At the ripe old age of 21, Hunter Hayes has all the makings of the next big country star. He's the Country Music Association's reigning New Artist of the Year, he's had two No. 1 singles, and he was front and center at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards.
And he's currently opening for country superstar Carrie Underwood's “Blown Away Tour,” which blows into town Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
Sometimes referred to as the Justin Bieber of country music because of his good looks and tendency to make girls (and women) exclaim, “He's so cute!,” Hayes has devoted almost his whole life to music. He joined his first band at age 4, recorded his first album when he was 9 and started writing songs when he was a teen.
In 2008, his family moved to Nashville so he could pursue a career in music.
In 2011, he released the CD “Hunter Hayes.” He wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the CD, co-produced it, and, astonishingly, played all of the more than 30 instruments heard on the record.
It was “sort of a process born of necessity,” Hayes said in a telephone interview. He said he had a “bunch of songs stacked up” that he had written and wanted to record.
Hayes played numerous instruments as a teen. He “got obsessed” with writing songs and then picking up an instrument and playing a song that had been going round in his head.
These days, he's into collaboration. He brought musicians into the studio for his upcoming reissue of “Hunter Hayes,” which will be titled “Hunter Hayes (Encore),” featuring seven new songs as well as three remakes.
Speaking of collaborations, Hayes experienced the collaboration of a lifetime when he performed with Stevie Wonder at the ACM awards Sunday. He had met Wonder about a year ago, and Wonder actually brought up the possibility of doing a collaboration. Hayes said before the awards ceremony they ran through the song, then went back to the dressing room and “we were just jamming and hanging out,” he said. “I felt a connection.”
Hayes also debuted his new single, “I Want Crazy,” at the ACM awards. “That was a big deal for me,” he said. “That was pretty epic.”
Nominated for six awards, Hayes left the ACM awards empty-handed. But he wasn't disappointed.
“This is my second year of being eligible,” he said. “I am not complaining”
He said Wonder sat next to him in the audience, and nudged him every time his name came up. “It's moments like that you live for,” he said.
“I got to play with my hero. I don't think I could have asked for a better night. I had a blast. I was honored to be nominated.”