Being named best new artist at the Grammys is quite a coronation for any singer, and this time, it could be Sam Hunt's turn.
A noted athlete during his high school years in his native Georgia, he also played football in college -- where he taught himself to play the guitar, a pursuit that has paid off in his two nominations (also including best country album, for "Montevallo") in The 58th Annual Grammy Awards. CBS televises the ceremony from Los Angeles' Staples Center on Monday (Feb. 15) -- and since he's the host, "NCIS: Los Angeles" co-star LL Cool J won't be lacking his usual Monday berth on the network.
Competing with Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Tori Kelly and Meghan Trainor for best new artist, the pleasantly low-key Hunt tells Zap2it he expects "a very enjoyable experience, regardless of the outcome of the categories I'm nominated in. I'm just excited to be a part of the whole celebration of the music of 2015, and all of the artists who made it such a successful year. I love celebrating the genre of country music, but celebrating music as a whole is special in a different kind of way."
Hunt also will be among the performers at the Grammys, along with Carrie Underwood (with whom he'll do a duet), Adele, Pitbull, Lady Gaga (in a tribute to David Bowie), Kendrick Lamar (the night's most-nominated artist, with 11 bids), The Weeknd (who has seven nominations), Justin Bieber, Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton, Tori Kelly and the cast of the Broadway hit "Hamilton." A number of them are on the 2016 Grammy Nominees album, featuring Hunt's Billboard-country-chart-topping single "Take Your Time," which he co-wrote.
"Leave the Night On" and "House Party" also have been platinum hits spawned by "Montevallo." After his post-graduation tryout with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs didn't have the hoped-for result, Hunt relocated to Nashville, Tenn., and began writing songs that attracted such talents as Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire and Billy Currington -- all of whom have recorded his material.
While he appreciates their "putting my music out there on a grand scale," Hunt also voices gratitude to "the people behind the scenes who really spent the hours with me in the writing room and in the studio, people who were a lot more experienced than me and helped give me direction. I was just a naive kid out of college, trying to find a way to be successful in this business."
Though he's touring again this year, Hunt says it's "not nearly as much as last year. I realized, 14 or 15 months after [‘Montevallo'] came out, that I don't have nearly the time to write that I did before … so I'm going to have to start consciously carving that time out. That's what I've done with this year's schedule, but I'm still going to spend time on the road because some people are just discovering our music for the first time, and I want to be able to reach them with the live shows as well."