Sam Hunt performs at the 49th CMA Awards. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Brittany Hodak for Forbes.com
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Pick virtually any metric and the results are the same: Sam Hunt won country music in 2015.
Hunt finishes the year with country’s best-selling album (Montevallo, with more than 900,000 copies sold since its October 2014 release) and two of the top three best-selling songs: “Take Your Time” and “House Party” at numbers one and three, respectively.
The 31-year-old Georgia native spent 17 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, a multi-metric chart that combines radio airplay, digital sales and streaming. “Take Your Time” spent 11 weeks at number one, making Hunt the 16th artist in the chart’s 57-year history – and only the fifth in the past 50 years – to rule for 10 weeks or more.
In February, Hunt will compete for the all-genre New Artist of the Year Award at the 58th GRAMMY Awards. He’s only the ninth country artist in a field of 50 be nominated for the honor in the past decade, but representing the country genre is nothing new for Hunt: he took home the all-genre trophy for the same honor at the American Music Awards one month ago, and he’s ASCAP’s reigning Songwriter/Artist of the Year.
Hunt’s record-breaking success – and his second GRAMMY nod, for Best Country Album – is even more impressive when one takes into account that Hunt was giving his music away for free at the beginning of last year. In late 2013, when he started getting heavy airplay on SiriusXM with a song called “Raised On It,” Hunt invited fans to download a 15-song mixtape called Between The Pines on his website. (“Raised On It” still sold almost 100,000 tracks – a huge tally for an unsigned artist.)
“The idea came more out of necessity than anything else,” Hunt explains. “I wanted to put out my music, but I didn’t have a record deal and I didn’t have the financial means to make a proper full-length record. My buddy Zach Crowell [a GRAMMY-winning songwriter and producer who co-wrote several of the tracks with Hunt] recorded those songs in his little bedroom studio for free.”