Busbee, hit songwriter and producer, dies at 43

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.

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Songwriter Busbee in recent years
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Songwriter Busbee in recent years
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 16: Busbee attends Spotify's 2nd Annual Secret Genius Awards at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on November 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 16: busbee attends Spotify's Secret Genius Awards hosted by NE-YO at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on November 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Spotify)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 13: Leslie Roberts, Katy Wolaver, busbee, Keith Urban, Kent Earls and Mason Hunter onstage at the BMI Country Awards 2018 at BMI Nashville on November 13, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 09: (L-R) Tyler Hubbard, busbee, Nate Cyphert, William Wiik Larsen and Brian Kelley attend the Florida Georga Line multi-No. 1 party at FGL House on June 9, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Big Machine Records)
NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 16: Producer Busbee and CEO/Chairman of Warner Chappell Music Jon Platt attend the City Of Hope's 2018 Spirit Of Life Breakfast Kickoff Honoring Jon Platt, Chairman & CEO of Warner/Chappell Music on May 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for City Of Hope)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 23: NSAI hosts 10 Songs I Wish I'd Written "80s MERCEDES" busbee and MAREN MORRIS (center) with NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison and NSAI President Lee Thomas Miller attend the 2017 Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Awards at Music City Center on October 23, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 07: Busbee Singer Easton Corbin (R) pose during the 65th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on November 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18: busbee speaks onstage at Chart Toppers: Songwriters/Producers In-The-Round Featuring Busbee, Dave Bassett, Warren "Oak" Felder, And Teddy Geiger at The GRAMMY Museum on October 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for The Recording Academy )
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18: Teddy Geiger, Warren "Oak" Felder, Dave Bassett, Shirley Halperin and Busbee attend Chart Toppers: Songwriters/Producers In-The-Round Featuring Busbee, Dave Bassett, Warren "Oak" Felder, And Teddy Geiger at The GRAMMY Museum on October 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for The Recording Academy )
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 01: Producer Busbee arrives at the 2017 Billboard Country Power Players at The Westin Hotel Rooftop on August 1, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for Billboard Magazine)
NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 23: Rhett Akins, Cole Taylor, Bob Kingsley, Heather Morgan, and Busbee pose for a photo backstage at Bob Kingsley's Acoustic Alley during CRS 2017 - Day 2 on February 23, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CRS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Songwriter busbee attends The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 13: Busbee attends the 62nd Annual BMI Pop Awards at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 13, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
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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.

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