Hi, I’m Hunter. First of all, you should know I’m a geek. I am beyond passionate about music-- there is always something playing in my head. Like the new Punch Brothers record which is actually playing in the background right now. Or the new MercyMe record, and earlier it was “Rumours” cause it just rules. Such a timeless, classic and great record. But seriously you should check out Punch Brothers, those guys are brilliant. And then there’s “Defying Gravity”...(I really could go on all day but I should probably leave it there for now). Welcome to the inside of my brain – music geek central. But I’m ok with it as of recently because I’ve learned that the very thing that makes you feel like you don’t fit in is the very thing that makes you stand out.
I’m obsessed with vinyl. Not just collecting or listening to it but obsessively cataloguing it. It’s intense (now the "geek" label is really making sense I'm sure). One of my favorite things to do is pour a glass of wine and spin and catalogue records. (If anyone can find me a copy of Buckingham Nicks, I'll be your best friend forever.) I also love binge-watching BBC’s “Planet Earth.” I’m obsessed with BBC shows. “Human Planet" is my favorite by far. I always walk away with a whole new appreciation for everything in life. There's also this crazy car show called “Top Gear.” I’ve been known to really get into intense shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Homeland,” because apparently I like to go to bed stressed out. I usually watch those shows with the band on the bus, from midnight to 3am after the show, because it takes that long to come down from the high of the show. I am quickly learning that regardless of my attempt to get up early and see the morning, I am forever a night owl.
I love all kinds of food. Italian, Sushi, Thai, Mexican, Cajun food (which might be my favorite, especially when it comes out of Mom’s kitchen. She makes THE BEST GUMBO EVER). I can’t eat anything 3-4 hours before the show... however, in case you were wondering what I do right after the show, I eat. A lot. And fast. I actually really like living in a tour bus. I used to keep pictures of tour buses in my notebook while at school, and I had a page in the back with a fake schedule of what my day would be like if I were on the road rather than in school. I guess you would call that dreaming. I love dreaming, every day. I have always kept pictures of things that inspire me on my phone, its kind of like my dream board of cool tour buses, planes I want to learn to fly, places I want to visit, places I want to play someday (hopefully soon),... Yes there may be some car pics on there too... If I'm honest.
I grew up in a beautiful small (tiny) town in Louisiana called Breaux Bridge.
It’s a pretty cool place with a very rich music culture. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a mechanic. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and our house was right next to a train track which had no consistent schedule whatsoever but it was still cool. I did not get any of my mom’s athletic abilities and as a result of being in my little bedroom, which I made into my little music world-- I can barely keep up with sports on TV, so really…I don’t even try. My dad has a very mechanical mind, which I presume is the part of me that is interested in getting my pilots license or the technical side of studio gear. They both have huge hearts and positive, hard-working spirits that have been an incredible influence on me. About six years ago, I got a message on MySpace from a publisher in Nashville, and (long story short – ask me about that later), we moved to Nashville where I finished high school, got a publishing deal and ultimately signed to Atlantic Records. It was incredibly nerve-wracking to move to a place where we knew no one to pursue a dream that, honestly, seemed a bit far- fetched. Thankfully Nashville is a brilliant town full of energy and an unending passion for music, which has made me feel perfectly at home. A few years ago I got my first apartment close to downtown just so I could see the Nashville skyline when I come off the road which has been so inspiring…and well, AWESOME. I seriously have a hard time believing all of this, really.
So back to the geek thing...I really just like to make a lot of noise -- hopefully good noise. It's become my language in a way. It's where my heart is in a lot of ways as well. I love experimenting with different sounds, instruments, yada yada and figuring out my feelings lyrically. I can’t believe that every week I get to get in a bus with a group of people I can call my friends, go on the road and get to hang with even more friends every night. The words “Platinum”, “Award”, and “Sold Out” are some of my favorites. I can’t believe that things like collaborating with Elton John and Stevie Wonder are a thing in my life now. It’s hard for me to process that apparently 8.7 million of you guys have heard my music and decided to buy it, and I can only hope you are happy and have found something you can relate to like I have in the music I’m obsessed with. Every day I see God’s miracles around me and know that I am blessed to do what I love and that you have invited me into your lives, it’s kinda surreal. So thank you, for giving us a chance to do awesome things together around the world. That’s my Storyline – I can’t wait to hear yours!-----------------
Listen closely to Hunter Hayes as he talks, that million-mile-an-hour voice, all rapid-fire energy and bustling passion. Not long ago he released his second album, the country chart-topping Storyline. But the 22-year-old, mind always churning, ideas jettisoning from brain to hand and voice, can’t help but wonder what lies ahead. “I’m on an unending search to find what it is that I love and how it is that I will do it,” he says of the wide-open, all-options future for a four-time GRAMMY nominee, CMA New Artist of the Year and youngest male act ever to top the Billboard Hot Country song chart. “How am I going to achieve getting the sounds that I love? What is it that I can’t resist?”
