Busbee, Hit Songwriter and Producer, Dies at 43

His credits include Maren Morris' "My Church," Pink's "Try" and Florida Georgia Line's "H.O.L.Y."

Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Busbee, who’s worked extensively with a wide array of artists ranging from Maren Morris to Pink to Shakira, has died. He was 43.

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.

Busbee had credits on such records as Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Pink’s “Try” and Keith Urban’s “Fighter,” featuring Carrie Underwood.

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.”

Busbee hailed from the Bay Area where he grew up listening to jazz and the Hot AC Christian radio his mother favored. He started playing piano at age seven and took up trombone in early high school. His natural talent brought a college scholarship his way in 1995, but a couple years later, he left and returned home. As Busbee told Ross Golan, host of “And the Writer Is…“, on the May 6 episode of the podcast, he found himself 23 years old and living at home with his mom when he was offered the job of music pastor at a local church. “There’s so much music at church,” Busbee said. “You can feel when a song feels like it’s inspired.”

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:

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ross Golan (@rossgolan) on



More Music

  • Deborah Dugan

    How Deborah Dugan Sealed Her Fate at the Recording Academy

    Deborah Dugan’s ouster from the top job at the Recording Academy, just ten days before the Grammy Awards, was a shock to nearly everyone not directly involved in the decision. But according to multiple sources and the bombshell complaint her attorneys filed on Tuesday, she and the Academy establishment were working at cross purposes almost [...]

  • Amazon Music

    Amazon Music Tops 55 Million Users, Still Playing Catch-Up to Spotify and Apple

    Amazon is famously reluctant to release specific numbers about its users, so it’s notable that the e-retailing giant announced that it has surpassed 55 million customers worldwide for Amazon Music. The company didn’t reveal how many of those users are on its various pricing tiers, but said subscriptions to Amazon Music Unlimited grew by more [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    HBO Teaming With Bill Simmons on Music Docuseries

    Bill Simmons’ The Ringer is continuing to expand its relationship with HBO. The company, which already produced the “Andre The Giant” doc at the cabler, is teaming with HBO on a six-part docuseries about the world of music. The project is slated to air on the network in 2021 and will center on pivotal moments [...]

  • Joey Kramer Aerosmith

    Aerosmith Drummer Joey Kramer Will Not Be Allowed to Play at MusiCares, Court Rules

    Drummer Joey Kramer, a founding member of Aerosmith who’s been with the band for five decades, will not be joining his groupmates onstage at the MusiCares Person of the Year gala on Friday, Jan. 24, a Massachusetts court ruled today (Jan. 22). Kramer sued the band — comprised of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton [...]

  • Juice WRLD - Jarad HigginsWireless Festival,

    Rapper Juice Wrld Died of Oxycodone and Codeine Overdose

    Rapper Juice Wrld’s cause of death was confirmed as an accidental oxycodone and codeine overdose, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed. The singer died Dec. 8 after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport. He was 21 years old. The Medical Examiner's Office has determined the cause and manner of death of 21-year-old Jarad A. [...]


    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Neil Portnow

    Recording Academy Women Defend Board, Deny 'Boys Club': Read Their Letter in Full

    A statement from the women of the executive committee of the Recording Academy was released to members on Wednesday afternoon. In it, Tammy Hurt, Christine Albert, Leslie Ann Jones and Terry Jones lament the “heartbreaking firestorm that has been unleashed.” Although they don’t address ousted CEO Deborah Dugan by name, or her predecessor Neil Portnow [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content