Apr 18, 2015 1:01 PM

Singer Sam Hunt rising in both country and pop worlds

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) Rising country star Sam Hunt may be finding success on the pop charts, but don't fret he won't pull a Taylor Swift.

"By no means do I want to try to leave country music," Hunt said in a recent interview. "That's absolutely where I want to stay."

Hunt has dominated the country music charts and is steadily crossing over into the pop world: His debut single, "Leave the Night On," hit No.1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, and his current single, "Take Your Time," is spending its 10th week atop of the chart. Both songs have reached platinum status and cracked the Top 40 on the pop charts; "Take Your Time" has even peaked at No. 20 on the Hot 100.

"I don't have any problem with the music reaching more and more people through whatever outlet allows that," Hunt said. "I think it's fantastic that pop stations are picking up the song."

Country radio has rewarded Hunt for his diverse, genre-bending sound that fuses elements of R&B, hip-hop and electronica with country. He's also a respected songwriter who co-penned hits like Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," Keith Urban's "Cop Car" and Billy Currington's "We Are Tonight."

The former quarterback for both Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham grew up in Cedartown, Georgia, and said he drew inspiration from Atlanta-based R&B acts like Usher and TLC, in addition to country singers.

Hunt's look isn't typical country either: The chiseled, bearded 30-year-old is usually seen rocking a fitted cap and trendy clothes that mirror Drake and Chris Brown.

Hunt believes his unique sound has helped him win on country radio. Some of his songs, like "Take Your Time," feature his signature talk-sing delivery.

"It's different enough to have inspired people to not just listen to that song, but to go buy the record and see what the record has to offer," he said. "When it comes on the radio, it's a song that kind of catches people off guard."

"Sam is going to be a superstar," Darius Rucker said in a recent interview. "I love what he's doing. He's doing something so unique and different."

Others have recognized Hunt's work: "Leave the Night On" is nominated for top country song at next month's Billboard Music Awards, and Hunt will compete for new artist of the year at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards.

"I was flattered to be considered for the nomination," Hunt said of the ACMs. "I know the category is new artist of the year, but I still kind of felt like at the time (I) was nominated, (I) was too new to be new artist of the year."

Hunt's debut album, "Montevallo," debuted in November at No. 3 and 1 on Billboard's 200 and Top Country albums charts, respectively. The album recently hit gold status.

He will open on Lady Antebellum's Wheels Up Tour, which kicks off May 1 in Lubbock, Texas. He's also set to perform at the ACM Awards, airing live from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"It is a lot to process. Everything's kind of happening so fast," he said. "We've been able to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Two weeks will go by and I'll look back and you can really see the progress."






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