“I look at the world now,” Hunter Hayes says, pausing for a moment amid his typical whirlwind of excitable chatter, “and I’m like, ‘Why would I confine myself?”
The singer-songwriter and critically-revered musician is speaking to the open-ended possibilities of releasing music in today’s digital age. More specifically, how artists who were once confined to traditional delivery mechanisms, like albums and singles, are now able to share new material with fans at a moment’s notice. But one senses it’s as much a reflection of the 25-year-old’s unsparing, no-holds-barred mindset towards creativity. Yes, Hayes’ mind is an ever-brimming one, constantly overflowing with new ideas and songs and lyrics and melodies. He explains with palpable excitement that recent times for him — dreaming up new material in his home studio, working with trusted collaborators, road testing material in Europe and the States — have been no different.
“I’m at this place where I’ve written and recorded a lot of music and I’m still energized,” he says of a creative hot streak that followed last year’s release of “Yesterday’s Song,” “Amen” and “Young Blood.” “I’m not wiped of ideas. There’s so much more to say and do.” As the multiple GRAMMY-nominee and CMA winner notes proudly, “it’s only the beginning of an ongoing conversation.”
To that end, Hayes is picking up where he left off last year: by sharing new music directly with fans. “It’s honing in on what gives me joy,” he says of the thrilling new material, culled from more than 100 songs he’s written in recent months. “I’m focusing on me as an artist, what I want to be playing live and the music I want to be putting out.”
His is an ongoing creative process, and one that finds Hayes writing and recording some of the most boundary-pushing music of his career. “I want this music to come out every way it can. These songs deserve to see the light of day,” he notes. “We’re not thinking in boxes.” Working with songwriting heavyweights like Mike Busbee (Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban), Gordie Sampson (Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert) and Barry Dean (Reba, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton), the forthcoming songs find Hayes pushing both his musical and lyrical talents into new and exciting territory. “A lot of stuff came out of my heart that I’d never let out before,” the Louisiana-native says.
Make no mistake, however: for Hayes there remains no greater place of refuge than the stage. It’s where the musician says the possibilities for musical and self-exploration remain open-ended and endless. “It’s the ultimate safe place,” he says of the high from his notoriously killer live sets. “That’s where I feel like we can try anything. And you know when we try something new we’re going to give it everything we got. We’re going to commit to it. For that time when I’m onstage my kid-self gets to go out and play. My heart gets to be free. No problems can touch me. There’s no thinking allowed. It’s the ultimate exercise in letting go.”
While in the past decade Hayes has undoubtedly created some of country music’s most memorable statements with his Double Platinum-certified, self-titled No. 1 debut, 2014’s chart-topping Storyline and the following year’s The 21 Project, moving forward he says he wants his fans to not merely get snapshots of where he’s at in his life but rather short stories detailing that moment in time. “Approaching music this way allows me to do what I love to do,” he explains.
“The musical landscape is changing and I’m nothing but excited to see where it leads.”