Busbee, Grammy-Nominated Songwriter and Producer, Dead of Brain Cancer at 43
The music community is mourning the death of one of its most talented songwriters and producers.
Michael James Ryan, who worked professionally under the moniker Busbee, has died at the age of 43.
News of his death broke on Sunday. Though a cause has yet to be reported, a friend told Variety Busbee was undergoing treatment for glioblastoma — an aggressive brain tumor that last year took the life of Sen. John McCain — after being diagnosed with it over the summer. Frequent collaborator Carly Pearce confirmed the diagnosis during a tribute at her show Sunday night.
He is survived by his wife Jessie and three children, including a newborn baby daughter.
During his prolific career in music, Busbee helped shape the sound of modern country music, creating hits for a slew of artists like Maren Morris, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Hunter Hayes, and many, many others.
His biggest collaboration was with Morris, penning tunes and producing songs like “Once,” “80s Mercedes,” and “How It’s Done” from her 2016 album, Hero.
“My Church,” Morris’ breakout single which he co-wrote, earned him a Grammy nomination.
Busbee and Morris worked together most recently on her album Girl, which dropped in March. He also produced a number of tunes on Lady Antebellum’s 2014 album, 747, and all of their 2017 LP, Heart Break (which featured “You Look Good,” a song he helped craft).
Among the hit country songs he co-wrote are Florida Georgia Line‘s No. 1 ballad “H.O.L.Y.,” “Summer Nights” by Rascal Flatts, “People Loving People” by Brooks, “Every Little Thing” by Pearce, “Storm Warning” by Hayes, and “The Fighter,” the duet between Urban and Underwood.
Outside of country, Busbee also worked with a number of pop artists like Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, Shakira, 5 Seconds of Summer, and the Backstreet Boys. He co-wrote “Try” for Pink in 2012, and it went to No. 1.
A California native hailing from the Bay Area, Busbee began his career in jazz before moving to Los Angeles in 2000, where he made a name for himself writing songs for American Idol and X Factor stars like Katharine McPhee, Adam Lambert, Haley Reinhart, Danny Gokey, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Chris Rene, Colton Dixon, and more.
Most recently, Busbee opened his own label — Altadena — under the Warner Records umbrella.
Many artists paid tribute to Busbee after his death, sharing their memories of him on social media.
“This just doesn’t seem fair,” wrote Morris, 29. “I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend.”
“I absolutely can’t accept the loss of mine and Gwen’s friend Michael (Busbee),” wrote Shelton, 43. “Too much to say for social media. Too much pain and unfairness period. I guess sometimes you gotta dig extra EXTRA deep for peace to continue to have faith. And I will because Michael ALWAYS had faith.”
Pearce even honored Busbee in song, singing their hit “Every Little Thing” for him in concert.
“I sang ‘Every Little Thing’ tonight through broken tears with thousands of voices and cell phone lights in the air, because I asked them to raise them up high so you could see them shining from heaven,” she wrote on Instagram, captioning a video of the performance. “What a beautiful sight it was. You gave my music a place in this world. I’ll cherish the 2 albums, songs, talks, laughs & memories we shared over the years. My heart is broken, but the legacy of your talents and your heart will live on in all of the artists and people you touched. I love you, Busbee.”