The news broke in early evening on Sept. 29. Busbee’s real name is Michael James Ryan. He was father to three children, including a just-born baby girl.
According to a friend, Busbee was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, over the summer and was undergoing treatment.
He had a worldwide publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music and a creative partnership with Red Light Management. His label, Altadena, was under the Warner Records umbrella.
A memo from Warner Records’ co-chairman and CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and co-chairman and COO Tom Corson sent to staff on Sept. 29 read: “Today we lost busbee, a dear friend, business partner with his company Altadena, and one of the best and brightest creative minds in music. busbee’s kindness and legacy will never be forgotten and our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time.”
Warner Chappell’s leadership said of Busbee: “Our hearts are broken by the loss of our beautiful friend. He was an extraordinary human being whose generosity, spirituality and humor inspired everyone around him. An amazingly gifted songwriter, he used his talent, his music, and his love to break down boundaries and bring people together. He left us far too soon. Our deepest condolences go to his wonderful family and all his many friends. We love you.”
He moved to Los Angeles in 2000 at 24 to take a stab at a job in the music industry, starting out assisting producers like Eric Valentine (Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” All-American Rejects), who told him that songwriting was his calling.
Busbee spent the rest of his twenties honing his craft and started by writing for many alums of reality singing competitions like “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” including Adam Lambert, Bea Miller, Katharine McPhee, Haley Reinhart, Lauren Alaina, Danny Gokey, Scotty McCreery, Colton Dixon and Chris Rene, among others.
The practice would bring Busbee to Pink, co-writing 2012’s “Try,” which would go on to reach No. 1 on Top 40. Credits on singles by Rascal Flatts followed and Busbee increasingly looked to Nashville as an outlet. Sessions with artists like Lady Antebellum and Florida Georgia Line were also fruitful, but it was Busbee’s work with Maren Morris on her 2016 album “Hero” that would elevate him to hitmaker status. That same year, Keith Urban’s “The Fighter,” with Carrie Underwood, and Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” were bonafide smashes in the country format.
As Busbee told Golan last Spring: “I still love the amazing challenge of, ‘I’m gonna try and write a Top 40 hit and I’m gonna try and write a country hit and produce all of those.'”
Most recently, Busbee produced 11 of the 15 tracks on Morris’ Grammy-bound “Girl” album, which dropped in March.
Tributes from all over the music industry have been pouring in on social media and beyond. The Jonas Brothers dedicated a song to Busbee at their Tulsa concert.
Read reactions to the news below:
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This news has landed heavily today. Our friend, creator and songwriter advocate @busbee sadly passed away this weekend. A talent as huge as his heart, a deeply spiritual man and devoted husband and father. Everyone that knew him, even just as business colleagues, feels like a good friend has been lost today – they don’t make many like this. He will be deeply missed by us and his beautiful family 💔