The wonder of a talent like Hayes is that even when he has a rare moment of reprieve from the mayhem of touring the world on a solo jaunt, breaking the Guinness Book of World Records’ mark for most concerts in a 24-hour period or, say, performing at the GRAMMY Awards, he’s focused on his craft. “I should be fatigued of writing,” he admits. “But I have written easily a third of whatever my next project is. It’s more of a daily circle now,” he explains of his omnipresent muse. “Maybe the next record will have no delays, no reverb, no big drum sound, and no stacked overdubbed guitar sound? Maybe it’s just me with a Telecaster? Maybe I get rid of all my other guitars, hide them so I’m not tempted to try them, and I just have to make it work with this one guitar? Maybe that’s what I’m looking for?”
If anything, Hayes has learned to let go. He’s still, as he says, “wound really tight,” but as the multi-instrumentalist’s journey – and outsize popularity – has exploded since his wise-beyond-his-years 2011 self-titled debut album, the Breaux Bridge, Louisiana-native has steadily been on a quest to self-evolve alongside his artistic output. Why be in the business of creation, he believes, if you, the person people are eager to know and love, is hiding in plain sight?
“I’ve been shy. I’ve been quiet,” he admits. “I’ve kept to myself. Because in a lot of ways, that’s who I am. I can talk about anything as long as I feel like I’m comfortable. If I’m nervous in any way, shape or form, I’m very careful. That’s something that has actually hurt me more than helped me. Because the less I talk, the less people know who I am, the more I sort of hide. I’ve just been afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing or leaving the wrong impression. But what I’ve realized is not leaving an impression at all is worse. It’s even less productive.”
Change for Hayes isn’t easy. He’s admittedly longed for control in his day-to-day life – whether that includes crafting a new album, dreaming up new melodies, or simply making sure he finds time to snag groceries in between vinyl and mandolin shopping. Hayes is learning to fly by the seat of his pants.
“I’ve had to let go of being a routine person,” he continues. “We have this saying in the band, ‘Do it Live.’ It’s how we live our lives: you do it live, you figure it out. I have to be brave enough as a person to live the way I make my music.”
It’s easy to look at Hayes and marvel at his oft-recounted successes: receiving his first guitar from actor Robert Duvall at age six; performing for the President the following year; signing with Atlantic Nashville Records at age 18; touring as a support act for Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood not long after. It’s all there for the world to see. Hayes wanted more.
“Dude, I had it good!” he says of opening for the two female country superstars. “I could not sit here and think that happens every day by any means. Trust me, I thank my lucky stars! But it said a lot about my heart when, even with all that, I was still pounding on the table fighting to get more than 40 minutes and a backdrop. I wanted to put on a show.”
Hayes’ hardscrabble mentality translated into this past year’s monumental “We’re Not Invisible” headlining tour, a dream realized for a musician whose concept for the massive live outing was utterly visceral.
“I wanted production. I didn’t want just lights and a video screen,” he explains, his voice speeding up with excitement as he recalls his vision for a live show. “I wanted more than that. I wanted my fans to experience more of a show. I wanted new arrangements; I wanted surprises. I wanted stuff that just catches everybody by surprise. I wanted a part of the show to be unplanned. I wanted energy. I wanted to be able to run around a stage, jumping up and down. I wanted to be a mix between Chris Martin, Garth Brooks and Michael Bublé.”
If Hayes’ live show is a wild, no-holds-barred vision put into action, Storyline is its logical predecessor. Expertly crafted yet cut with a free-flowing spirit where all ideas are worth exploring, the 14-track affair showcases Hayes’ diversity and unerring commitment to not staying the course. When posited against his debut album, Hayes views Storyline as the “person your parents saw coming home from college after a year.”
“My only agenda was just to make sure I wasn’t bound by repeating history, that I wasn’t locked into doing what I’ve already done,” he says. “I wanted a record that was diverse and different and had a little bit of everything.”
And so on an album as equally influenced by Fleetwood Mac as Nickel Creek, there’s the harmony-drenched, whiplash “Tattoo” and the foot-stomping “Wild Card” sharing space with more tender offerings like “Invisible” and “Still Fallin.” It’s his duty, Hayes says, to continue to make music he’s proud of.
“My job is to find my sound based on the things that inspire me,” he says. “It’s not about intentionally having this or that or the other. My job is to find my own sound and bring my love for country music and country songwriting and storytelling and musically introduce it in a way that sounds like me.
“I just want people to know me,” Hayes says, taking a deep breath as he looks into the crystal ball he calls his unpredictable life. “Having someone care about what you’re saying is a groundbreaking feeling. That is a beautiful, life-changing experience every time. You don’t get used to that.”