Hunter Hayes is a very talented “newcomer” to the country music industry. On his debut self-titled album due out October 11th, he wrote or co-wrote every track, played every instrument, and even did all the backing vocals himself. He even co-produced the entire thing with Dan Huff. We just got off the phone with Hunter discussing how he was nervous trying to do everything for the record, what it was like working with Dan Huff, touring with Taylor Swift, who he’d love to work with, if he’d ever go into acting; and if he’d go to prom with Lauren Alaina.
Hunter also discusses what songs are his favorite on his new album, and which song ended up completely different in studio.
You grew up surrounded by Cajun music. What is it about country music that attracted you to it?
I don’t know. I think what attracted me to country music was just lyrically it was something that even at a crazy young age that’s what I could relate to. That’s what I kind of attached myself to because that’s the most relateable thing I could attach myself to that I could find, know what I mean?
Musically it was cool. It was very, you know, it felt like a good home. I think that’s probably why.
You did your entire album pretty much by yourself.
The process came from when I first started writing music my mind could only percieve it to be done if it was recorded. I didn’t have access to A-list players or an awesome studio. You know I, I just didn’t. I had been in a studio before but not for my own music, and so I knew a couple of instruments, I was a bit of a gear geek. I got into the process of making the demos myself, of doing the demos myself so I could feel like they were done.
So I kind of adopted that process with this album because it became like a habit, of my way of writing music. So we had this crazy idea of doing the entire record that way. That’s exactly what we did. We figured we could at least try it, you know, and see if it would work on that scale but it did and I got to work with one of my heroes, Dan Huff. He’s produced records that I’m in love with. I thought it was really cool that I could do this with one of my heroes, you know?
Were you nervous about taking all this on?
Totally. Absolutely. I don’t think you’re human if you’re not nervous about all this. Yeah, I had done it on the demo scale, I had done it at home by myself on little work tapes, but it was nothing compared like walking into the room with someone you’ve looked up to so much musically like I did with Dan Huff. I felt like I had to raise the bar, you know? Not only that, but learning from him was a treat. It was a bit of a college course working with him, with a guy that brilliant. So it was really cool to be able to do that. Yeah, I was nervous.I think he made it easy on me.
He was a blast to hang out with. Just a really, really classy guy in general. I spent five months with him and I still consider him one of my heroes.
What are your favorite tracks that you two worked on together?
Well, I love “Storm Warning” because it was the first song that we cut. So, it was the most experimental. We tried the most on it because we were still trying to figure out how we were going to work with each other. Neither of us have ever done this process before. I, myself, have never done it with anybody else in the room and he’s never done it with only one other person. It was kind of a learning process for us both. “Storm Warning” was the first song we cut, and it was the most experimental because we were just trying stuff. We were building the factory as we were building the product. So, that was a blast.
I think that a couple of others were very interesting. I think “Somebody’s Heartbreak” is a really interesting story because it’s the least like the demo out of any song on the album. It’s a total departure from the demo. That was another really experimental song. I’m kind of attached to it because it’s a fun song to play live.
You’ve written songs for some pretty major country acts but is there any song out there right now that you wish you wrote?
Oh so many, so many. Oh the list is so long. In all honestly, like one of my favorite Dan Huff records was “Me & My Gang” by Rascal Flatts. It is such a good record. It was the first record Dan worked with them on. It had great songs like “Words I Couldn’t Say,” and I love that, love that song. Keith [Urban]‘s got one on his album “The Luxury Of Knowing” that I wish I had written that. I can literally give you a list of hundreds of songs. I study the songs to try to figure out where they were coming from to help me try to write my own later down the road, you know? For that very reason that’s why I think music is beautiful. What I love about music is that I can find a song like “The Luxury of Knowing” on a day where it’s appropriate and I can feel like I own it. Even though I didn’t write it I feel like I’m connected to it.
Again, that goes back to question one, that’s why I love country music so much. It’s songs like that. So I’m so glad you asked because that’s what I live on, that’s what I breathe on.
You were touring with Taylor Swift. What’s it like being on such a big tour with a huge star like her?
Awesome in every way. She’s so cool. She’s such a great individual, and the whole team was really nice. Her band and her crew were really cool. And her audience – her fans were the most warm and receptive group of people I have probably ever played in front of. It was spectacular to walk on-stage in front of her audience and be so well received. It was a treat. It was kind of, didn’t feel worthy. It was that good.
Well, this one I was asked by a lot of people to make sure I asked you this. Lauren Alaina admitted this week that she has a huge, huge crush on you and wants you to take her to her senior prom…
(laughs) That is so, so funny because I was actually on an interview this morning and they surprised me with that. It’s funny because I’ve only met her once and I’m looking forward to running into her – I think I’m going to see her at the Footloose premiere. We’ll be hanging out at the premiere ’cause I know I am on the soundtrack and everything. I’m looking forward to meeting and hanging and saying “hey” ’cause obviously I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan of anyone our age that’s doing the country music thing, you know. I’m a huge supporter, huge fan. It’s really cool just to be mentioned by someone like that.
Do you have any idea what your next single may be?
Next single… I don’t. I mean I kind of have my – put it this way: you’ll find this from me in the future. I’m a big fan of suspense. I have a couple of ideas. I’m basing it – put it this way – this is the critical part: I’m basing it off of how I feel about these songs when I play them live. As far as the reception, you know, what people sort of react to live. I’m testing songs as we play live. It’s all in the testing grounds and I think that’s going to determine as far as anything what the next single is. And we haven’t made a decision yet, but I’m between a couple of songs. Once again, if you want to vote, you gotta come to the shows and scream (laughs).
Well, you gotta come up to Canada first and then I’ll go vote!
I know, I know, it’s funny ’cause I’ve spent like months at a time in Nova Scotia. I think it will be nice to get back up there, ’cause I spend a lot of time in Nova Scotia. I love it out there. So I love Canada in general. I’ve never made it out to that way; there’s several parts of Canada I haven’t visited actually. One of the players in my band is from Toronto. Anyway, it’s kind of cool to have that connection.
Since you’re a pretty talented guy, do you ever think you’ll go into acting?
I don’t know, it’s possible. I never really considered it, never really thought about it a whole lot. I certainly have an open mind about a lot of things like that. I don’t know, we’ll just have to see.
Is there any artist out there right now that you really, really want to work with?
So many, so many. Gosh, that list is so long. It goes from like Keith [Urban], obviously I’m a big Keith fan. The other day, I actually just got to open up and play with Vince Gill which was really cool. I’ve always been a big Vince fan. Anything from like Ronnie Milsap to Stevie Wonder to other guitar players. I love collaborations and I hope I get to do more of them in the future, you know, once I kind of have time and when I get to know more celebs. I love collaborations because I love somebody else coming in and just doing what we both do and just getting crazy creative in a room with a bunch of musical gear and just seeing what happens, seeing what comes out of it.
Hunter Hayes debut album hits stores October 11th. He’s about to go on tour with his “Most Wanted 2011″ headlining tour. For tour dates, see his official site.