Friday night’s New Faces Show at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville will feature five very talented and diverse performers who have made their mark on the format in the past year. When you look at the radio-voted lineup, it’s hard to disagree with Sam Hunt‘s placement on the list. His debut album, Montevallo, has been a consistent seller since its release in October, and the set’s first two singles, “Leave the Night On” and “Take Your Time,” have both topped the Hot Country Songs chart.
Hunt tells Billboard that he’s very humbled by the honor. “It feels great to be recognized among a group of New Faces that I feel like are some of the most talented in the genre right now. I’m flattered to be a part of it.”
When asked to recall his memories of his first radio tour, the singer said he had a blast. “I just tried to keep an open mind and not have too many thoughts about it in general. I just tried to educate myself on that whole world as I experienced it. That’s what I did, and right off the bat, I started meeting really cool people. Fortunately, they embraced what I was doing and me as a person, and I was able to make some great relationships throughout meeting them. It was such a great experience because it really is like a family within that world, and they don’t just let anyone in that fold. They have definitely given me a warm reception from the beginning, which I appreciate.”
What makes his success at radio all the more interesting is the many different facets of the Georgia native’s sound. He says he just tries to be Sam Hunt and let the rest take care of itself. “I think that people in general appreciate honesty and not trying to cook something up just to fit a mold that would be beneficial for you. I never made music like that. I think that it’s the human element of connecting with authenticity — obviously radio is run by people, and we all have that same element — so I think the way I approach the music is just trying to be as true to myself as I could. I think that’s what connects with everybody who is coming out to the shows, buying records and on the radio. We try not to pull any punches and be straightforward, and I think that’s what helped us connect with everybody across the board.”
Hunt, who has also enjoyed success as a writer — with hits like Kenny Chesney‘s “Come Over,” Keith Urban‘s “Cop Car” and Billy Currington‘s “We Are Tonight” to his credit — admits that his success has gone way past his wildest dreams.
“I don’t want to say that I didn’t think it was possible, because I was pulling for all of those things. I’m still naïve to the way that the whole world works, and I didn’t know what all the possibilities were. Every couple of weeks, something else happens, and I think, ‘How in the world did this many people know who we are right now?’ It goes back to all of these things that I don’t even see on a day-to-day basis, because of the traveling and touring — country radio is playing our music as people are driving down the road and they have no clue who we are, but hopefully by hearing it there, they are inspired to go and check out the record or tell somebody about the record, and that person tells somebody. That’s been going on every day for the past eight or nine months, and when that is going on across the country on a day-to-day basis, there’s a growth that starts to happen — a movement that I can sense with the shows, record sales and all the other statistics. I’m starting to understand it a little more, but I never would have predicted all these things, thanks to the power of country radio and music in general, are happening.”
When Hunt takes the stage Friday night at the Nashville Convention Center, he stresses that his feelings are going to be heavily based on gratitude. “There’s going to be a lot of appreciation for all those people in the room. I’ve been able to watch the power of country radio at work, and over the last several months, the record has been selling, people have been coming out to the shows, and it means the world to me and all the people around me who have worked so hard to get to where we are now to have that support. I know I’m going to be humbled just to be in the same room with those guys and to play some of the songs that they’ve played and supported. I can’t wait.”