a country artist since 2011.
  • His first single, “Leave the Night On,” was the highest debuting new artist single in the history on Country Aircheck, and was Hunt’s first No. 1 as an artist. It has sold more than 1,000,000 tracks and is RIAA-certified Platinum.
  • Hunt made his Grand Ole Opry debut on August 19, 2014.
  • He also has two No. 1’s as a writer.

(Courtesy: Leigh Parr, Universal Music Group Nashville)

“I’m able to remember those experiences when I was first getting started playing at places like Zydeco [in Birmingham] for very few people…Believing in the idea that I could turn it into something.” – Sam Hunt

“It’s really hard to describe,” said Hunt. “It’s been a lot of good, and I’ve gotten to do it with some of my favorite people in the world.”

Before picking up a microphone, Hunt was tossing footballs as the starting quarterback for the UAB Blazers from 2006-2007. While calling plays on the field, Hunt had no idea he was getting trained to call the shots on another big stage. “You learn to be a leader and a motivator,” he said. “It’s similar in a lot of ways, and it’s different in a lot of ways, as well. It’s not as competitive in terms of someone having to lose in music.”

Sam HuntHunt is part of a club that will never grow, at least as it stands now: former UAB players. The Blazer football alumni says it’s been tough to watch from a distance as the program was disbanded late last year. “It’s been sad for me,” said Hunt. “I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t been able to be as proactive as I’d like in educating myself with what all has gone on with the football program. I’ve tried to make my stance known on the fact that I really believe in the UAB football program.”

“In the future I am absolutely going to fight and do what I can to try to see about bringing the program back.”

Football was not the only impact on Hunt from his time in Alabama. He’s visited Montevallo often, even after college, which motivated him to title his first album after the small Shelby County town. “A lot of people have passed through it and said, ‘Oh yeah, I think I’ve seen that sign on 65 south,’” Hunt said with a laugh. “It’s cool to have a little piece of where I’m from attached to the record.”

The sound of Sam Hunt’s voice is echoing off the walls at Rocketown.

The reverberations bounce through the minds of the few gathered for the sound check, taking you back in time. It’s a hallmark of country music: written reminders of experiences to which anyone can relate. He belts out “Leave the Night On,” and you remember the best night of your life that ended too quickly; he speaks/sings  “Break Up in a Small Town,” and the pit in your stomach digs deeper thinking about the first time you saw your ex-girlfriend with a friend.

“It’s been sad for me. I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t been able to be as proactive as I’d like in educating myself with what all has gone on with the football program. I’ve tried to make my stance known on the fact that I really believe in the UAB football program. In the future I am absolutely going to fight and do what I can to try to see about bringing the program back.” – Sam Hunt

Much of the inspiration for these songs is about two and half hours south of Nashville. “A lot of times it was just a small piece of truth that I would draw inspiration from and embellish,” explained Hunt of his Birmingham influences. “Romanticize some of those seemingly insignificant moments at the time, but looking back on them they’re really a part of your life and a part of who you are.”

Soon enough, the performance room at Rocketown begins to resemble a grunger’s paradise with trash cans, graffiti artists, and break dancers. It’s an ode to Hunt’s first tour he’s about to embark on, titled the “Lipstick Graffiti Tour.” The room is also filled with people. Other writers, media members, friends, and family are here to celebrate. Hunt and his co-writers on, “Leave the Night On,” are recognized for their No. 1 hit. Cameras flash, phones click, and hands clap. It’s an exciting time for Sam Hunt. He went from performing at Legion Field to performing packed venues. He and the band play again, this time getting more feedback from people than bare walls. Everyone’s singing along with Hunt, but they’re just a small portion of his ever-growing fanbase. “We’re just taking it one day at a time, and things continue to progress in a really cool way,” said the rising star.

“It’s a lot more fun to celebrate when you’ve come a long way.”

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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