Story Behind the Song: Sam Hunt, ‘Hard to Forget’
Sam Hunt co-wrote his song "Hard to Forget" with Ashley Gorley, Josh Osborne, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, but there are also three additional names credited as writers: Autry Greisham, Mary Jean Shurtz and Russ Hull, the co-writers of Webb Pierce's "There Stands the Glass." The track, built by Laird, samples Pierce's 1953 single, a 12-week No. 1 hit.
According to McAnally, the ace tunesmith with whom Hunt first began the song that would become "Hard to Forget," the future single is the product of multiple writing sessions with a variety of hitmakers over the course of a couple of years. The song was far more melancholy at first, but when Laird's beat and the hook "you're playin' hard to forget" combined, McAnally says Hunt knew instantly that the song was single-worthy.
Below, McAnally recalls the writing of "Hard to Forget," in his own words.
I think of [Hunt] as, like, a messy perfectionist, in that he wants it to be perfectly imperfect, and that is a very, very hard target. And it's all in his mind, and so a lot of times, you're just waiting for that recognition in his eyes that says, "That's it."
With "Hard to Forget," that song in entirety took a couple years to write, as did "Body Like a Back Road," ultimately, and that's from idea to it being out. I had the hook, "She's playing hard to forget," and a couple years ago -- about 18 months ago -- I was writing with Sam and Josh Osborne, you know, [a] collaboration that we've done a long time. And I said I thought this was a good idea.
Sam's pretty quick to know, like, "Yeah, I don't know what I would do there," but he loved that hook. And we all couldn't believe we hadn't heard it before. Those are the funnest ones, when you fall into something -- and "Body like a Back Road" was like that, too -- where it's like, "Surely this has been a title before," but we couldn't find a hit song with "she's playing hard to forget," so we wrote this very melancholy, sort-of dark song about, you know, her playing hard to forget and breaking his heart. It sounds a little like "Take Your Time."
So we wrote it in a day, which is unusual, and we put it away. This was one of those things where, with Sam, you never know: Three months later, he could call you and say, "I want to cut that song." You might wait two years, and he'll go, "Remember that thing we were working on?" it's always worth it to throw out what you think is one of your best ideas.
In this case, I think it was probably six months later, nine months later, he had a writing session with Luke Laird and Ashley Gorley, and Luke had a track that he had built, and it had this this Webb Pierce sample in it, "There Stands the Glass," and Sam was in love with the track. They tried to write a song around the track, and what Sam said was, "I couldn't come up with a hook that I felt was as good as that track."
And so, basically, he brought the track to Josh and I -- This is where it gets a little muddy. I've said that Sam said to me, "What if we tried "Hard to Forget" in that track?" I think he said that he brought the track and that I said, "Oh, what if we tried "Hard to Forget"?" I'm not sure the way it happened -- I feel like Sam said, "What if we put "Hard to Forget" in that?"
I thought that he meant just take our existing song that we wrote and put it in that track, which I could not -- It wouldn't have worked, and I couldn't figure out what he meant. That's not what he meant. Actually, he meant, what if we just took the line "playing hard to forget" and wrote a new song that would fit with this track, so that's what we proceeded to do.
We wrote a chorus, Josh, him and I; we had the track that Luke Laird sent over, and we started writing the song. And then we realized it was not just going to work, it was definitely the right [sound], and Sam has a really strong instinct about that, like he knew. At that point, [Hunt's 2019 single] "Kinfolks" was already on the radio, and he said -- I mean we were probably four lines in with the track, and he said, "This is the next single. We have to finish this."
So, I know when he says that, it's unlike a lot of artists who don't have that control and who also aren't that sure. Every time he's ever said that to me, it was the next single, so we went just into overdrive. We went back to Luke and Ashley and said, "We've got pieces of this. We need help, how to make it sit in the chorus."
And then, we actually had a verse and the chorus, the hook, and we went in the studio to record it with Zach Crowell, Sam's producer, and at that point, we didn't even have a second verse, and before he sang, we had the music, but we didn't have the lyrics, so he and I actually -- He called me and said, "What are we gonna do in that second verse? Here's some ideas I have." He knew he wanted to be about, like, leaving the clothes on the porch; he had this whole idea, and we just wrote it on the phone, and then we got back together.
I mean, it was just pieces; it felt like putting the puzzle together. But I knew we were headed to the place that it ended up. It was just a matter of getting there, and I'm glad that we did.
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