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Busbee, Grammy-Nominated Producer and Songwriter, Dead at 43

By Steve Harvey. The noted producer collaborated extensively with Maren Morris and Lady Antebellum, and co-wrote hits with Pink, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts.

Los Angeles, CA (September 30, 2019)—Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter Michael Busbee, who collaborated extensively with Maren Morris and Lady Antebellum, and co-wrote hits with Pink, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts, has died at the age of 43.

Known professionally as “busbee” (real name Michael James Ryan), he leaves a wife and three children, including a newborn. The cause of death has not been officially announced, but earlier this year he was reportedly diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, and was undergoing treatment.

Born in the Bay Area, Busbee displayed an early talent as a musician, taking up piano at age seven then trombone in high school, while listening to jazz and Christian music. He moved to Los Angeles in 2000 at the age of 24 to work in the music industry, initially assisting producers including Eric Valentine, owner of Barefoot Recording and UnderToneAudio, before finding his calling in songwriting and production.

Tim O’Sullivan, Barefoot Recording’s studio manager and chief engineer, wrote on Facebook, “Busbee was and always will be a part of Barefoot and of our family. He moved to LA in 2000 to help Eric move into Crystal and start Barefoot. His hard work and passion is in our walls and will always be a part of every note played here, and we are indebted to him forever.” Busbee was integral to four albums produced at Barefoot in the last year, O’Sullivan wrote, and was due to work at the studio again in a few weeks.

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Some of Busbee’s early collaborations were with American Idol and The X Factor contestants, including Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Adam Lambert and Katharine McPhee. In 2012, he co-wrote Pink’s Top 40 chart-topping single “Try” and went on to collaborate with Christina Aguilera, Shakira and 5 Seconds of Summer.

His greatest success came in Nashville, where he found his first major placement in 2007 with “Better Now,” on Rascal Flatts’ double-platinum-selling Still Feels Good album. But his country music breakout came with Maren Morris’ 2016 debut album, Hero, which spawned the top 5 country hit “My Church,” for which he won a Grammy nomination. He co-produced, with Morris, all but three of the tracks on her follow up, Girl, which was released earlier this year, also co-writing one song on the album.

Reacting to the news of his passing, Morris wrote on Twitter, “This just doesn’t seem fair. I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend.”

On Instagram, producer and engineer Greg Wells also paid tribute: “Mike Busbee was a friend, a comrade in the insane music business, and graciously always asked me for advice about everything from mixing to songwriting to business ideas to work/family balance to making plugins. He would take me out to dinner often and let the questions fly… We spoke just a few days ago and planned to get our families together. I’m gutted and will miss my friend, a great guy, husband and father, who was in music for all the right reasons.”

A search of the BMI repertoire yields more than 1,000 songwriting credits in Busbee’s name. Notable titles include Florida Georgia Line’s hit ballad “H.O.L.Y.,” Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights,” Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood’s collaboration “The Fighter,” Garth Brooks’ 2014 comeback single “People Loving People” and Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good.” Busbee worked extensively with Lady Antebellum, including engineering and producing the band’s Grammy-nominated 2017 album Heart Break, for which he co-wrote six songs.

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Late last year, Busbee launched a label, Altadena, under the Warner Records umbrella to foster emerging talent. He was reportedly also a champion of the Music Modernization Act, which updated copyright issues for the streaming era and passed into law in 2018.

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