2019 American Music Awards

Busbee, Grammy-Nominated Songwriter and Producer, Dies at 43

Courtesy of Altadena
busbee

Busbee, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, has died. He was 43.

News of his death surfaced Sunday night. According to several reports, he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, a few months ago.

Busbee — whose real name was Michael James Ryan — worked with a slew of top artists in country music, including Maren Morris, Garth Brooks, Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban. He co-wrote Florida Georgia Line's "H.O.L.Y." and multiple songs on Urban's album Ripcord and Morris' debut album, Hero.

In a 2016 profile by Rolling Stone Country, he said he started out in the jazz world — studying he genre at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. — before switching to country.

"I was totally on the jazz trajectory," he said. "That was my paradigm for all things music." 

He made the switch to country on the recommendation of a fellow songwriter, but also wound up working with a slew of pop artists, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Shakira and Christina Aguilera. 

"When I made jazz, it was like, 'Here's a canvas, it’s 20 feet by 20 feet, you can use any brush, any kind of paint, any color, anything – even not paint!'" he said. "With country and pop, it's like, 'Here's one brush, one color, and a six inch by six inch canvas: make me feel something.' I love the challenge of doing that."

In his interview with Rolling Stone Country, Busbee also marveled at being able to work his dream job. "I'm from California and used to play jazz trombone," he said. "I woke up a certain amount of years later, and I have an amazing wife and two beautiful girls, and I get to write songs for a living? I’m like, whose life did I hijack?"

On Sunday, Morris and other in the music industry took to social media to pay tribute to Busbee.

"This just doesn’t seem fair," Morris wrote. "I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend."

Added Maria Egan, head of creative at Pulse Music Publishing: "Our friend, creator and songwriter advocate @busbee sadly passed away this weekend. A talent as huge as his heart, a deeply spiritual man and devoted husband and father. Everyone that knew him, even just as business colleagues, feels like a good friend has been lost today – they don't make many like this. He will be deeply missed by us and his beautiful family."

Added Carly Pearce, who collaborated with Busbee on "Every Little Thing": "I sang 'every little thing' tonight through broken tears with thousands of voices and cell phone lights in the air, because I asked them to raise them up high so you could see them shining from heaven. What a beautiful sight it was. You gave my music a place in this world. I’ll cherish the 2 albums, songs, talks, laughs & memories we shared over the years. My heart is broken, but the legacy of your talents and your heart will live on in all of the artists and people you touched. I love you, Busbee."

The team at Warner Chappell Music paid their tributes to the songwriter. “Our hearts are broken by the loss of our beautiful friend busbee," a statement reads. "He was an extraordinary human being whose generosity, spirituality and humor inspired everyone around him. An amazingly gifted songwriter, he used his talent, his music, and his love to break down boundaries and bring people together. He left us far too soon. Our deepest condolences go to his wonderful family and all his many friends. We love you.”

This article originally appeared in THR.com.


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