At the age of 20, country musician Hunter Hayes has already accomplished more than some artists do in a career. The Louisiana native has written songs for Rascal Flatts, toured with Taylor Swift and released his self-titled debut album on which he plays a total of 30 instruments, ranging from guitar to accordion.
Youthink recently caught up with the rising star to find out more about his debut album, his hit single, Storm Warning, and what life is like on the road.
YT: On your debut album, you sang every note, wrote every song and played every instrument. What was the greatest challenge when creating the album?
HH: Time. I wanted to be done quickly. I wanted to fly through so many things, but you really got to dig deep in the details. I just wanted to be done with it so I could bring it onto the road and take the next step. So basically, it was just having the patience to sit there and become more of a perfectionist than I have ever been.
YT: What was your inspiration for your hit single, Storm Warning?
HH: (laughs) Well, actually, I worked with this guy in Nova Scotia and he came up with a couple titles. Storm Warning was one of them and the more I dug into it, the more I started relating it to this girl I was hanging out with. I wanted to spend more and more time with her, but at the same time I realized it was probably never going to work. So we played around with a couple puns and phrases and eventually ended up with the song Storm Warning.
YT: Does she know it’s written about her?
HH: I think by now she’s probably figured it out.
YT: So you played a total of 30 instruments on this record?
HH: Yes, that’s what we counted.
YT: What was your favourite to play?
HH: The guitar. The electric guitar, acoustic guitar, it’s just what I love to play on. It’s the first thing I grab when I go to sound check, and it’s what I write on. It just describes me.
YT: What was the first instrument you ever played?
HH: The accordion. I grew up in Louisiana so it was kind of a given. I got it for my second birthday and it was what really kind of started this whole mess.
YT: Even though you started so young, at what point did you just know music would be your career?
HH: Honestly, I don’t think there was a point. I hear people say they, “decide to be something,” but for me, this is all I’ve ever been. It’s all I’ve wanted to do and it’s been my lifestyle. It’s more than just a hobby or some gig. It’s just how I live and breathe. I love music.
YT: Growing up, who inspired you as a singer?
HH: Oh, tons of people. There was Brian Wright, Rascal Flatts, Ronnie Milsap and just a whole list of brilliant influences. Even in different genres. I love Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and all kinds of other stuff.
YT: You’ve worked with some pretty big stars, such as Johnny Cash and Rascal Flatts. Who has influenced or impacted you the most?
HH: I would honestly have to say Keith [Urban]. I’ve got to spend some quality time with him, and I’ve studied his records before. I’m a huge fan and just working with him has been phenomenal.
YT: What did you gain from the experience of touring with Taylor Swift?
HH: I think the coolest part was just to watch. I watched [the show] about nine or 10 times, and it was great picking up on the little things. I think it’s great how they execute the show. You can tell they’ve done it a lot because they’re pros at it. But at the same time it felt like their first show because they treat each show as if it’s their most important one. I loved that. Just to see the drive and that visible passion is something I can relate to.
YT: Being on the road must be hard, especially at your age. How do you stay connected with your family?
HH: Well, it’s pretty tough. We run on different schedules. I run on an entirely different schedule than the rest of the world, you know? I’m on a different clock. But when I go back to Nashville, I get to spend a good amount of time with them. I’m never gone for more than two weeks, so it hasn’t been that bad. Also, there are always phone calls and e-mails. I send them pictures all the time. It’s nice going back to them after all this.