Amongthe many extraordinary things about Hunter Hayes, the multi-talented musician,writer, producer and performer, perhaps what is most astonishing is that intruth, he’s just getting started. And it is that fact which holds the promiseof Hunter Hayes becoming one of the most significant musical talents to emerge,not just from Nashville, but from anywhere, in a long, long time.
Already,he has accomplishments beyond most musicians wildest dreams: Singing“Jambalaya” with Hank Williams Jr. in front of 200,000 people (15 millionYouTube views) at the age of four; appearing with Robert Duvall (who gaveHunter his first guitar) in “The Apostle” at the age of six; playing withJohnny and June Cash, and Charlie Daniels at a BBQ; performing for PresidentClinton and many more. You might say that he’s lived a charmed life. But thoseexperiences are simply the natural result of Hunter’s prodigal talent, onethat’s been there from the beginning as though a gift from God, and one thathe’s always conscious to be in service to.
Havingmoved to Nashville three years ago, Hunter was quickly signed to UniversalMusic Publishing Group where he has co-written songs for Rascal Flatts andMontgomery Gentry. At the same time, hewas introduced to Atlantic Records’ Chairman/CEO and music visionary CraigKallman, who he signed with at Atlantic Records. “I’m blessed to be surroundedby people who appreciate music and support what I do.”
Bornin Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, Hunter has been making music since about the timehe learned to walk. As he recounts, “By the time I was almost two, I waspicking up everything and making an instrument out of it. My grandmother gaveme a toy accordion for my second birthday and I immediately began picking upCajun songs by ear from the radio.” While both of Hunter’s parents are musiclovers, neither are musicians, so as he says, “The way I picked up music wasout of left field, but, I suppose, a pleasant surprise for them.”
Forthe Hayes’, most Friday night’s in the early part of Hunter’s childhood werespent at a Cajun restaurant a couple of blocks from their home that featuredlive music, and it was there where Hunter joined his first band at the age offour, first as the accordionist, and then as the front man at the age of five.
Takingup guitar at the age of 6, Hunter’s ability to pick up instruments (includingbass guitar, drums, keyboards, and more) became evident. He says, “I’ve neverhad the patience to sit down and learn from anyone. So with the guitar, andwith every subsequent instrument and piece of studio equipment, it’s been aprocess of experimentation – pressing every button I can.”
Songwriting,too, has been a constant undertaking of Hunter’s. “I wrote my first song at 6,”he recalls, “I spent every day with the guitar and I just made up songs.”Hunter’s songwriting has been informed by an eclectic grouping of influences.“When I was really young, Garth Brooks was enormous, and I was a huge fan. I always loved LeAnn Rimes and especially ClintBlack for his soulfulness. As I’ve gotten older, my influences have broadened –John Mayer, Michael Buble, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Stevie Ray Vaughn, theBeatles – all of these artists have somehow been a part of my development as asongwriter.”
Likeplaying and songwriting, performing has become almost second nature to Hunterwho, in just his short life, has shared the stage with the likes of TaylorSwift, Hank Williams, Jr., Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Keith Urban and LadyAntebellum . “I’ve been doing at least thirty dates a year for the past fifteenyears. I’ve done a lot of the festivals several times and built uprelationships with the people that go every year.”
NowHunter, in the producer’s chair with Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts,Trace Adkins) releases his self-titled Atlantic Records debut album. “I’vereleased independent records before, but this feels like the first real record – with the high stakes,” hesays excitedly. For Hunter, even with those high stakes, he was committed todoing it his way – “playing everything on the album, having fun andexperimenting,” he stops, and then says with a smile, “I literally lived in thestudio.”
Theexpectations may be high, but no one has set higher expectations and ambitionsfor his music than Hunter himself. Hedeclares, “I hope people half my age and twice my age will listen to my music –I want it to live forever and for my audience to feel like they have a friendin my music.” He continues, “Music is a spirit. It heals. It’s an amazing thingto be loved and appreciated, and sometimes, music has not just been my bestfriend, it’s been my only friend.”
In2011, Hunter released his debut album, toured with superstar Taylor Swift,kicked-off his first ever headlining tour, made his national network televisiondebut on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman and made his Grand Ole Opry debut.The world at large now has the opportunity to see this prodigiously talentedartist, a young man who respects the gift his talent is, and has alreadylearned how to give it the honor it commands. He says, “I’ve been lucky as akid. I’ve met some of the greats, and whether it’s Johnny and June (Cash),Charlie Daniels or Brad Paisley, you could sense they were in it for the loveof the music. That was the thing I took away from every single one of thosepeople.”
“Idon’t know if I’m worthy of being considered of ‘carrying the torch,’ but Iwould love to be told that by somebody someday. A lot of the decisions I makeare from answering the question ‘are we doing it for the right reasons?’ I wantpeople to say about me, ‘I know he’s making music because he loves it.’”