At just 25 years of age, country music star Hunter Hayes is already reinventing himself.
Following the release of his major-label debut album in 2011, which has since gone Double-Platinum and boasts three No. 1 singles, Hayes has attained a dizzying array of accolades. He has won or been nominated for dozens of awards, including CMA’s New Artist of the Year, Favorite Male Country Artist at the People’s Choice Awards, Choice Male Country Artist at the Teen Choice Awards, as well as five Grammy nominations.
Despite his success, Hayes discovered that he was not immune to yearning for the one thing all young adults do: change.
“When you go from 21 to 25, I think we all start over at that point,” Hayes said. “Whether we’re leaving college, whether we’re leaving home, whether we’re tired of what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years through college and high school, we just want to change. I feel like we all go through a lot in that phase.”
As most young adults find, that transition is never smooth and usually involves much in the way of trial-and-error. For Hayes, it meant a lot of self-reflection on the very process of creating music.
“There was this chapter in which I thought I had gone this weird path of recording everything myself and writing myself,” Hayes said. “The way I worked in the studio was kind of weird and odd, and I think I was convinced that if I morphed my process into what everybody else does, I’d see better results. It was an attempt to make better art, to do better things and make better music.
“I really had to crash down that road and quite a few others to realize that’s not the case.”
Through this, Hayes learned the importance of, and difficulty in, beginning with confidence and staying truly committed to oneself. So he refocused, cleared the clutter and got back to what he moved to Nashville to do in the first place: focus on the feelings behind his music.
Hayes’ upcoming, yet-to-be-titled album will be the result of that experience. It will be reflective of not only this maturity, but also of a desire to tear down any barriers that might hinder his songwriting.
“I’m really pushing hard to make sure that no one involved in the process is afraid to really be bold,” Hayes said of his time in the studio. “‘Trying’ is a word I’ve banned, that and ‘no.’ Those two words don’t exist. … I just don’t like it when things get in the way of creativity, because that will really prematurely stop a really great idea from coming to life if you let yourself get away with stuff like that.”
This new record is being approached much differently from his previous releases. Hayes is taking his time on this project, having written more than 100 songs over the past two years and spending long hours in a self-made studio exploring their possibilities. It’s new musical territory for him, and he’s enjoying every minute of it.
“There’s this funny misconception that the more you move in your career the less you want to do,” Hayes said. “I’m very much not that way. The further along I get, the more I want to immerse myself in this world. I moved to Nashville to do this, to do everything I can at all times.”
And as can be heard in the three songs he released last year that will be on the upcoming record, Yesterday’s Song, Amen and Young Blood, it is clear that the combination of his newly-found freedom and commitment to himself is producing some of his most bold, creative tunes yet.
“There are definitely times it would be nice to get a little bit longer of a break,” Hayes said, “but I don’t care about that as much as I do the art, music and making sure that every effort is made to stay true.”
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