When he's away from the spotlight Hunter Hayes loves flying planes and dreams of one day getting his pilot's license. It's a fitting hobby for the young country music star whose career is certainly, well, soaring.
At 22-years-old, Hayes already has multiple Grammy nominations under his belt. His platinum selling debut studio album "Hunter Hayes," which he co-produced with Dann Huff, has spawned four hit singles, including two chart-toppers, "Somebody's Heartbreak," and "Wanted," which has sold four million copies. In June he released "Hunter Hayes (Encore)," which featured re-recorded versions of songs on the original album and produced the current hits "I Want Crazy" and "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me," which features Jason Mraz.
Hayes is a native of Louisiana and currently resides in Nashville. At age 4, he joined his first band. At six Robert Duvall gave him his first guitar after Hayes was cast in Duvall's film "The Apostle." Hayes recorded his first album when he was 9 years old and was signed to Atlantic Records in 2010.
In a recent interview Hayes was sincerely friendly and surprisingly grounded considering his early success in life.
Q: What can fans expect at your live shows?
A: The live show is all about energy. It's all about how can we elevate things, how can we make moments, how we can make things special. Our job is to make sure everybody gets a little vacation for a couple of hours.
Q: What's your songwriting process like?
A: It's different for every song. A lot of writing I do lately is on the road. It's a lot of living and typing down in my iPhone certain thoughts and feelings. You experience these crazy things touring and just living, for heaven's sake I just turned 22 and I have my dream job and I'm on the road trying to figure out the things that I'd normally be trying to figure out in a college scenario. There are a lot of emotions; there are a lot of things that you experience for the first time and a lot of things you learn about. So it's all about taking these thoughts, taking these emotions, and finding two words to sum it up, or three or four words, or just a statement that sums it up.
Q: Jason Mraz recently lent his vocals to your song and you guys did a few shows together. What has it been like working with Jason?
A: He's a really cool guy. He's very in the moment musically, and I respect that so much, I'm very much a planner but I like to be in the moment when I can be. The thing I really enjoyed about sitting in with him at his shows was there's a lot of just 'hey there's no click track, there's no arrangement, we're just going to play and at the end of the song we're going to just go off and jam' and we did. I love those type of moments and he's a specialist at those.
Q: You play all the instruments on your albums. What inspired you to learn so many instruments?
A: When I learned that songwriting was an option in life I think it just opened up my eyes. I wanted to write and I wanted my music to be my own. Songwriting has become my way of understanding a lot of things and talking about it and feeling like I have a place to talk about it. A lot of songwriters will tell you songwriting is therapeutic and it is very much so. It's all about getting in a room with a couple of your buddies and just chatting about life, that's how you figure out life anyway, right? You hang out with your friends and you talk about it.
Anyhow, one year for Christmas I asked my parents for an eight track recording system. It was a mini setup that would allow me to hit the red light record button and start actually recording ideas. That was one of the coolest discoveries of my life, it was like finally I can actually start painting on canvas. It became a daily thing for me, I was constantly building tracks for different songs and to do it I had to learn a couple of more instruments.
Q: Anything your fans would be surprised to know about you?
A: I'm very shy and awkward. I talk a lot when I'm comfortable, when I'm talking about what I want to talk about, but in social situations — and I'm working hard to change this lately — I'm naturally a very shy, very weird, very awkward guy. I think people might be surprised by that. When I'm on stage, I know this sounds completely scripted and made-up, but for some reason that's where I'm comfortable. Maybe it's because I love making music, so when I'm finally able to make music I'm like 'Oh this is home, I'm cool. I got a guitar in my hand, I feel like I'm myself.'