Like Prince Myshkin, the titular character of Dostokevsky’s ‘The Idiot’, Sam Hunt is a young man whose open-hearted simplicity and guilelessness lead many of the more “enlightened” characters in country music to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight.
It seems like everywhere you go these days some so called "expert" has something disparaging to say about Sam Hunt. Sure, they’ll wang on about all the boundaries that Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers have pushed, but did either of those artists ever come up with a style that blends the lacerating, self-deprecating humour of George Jones with the painful self-awareness and soft-hearted vulnerability of Drake, mixing trap beats with old school countrypolitan hooks? They did not. But Sam Hunt did.
Along with producer Zach Crowell and regular songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, Sam Hunt has released three albums that profoundly examine the human soul and themes of morality and spirituality with sensitivity, irony and pathos.
Here at Holler, we’re getting in touch with our softer side and counting down 15 of his finest modern day masterpieces in our playlist of The Best Sam Hunt Songs.
People fall in love in the funniest places. In this song off his debut album, Montevallo, Sam finds himself getting the feels in the back of a police car after they arrest him and his date for trespassing on an airfield. Unfortunately for the officers, the only thing the handcuffs and the blue flashing lights seem to do is make the couple even more horny.
Oh, to be young and carefree. Sam’s reminiscing about all the fun him and his buddies used to have down at the riverbank when they’d park up and crank the stereo, pop some wheelies, smash some bottles, do some graffiti and “load up on natty, unleaded, and smokes” and hide from the police.
Not that the police could have done anything if they had caught up with them. You can’t get arrested for having a good time, you know! Although you can get arrested for trespassing and willful or malicious destruction and defacement of private property. And probably “natty” too. Whatever that is.
It’s Friday night and Sam’s out out, skulking around in the shadows of a sweaty club and catching the eye of an unsuspecting hottie. His intentions are entirely honourable though, not like all those other creeps hanging around, buying her shots and mansplaining the offside rule to her. Sam just wants her to be herself and take as long as she needs. He's not in any rush. He’s not even thinking about meeting her mother or sleeping with her yet. Honestly, it’s just so refreshing!
Sam’s been keeping himself busy after another break up, just driving aimlessly around the streets of the town he lives in. Unfortunately, he takes a wrong turn at some point and finds himself back on the outskirts again and all the memories come flooding back.
Filled with Hunt’s trademark nostalgic yearning, bordering at times on unendurably poignant sorrow, he imagines the life he could have had if he’d just bought a little starter house and settled down and had a family. Instead of living in a condo and hanging out with randoms like Hailey from Toronto.
If the nights out after a break-up are hard, the night’s in are even harder. Sam’s just sitting at home scrolling through his phone and letting the Facebook memories hit him where it hurts when he begins to wonder if it wasn’t all just a little bit easier back in the 90’s before social media, when we weren’t all painfully reminded of our exes every time we picked up the phone to order a pizza.
Staying in doesn’t have to be boring though. Sam’s just been sitting around at home again when he gets a late-night booty cool from a girl and rushes over to hers to make the most of a night in.
When he arrives, he immediately gets to work transforming her apartment into the hottest club in town, moving the furniture around to make room for a dancefloor, throwing a neon t-shirt over a lamp, and turning the music up so loud the police are called out again. You really don’t have leave the house to have a good time. Or get arrested.
The last thing Sam wanted to do was go home on the first single to be lifted from Montevallo. He’s “buzzin’ like a streetlight” and driving around town at two in the morning with his girlfriend, winding the windows down and turning the stereo up as they do everything to avoid going back home to bed.
If you thought breaking up with Sam Hunt was going to be easy, think again. You don’t leave a guy like that and get over it any time soon. He’s going to make damn sure you don’t get over him. Before you know it, you’ll be lying to all your friends about where you got your clothes from, painting your nails Sam’s favourite shade of red and you won’t even be able to listen to songs you used to like without becoming a blubbering mess. Also, for some reason, Sam imagines your shoes won’t fit you anymore either.
The tables are turned in this Webb Pierce sampling cut off Sam’s second album, Southside. This time he’s the one whose finding it hard to get over a breakup. Everywhere he goes there are painful reminders of his ex. He sees her sister at work, her mum in church, her car at the mall and most painfully of all, her “face in the clouds.” It’s all too much for him, and when she shows up at the club wearing a nice dress, he hits the whiskey. Sometimes you need a little helping hand getting over someone. Especially when they’re in a sparkly dress.
“You can marry an architect” so that he can “build you a house out on the water that really impresses your father,” suggests Sam in the opening lines of ‘23’. It might be the greatest opening line of any Sam Hunt song, and he doesn’t stop there either.
The snarky underhand remarks keep on coming as he lists all the things his ex-girlfriend can do to prove to everyone she’s moved on – cutting her hair, drinking wine, wearing skirts to work, getting married to someone else – when it’s plainly obvious to Sam she isn’t over him and deep down she’ll always be the person she was when they were dating each other.
The ups and downs of Sam Hunt’s relationship with his now-wife Hannah Lee Fowler have been the inspiration for so many of his songs over the years, and he opened his second album Southside with this poetic plea for forgiveness. If only he could turn the clock back and undo all the damage he’d done, he’d do it all for another chance with her.
After meeting in their early 20s, the couple dated for roughly four years until Sam decided to move to Nashville and pursue a music career and Hannah moved to Hawaii. Southside is an intimate retelling of the story of their breakup and subsequent reconciliation in 2017.
Sam knew he might bump into his ex at a party. Or pull up beside her at a stop light. It’s a small town after all; there’s only one or two bars to go to and they’ve still got a lot of friends in common. He wasn’t prepared, however, for her to start dating one of those friends. That’s the trouble with living in a small town though, there’s not enough D to go round.
Anyone still doubting the lyrical genius of Sam Hunt need look no further than this heartfelt apology ballad for proof that he is truly one of country music’s greatest poets. In this, the final act of Southside, he apologises to Hannah Lee for everything from naming his album “Montevallo” after her to her not being able to listen to the radio anymore or drive out to pick peaches at their favourite peach picking spot.
“Remember the first time you stayed with me / Overpacked, and drove up, and went to the CMA's with me,” he sings, before adding the stinging denouement. “Two years later it felt like you were a million miles away from me and I was the one on stage, drunk / Barely holdin' on, on ABC / Hope your dad still prays for me.”
Hannah Lee played the piano at the end of the song, with Sam adding that he wanted to "have her blessing," and finish it with a "hopeful note.”
Sadly, Hunt was caught literally drinking too much in 2019 when he was arrested for being drunk under the influence and driving the wrong way up a street at four in the morning.
Sam bumps into his ex-girlfriend’s mum shopping in the grocery aisle of Walmart holding his ex-girlfriend’s daughter and the stark contrast between the way both their lives have gone since breaking up is revealed. The bag of chips Sam is holding are used as a clever lyrical device to hint to the listener that the relationship broke down because of Sam’s inability to accept adult responsibilities. He can’t even feed himself properly. Let alone commit to someone who told him she wanted a family someday.
Sam and his girlfriend have only been going out for six weeks, but he already feels like he’s known her for years. In his most successful song to date, Sam stretches out a car driving metaphor to almost ludicrously poetic lengths as he describes making out with his new girlfriend.
The song spent a total of 34 weeks on top of the Hot Country Songs chart and ended up as the third best-selling song in the US in 2017, and the best-selling country song.
Subscribe and listen to Holler's Best Sam Hunt Songs Playlist Below:
For more on Sam Hunt see below: