Sam Hunt Talks 'Crazy' Success of 'Body Like A Back Road' & How It's Inspiring His New Material

Jordan Tempro/Matte Projects
Sam Hunt performs during Samsung's summer concert series on June 29, 2017.

It had been over two years since Sam Hunt had broken out with his Montevallo debut LP when the singer-songwriter returned with "Body Like a Back Road" this February, but that break didn't have a negative impact on the success of his first post-Montevallo single. In fact, "Body Like a Back Road" soon became Hunt's highest-charting hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 6 on April 22.

Additionally, "Body Like a Back Road" just broke the record for longest streak at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart by a solo artist (20 weeks) -- passing the 19-week record previously held by Leroy Van Dyke's "Walk on By," from over half a century earlier -- and is now second only to Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" for longest No. 1 run overall in the chart's history (24 weeks). As evidenced by its success on both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs charts, Hunt's latest song has broken beyond the barriers of country music in 2017.

Just a few days after Hunt's record-breaking feat, Billboard had the chance to sit down with the country superstar before he performed his latest hit -- and older favorites like "Leave the Night On" and "Take Your Time" -- at Samsung 837 in New York City Thursday night (June 29). He shared how "crazy" the success of the song has been for him, and how it's going to impact the music he'll release in the future. Take a look at an edited transcript below.

*     *     *     *     *

Traditionally, in pop music, songs like that had their time, but I just feel like "Body Like a Back Road" has filled a little niche that's been abandoned in pop. My fanbase has been within the country music genre since we started, so that really helped initial awareness within the country genre. But it’s definitely taken on a life of its own outside of the success we had with my first record, a group of people who don’t necessarily tune in to country radio. It’s been cool -- the more folks that we can reach, the better.

I had no idea [it'd be this big]. A couple of songs from Montevallo pushed the boundaries of the country genre, but on “Body Like a Back Road,” from a lyrical standpoint, I was actually trying to lean back into country. I really wanted to make sure it was clear that that was the genre I felt like I belonged in, and where my identity stood. But it kind of worked, contrary to that thinking, and it had more appeal than any of the songs before. It was crazy how that worked. It wasn’t intentional, but I’m glad that it resonated.

I think it was just a flavor or a style that I didn’t happen to tap into on my first record. It was there, but as I was writing for Montevallo, no idea really ever lent itself to this style of song. The idea came along, and “Body Like a Back Road” just sort of fit this upbeat, lighthearted feel of the track and the song itself. It was a song that had I written it a couple years ago, it would have turned out just like it did, and it would have been on the record -- but it just came along after Montevallo.

I can get a little too scientific or mathematical when writing songs, to try to really get all my tastes in music into one song. But artists, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s what I’ve realized, and that allows me to really just have a lighthearted, more fun approach to writing songs. This was one that I tried not to overthink, and it ended up covering the most ground in terms of style. 

I don’t think the song deserves as much credit as the progress that listeners have made, in terms of accepting music from different genres, and not writing off a song just because it’s labeled as a country song. There are a lot more open ears outside of the genre, thanks to artists who have come before me that have opened up some eyes and ears to what we’re doing in Nashville. And because of that, I’ve been able to take advantage of it with the song. I think there were just more people open to giving it a shot and listening to it with an open mind than maybe a few years ago.

The success of the song is definitely inspiring in terms of what direction I want to take going forward, musically and stylistically. But it’s hard to say. I never go into a writing room, or I never go into the studio, with a whole lot of direction. I just kind of let the process lead me, and that’s kind of what I’m doing now. So I’m having fun, writing some new songs that are still within the boundaries that I’ve established with Montevallo and “Body Like a Back Road,” but hopefully I can continue to try to put out music that is not within any type of box, whether I create it or whether it was created for me. And I can at least have the creative freedom to do that -- and we’ll see where it goes.

I’m not really planning [a new album], I don’t really have a date. I really enjoy writing songs, so I’m hoping to carve out some time this fall and next year to really spend more time writing. I wanted to stick to a story that I would tell, so that requires me to really compartmentalize my time -- it takes a little longer for me than if I were just recording songs that other people have written. I feel like I’m wearing a lot more hats nowadays than I was a few years ago, when I was writing Montevallo. People are still hanging in there with us, and being patient. It’s been awesome to see the loyalty from the fans that we have, and the new fans that are just getting on board.