2017 No. 1s: How Sam Hunt Learned to Lighten Up with Record-Setting 'Body Like a Back Road'

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Eric Ryan Anderson
Sam Hunt photographed on June 9 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

“Body Like a Back Road”
Hot Country Songs and Country Streaming Songs (34 weeks each), Country Digital Song Sales (31 weeks); year-end Top Country Artist and Hot Country Song

Sam Hunt knew he needed something special. It was early 2017, nearly three years since his debut, Montevallo, and while the Top Country Albums No. 1 LP had sold over 1 million copies and spawned four Country Airplay No. 1s, Hunt was planning for a summer headlining tour without having released anything new. So the Georgia-raised 32-year-old pulled out a lighthearted jam he had penned with songwriters Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. “Body Like a Back Road” dropped in February, became a crossover smash and, by the tour’s end, much more than just a setlist addition: It broke the record for most weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, earned Hunt his highest Hot 100 spot yet (No. 6) and notched two Grammy nods.

Brad Belanger, manager: To diffuse some of the pressure of Sam’s follow-up to Montevallo, it was decided, “Let’s put this fun song up right now.” We didn't want to come with another heavy, dark-piece-of-art Sam Hunt song.

Sam Hunt: To be honest, I never really wanted to put it out -- I was wanting to go in a different direction musically. Sometimes as songwriters, we take ourselves a little too seriously.

Mike Dungan, chairman/CEO, Universal Music Group Nashville: In Sam’s biggest singles, his lyrics are rich in imagery and really tell a story. With “Body Like a Back Road,” it felt like, “This will work, but it’s the ditty side of Sam.”

Crowell, co-writer/producer: It’s probably about as far happy and silly as Sam can go or will go. But it was a good reminder of, “This is just music. We can play some simple chords and have fun.”

Dungan: Watching people sing it back to him in concert, it almost had a nursery-rhyme feel that made it really comfortable -- [the song] got in their heads and would not get out. It surprised all of us, and I know it surprised Sam.

Hunt: It did broaden the range of what I could potentially do in the future. I don’t presume to know what country needs, but it’s definitely what my 2017 career needed.

Billboard Year in Music 2017

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of Billboard.


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