When I need to get back to who I am / There ain’t but just one road there / Sometimes you gotta start nowhere, Sam Hunt sings on the stripped-down ballad “Start Nowhere.” A personal, yet universal sentiment, “Start Nowhere” is reminiscent of a simpler time.
Hunt describes the song as the age-old story where a young man leaves his home to see the world, only to come back and appreciate where he’s from even more. The singer/songwriter admits many of the songs he’s been writing lately are about coming home.
“I was thinking about home,” Hunt tells American Songwriter about writing the new tune, available today (Nov. 23). “I grew up in a little town called Cedartown in Georgia. I was thinking about the drive from Nashville down to Georgia. My hometown, to me, definitely has all the hallmarks of a classic hometown in terms of my connection to it and all my family’s still there and rooted there.”
Hunt wrote the song with Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne in early 2021 on a writer’s retreat in Florida. He says the song was built around the turn of phrase, “start nowhere.” While Hunt admits he typically gives a song several visits before it’s finished, “Start Nowhere” took just a couple of hours to write.
The singer says his connection to where he’s from, the people who raised him, and his family are top of mind now that he’s a father. A first-time dad to daughter Lucy, born in May, Hunt says as a songwriter he’s simply following the inspiration.
“The things that historically have provided me with inspiration, I don’t connect with as much anymore,” he says. “You have to look, you have to sit there, feel, think, and experience. So that’s what I’m feeling and thinking and experiencing, and those experiences are filtered through that: Being a father, and starting a family. I’m sure most of the songs—a lot of the songs going forward—will come from that inspiration.”
The new track and its accompanying music video, made from home videos from Hunt’s childhood, paint a vivid picture of the singer’s early life in Cedartown, Georgia. At the clip’s start, available above, Hunt gives his younger brother, Van, pointers on how to ride a goat.
“Stay centered with her, stay centered with her,” the elder Hunt screams as his brother rides a goat into the side of the barn. “Bull rider!”
The singer says the light-hearted, funny moment best captures his childhood and where he’s from.
“That little video [is] just rambunctious little country kids,” he says with a laugh. “That was a funny moment and the dynamic of our brother situation as far as me being the older brother and always leading my two younger brothers into some mischievous adventurer.”
Watching the home videos and listening to the song gave Hunt a richer perspective of his upbringing and how important family is.
“I just had a little girl … and that video really made that song connect in a way that I don’t even think it was before when I wrote it,” he says.
Life caught up the way that it does / Don’t even know who I was / Before my world got so unsteady / Man, I’m ready to feel alright, Hunt sings in the song’s second verse. The songwriter says “Start Nowhere” had such a universal theme that he didn’t want to write a lyric that was too personal or too specific to him and his experiences.
“A lot of the lyric came from approaching it from that perspective,” he explains. “That line there is one that could pretty broadly encompass a lot of different people and a lot of different experiences. That struggle is such a part of the human experience in general.
“I’ve had different resets happen in life where I felt myself deviate from the path I wanted to be on, and that little voice in your gut tells you when you get too far off,” he says. “That little radar starts getting louder and louder and it wants to steer you back to true north.”
Hunt says his “true north” isn’t just going home, but choosing home and the “values that home represents to me over worldly ambitions.”
“I think as a young person when you come from a simple place where most people are living a simple life, and that’s all you know, the outside world can look very exciting,” he says. “But when you get out there and have some of those experiences, then you now have the perspective to appreciate and make a choice on how you want to spend the rest of your life. Having experienced both, I understand why my parents live the way they live. There’s a lot of value in it.”
“Start Nowhere” follows the release of Hunt’s latest single, “Water Under the Bridge,” which is No. 24 and rising on the country charts. Both songs are a nostalgic look back on his youth. Hunt says nostalgia has always been a big part of his music and his connection to country music.
“That feeling [of nostalgia] is a powerful one,” he says. “I wrote a batch of songs—which I’m not sure if it is an album necessarily—they’re about going home. I have ‘Water Under the Bridge,’ that’s a song about a place where you grew up, where you used to go spend time with your buddies and let your hair down and get into a little bit of trouble. And then I have another song that I’m going to put out in a couple of months called ‘Walmart,’ which is obviously a small-town staple. Lots of experiences happen there or can happen there. There are another few songs that are just written from that perspective.”
Most of the songs that Hunt tries to write were inspired in part by an era that he lived two or three years prior. After years of touring, at this point in his life, he says he’s in need of a trip to reconnect with his roots.
“I’m looking forward to putting these next few songs out,” he says. “I think they make each other make more sense once they’re all out.”