Hunter Hayes is, quite simply, an emerging superstar.
Less than two years after the October 2011 release of his self-titled Atlantic Records debut, Hunter Hayes has established himself as one of the music world's most important and successful artists. The fact that he is a true musician with songs that connect places him in a truly elite class.
Hunter's accomplishments are as numerous as they are impressive. Hunter Hayes, which he co-produced with Dann Huff, has been certified platinum and has spawned four hit singles, including two chart-toppers, "Somebody's Heartbreak," and "Wanted," which has sold three million copies. It earned him three nominations for 2013 Grammy awards--Best Country Album, Best Country Solo Performance ("Wanted"), and Best New Artist--as well as the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year, American Country Awards for New Artist Single and Music Video of the Year (for "Wanted"), and the Teen Choice Awards' Male Country Artist award.
He was chosen to take part in some of the biggest tours of recent years, traveling with Taylor Swift's Speak Now World Tour, Rascal Flatts' Thaw Out Tour and Carrie Underwood's Blown Away Tour. His own headlining tour, the CMT on Tour Let’s Be Crazy Tour which kicks off this fall, hosts an impressive theater run of 24 dates including multiples inNashville,MinneapolisandKansas City. He has also written songs recorded by Rascal Flatts and Jewel, among others, wrote "Where We Left Off," heard on the soundtrack of 2012's "Act of Valor," and earned a BMI award for his own "Storm Warning."
As if that weren't enough, Hunter is now bringing fans a new, deluxe collection that takes it all a step further. Hunter Hayes (Encore) edition expands that phenomenal debut with eight new or re-recorded songs, including duets with Jason Mraz and Ashley Monroe, as well as his fourth smash single, "I Want Crazy."
According to Hunter, the project grew out of the hunger for music evident in everything he does.
"As a musician," he says, "there are shows I play that I just wish would never end. I just want to keep playing. After releasing this first record and feeling this awesome support from fans around the world, I have this overwhelming need to celebrate how much fun it has been to put this record out and sing it every night on tour. So, just like at a show, this is the Encore!”
Like the original, (Encore) showcases a versatile entertainer already at the top of his game. Whether it's a mournful ballad like “Rainy Season” or a passionately upbeat tempo tune such as “Love Makes Me,” the performances are consistently engaging. The airy “If You Told Me To,” the bluesy and aggressive “More Than I Should,” the softly persuasive “What You Gonna Do” and the lightly wry “Everybody's Got Somebody But Me” featuring Jason Mraz showcase yet more aspects of the gifted tunesmith.
The album's textures range from the stately, thoughtful “Cry With You” to the upbeat yet philosophical “Faith to Fall Back On” or the sadly resigned “All You Ever.”
The project reflects a lifetime of musical experience. TheLouisiananative began picking up various instruments when he was only two years old. At age four, he joined his first band. He took his accordion on stage and sang “Jambalaya” with Hank Williams Jr. that year, too. At age six, he was cast in the Robert Duvall film The Apostle. The actor gave Hayes his first guitar. Hunter recorded his first album when he was nine and his second at the age of 10.
“Being an only child absolutely helped,” he says of his extraordinarily youthful development. “I credit a lot to that. It gave me more time to be alone and spend more time with the art.
“I won’t say I grew up faster, but I definitely got into what I wanted to do quicker because I had to. Music was all I had. And my parents did everything they could to support me. They learned a business they knew nothing about, just so that I could make music. I was surrounded by positive energy all the time.”
Hunter Hayes spent his early teenage years playing shows and making two more albums. That is also when he began to develop as a songwriter.
“I was a quiet kid. I was really shy. My safe zone was music. In writing music, I had my friend, the one thing that would never let me down. Writing songs was like me keeping a journal. I really took it seriously when I realized how powerful of a tool it was and how much I needed it.
“I spent a lot of time in my little studio that I built at our house. I spent so much time there that I neglected going out or hanging out. I skipped all the parties. I skipped the prom every year because it always fell on a date when I had a gig to play.
“I voluntarily skipped out on a lot. I was working on song demos. That was the one thing that was going really well. I was going to give every minute to it that I possibly could.”
During his high-school years, his parents began taking him on trips toNashville. Gradually, a team of supportive entertainment-industry insiders began to form around Hunter inMusicCity. He found interest from a manager, a song publisher, a record label and a producer during those trips. When he found out about a correspondence course he could take to complete his senior year, the family moved toNashvillein 2008.
“I made a promise to myself that as soon as I finished that course, I was going to write at least a song a week,” Hayes recalls. “In fact, that first week, I wrote a song every day. As soon as I finished that course, I was in the song-publishing office at least once a week, writing with somebody.”
Songs About Nothing, an independent record he played all the instruments on himself, was an example he used with Atlantic Records and producer Dann Huff that he could “do it all” on his debut major-label effort.
“Songs About Nothing was kind of my sales pitch to say, ‘I know it’s a leap of faith, but this proves that it can be done. This proves that technologically, it’s possible. Time-wise, it’s feasible. And creatively, it might actually be a good idea.’
“I was asking a major label to give me a budget to make a record by myself, with Dann Huff. Dann even took a little while to warm up to the idea. But to his credit, and to everyone’s credit, everybody was open-minded, positive about it and optimistic. I think everybody’s mindset was, ‘Why not try it? Let’s see if it works.’
“We went in and did four songs. I played them ‘Storm Warning,’ and they went, ‘We like this. It’s got a cool sound. We should just keep doing it this way.’ And so that’s what we did.”
When “Storm Warning” appeared as the debut Hunter Hayes single, Taylor Swift chose him as her opening act. So did Rascal Flatts, to whom Hayes gave his song “Play.”
Since the release of Hunter Hayes, the singer-songwriter has embarked on a blitzkrieg of television appearances. He has performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Talk, E! NewsThe Ellen DeGeneres Show and NBC’s Today Show Summer Concert Series. One highlight was his appearance on the ABC-TV special The CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock, performing “Wanted” surrounded by 50,000 fans.
“It was nerve wracking, but when I was singing and the people around me were singing my song back to me, that was one of those moments. I was like, ‘This is, apparently, working.’ Then when ‘Wanted’ went to No. 1, that was another one. Getting announced as the opening act on the Carrie Underwood tour was definitely a big moment for me. I sold out my first theater shows this year. That was a big deal to me, too.”
Along the way, he also earned a No. 1 video with “Wanted,” and was a nominee at both theAcademyofCountry Music Awardsand the CMT Music Awards, and released Hunter Hayes Live, an EP capturing his style as an on-stage entertainer.
“There’s an energy that happens live,” he says. “That’s where I’m most myself. There is nothing as honest as my live performance. That is what I live for every day.
“When I get on stage, that’s my home. That’s my element, and I’m not shy anymore. That’s where I’m comfortable. Getting to play live every night, that’s what I’ve always dreamed about.
“Music excited me. Then it inspired me. Now it’s what I live for…I’m blessed beyond belief.”