Sam Hunt has become one of the most revolutionary voices in modern day country music. Fans know him for signature tracks like his breakthrough single “Leave the Night On,” in addition to “House Party,” “Body Like a Back Road” and several more. Though one of country’s most popular acts, Hunt has managed to keep a relatively low profile when it comes to his personal life. Here are 15 facts you may not know about the country star.
1. He’s a hit songwriter for other stars in addition to himself
In between writing his own hits, Hunt has penned several chart-topping songs other artists. He co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s 2012 single, “Come Over,” along with “We are Tonight” by Billy Currington, William Michael Morgan’s No. 1 debut single “I Met a Girl” and Keith Urban’s Grammy-nominated “Cop Car.”
2. “Cop Car” was based on a true story
Hunt tells Radio.com that the song was inspired by a particularly wild evening he had that involved sneaking into an airport near his little college town in Alabama with his now-wife, Hannah Lee Fowler. “I got into a little bit of trouble at an airport after sneaking in and watching these airplanes fly over and land,” he explains. “It was entertaining and in a little area in Alabama, where there wasn’t a lot to do when I was in college.”
3. He was a star college football player
The title of his groundbreaking album Montevallo was named after a town near the University of Alabama where he went to school, but that’s just one way he made an impression in the southern state. Recruited out of high school as an all-purpose player for the Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State Class AAA first-team, Hunt was a quarterback for UAB for two years, scoring a total of 12 touchdowns during his career at the university.
4. His football buddies helped inspire his music
Hunt is open about his love for all types of music growing up, ranging from Alan Jackson to R. Kelly, but his football friends also played a role in his sound, seeing as they would all listen to a variety of genres. He even wrote a song in college called “Muscadine Wine” that his friends loved. “I really didn’t know if it had potential or not, if it was good or bad or what. I played it for my roommates–who I played ball with–one night, and I knew they would tell me the truth. They loved it, and that encouraged me,” he tells AL.com.
5. He didn’t have an acoustic guitar until college
It wasn’t until a friend of his in college bought an acoustic guitar did Hunt actually purchase one and taught himself how to play after football practice. “I never saw myself as a musician or having any musical talent. I was just killing time that summer, and a buddy had recently bought a guitar. I picked it up one day and on a whim thought, ‘You know, I think I want to buy a guitar,’” he tells Rolling Stone.
6. He earned a degree in economics from UAB
While a superstar in the world of country music, Hunt was in an entirely different field of study during his college years. He was originally studying philosophy, but ultimately graduated with a business degree in economics.
7. He made history with Montevallo
Hunt blazed a fierce trail with the release of his debut album, becoming the first male solo artist to land four No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart off a debut album, those being “Leave the Night On,” “Take Your Time,” “Make You Miss Me” and “House Party.”
8. He’s a fan of cats
The singer revealed in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” that he has a rescue cat named Dandelion for a pet. Everyone say “aww!”
9. He has a fan in Britney Spears
When one of the world’s biggest pop stars is a fan of your work, you know you’re doing something right, and Sam Hunt certainly falls in this category. In an interview for the 2016 iHeart Radio Music Festival, the superstar admitted that Hunt was one of the artists she was most excited to see perform across all genres. “I love Sam Hunt,” she says. “My heart melts for him.”
10. He credits Usher with turning him onto to R&B music
Hunt has made a name for himself blending the genres of country and R&B and if it weren’t for Usher, he may have never fallen in love with the latter. “I’ve never had any favorite artists from the R&B genre, it’s been more about having favorite songs that influenced my music,” he explains on AMA. “The first time I heard ‘Nice & Slow’ by Usher is my first memory of being very captivated by that style of music.”
11. He wants to give back to up-and-coming artists
While he cites superstars like Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, George Jones, BB King and more as some of his biggest influences, he admits that he would rather work with a rising star than someone on a global level. “If I continue to have success, I would be more interested in collaborating with an up-and-coming artist, as opposed to someone more established,” he says.
12. His favorite place to write songs is in a woodshed
When you have as many hits as someone like Sam Hunt, you’d think the place where they’re writing said hits would be pretty glamorous – not so for the country heartthrob. One of the places where he gets the most inspiration to write is actually in the woodshed behind his house. “I’ll go out, and sit down sometimes late at night, play, and work on lyrics after I’ve left the studio,” he says (quote via Eonline).
13. Miranda Lambert has a way of tugging at his heartstrings
In a Buzzfeed Q&A, Hunt opens up about what songs make him emotional, citing a deep cut on Lambert’s debut album Kerosene titled “Love Your Memory” as one that makes him cry. He also reveals that if there’s one song he wishes he’d written, it would be Lambert’s heart-wrenching “The House That Built Me.”
14. He’s close with his family
Hunt is the oldest sibling to his two brothers, Van and Ben, and son of parents Joan and Allen, a teacher and insurance agent, respectively. He admits that personal relationships were on the back burner for a while due to music, but he still makes family and his personal life a priority. “Who I was, was a product of the relationships with my family, the environment that I grew up in, and all those things… I kind of put them back when I got into music, and my lifestyle changed dramatically,” he said to Sounds Like Nashville and other media. “That is still very important to me.
15. “Body Like a Back Road” is one of the biggest songs in country music
A fan favorite in the worlds of both country and pop, “Body Like a Back Road” solidified Hunt as a cross-genre superstar, making him king of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart by being the only male solo artist in country music with the longest stay in the No. 1 position on the chart and became the only song in the chart’s history to sit in the top spot for more than 24 weeks.