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Country singer/songwriter, guitarist, and pianist Sam Hunt was born and raised in rural Cedartown, Georgia, where he was a gifted athlete and had a fine career as a college quarterback at both Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Although he was good enough to be signed as a free agent for a time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt was drawn increasingly to music. He had grown up on, and loved, 1990s country, and after hearing all manner of rap, R&B, and other urban pop styles in college locker rooms, he developed a singing and songwriting style that gently blended all of this, and he headed off to Nashville, ground zero for hopeful country songwriters, to begin his career.
Quickly signed to a publishing deal, he applied the self-discipline he learned as an athlete, and began writing better and better songs, finally breaking through when songs he wrote or co-wrote were recorded by country stars Kenny Chesney ("Come Over," which went on to become a number one single), Keith Urban ("Cop Car"), Billy Currington ("We Are Tonight"), and others. Hunt made his commercial recording debut when he independently released a single, "Raised on It," in 2013, followed by a 15-song demo mixtape called Between the Pines that same year, also independently released. Hunt signed a recording deal with MCA Nashville early in 2014, and the label released a single, "Leave the Night On," that same year in advance of an album. "Leave the Light On" became a number one country hit later that year, setting the stage for the October release of Hunt's debut, Montevallo. It debuted at number one on the country chart and number three on the pop chart and generated three additional hits: "Take Your Time" and "House Party," which both reached number one, and "Break Up in a Small Town." As the latter rode the charts, his 2013 "acoustic mixtape" Between the Pines was re-released in October 2015.