Check out this brand new interview with the amazing Hunter Hayes!
The 21-year-old country singer has had an unbelievable past year with his hit single “Wanted,” three Grammy nominations, and an unforgettable performance at the show.
Hunter is unstoppable as he recently hit the road with his good friend Carrie Underwood and racked up a total of six Academy of Country Music Award nominations too!
JJJ caught up with Hunter on all of his success, his devoted fans, and of course, his songwriting process.
Keep reading to find out what Hunter Hayes shared with us…
Hunter Hayes – JustJaredJr.com Exclusive Interview
JJJ: Let’s talk about the Grammy’s first. How was that whole experience?
Hunter Hayes: I took something home. It wasn’t necessarily an award, but I definitely took home one of the best experiences of my life. That was my first time going to the Grammy’s. So if I were to just go and experience it, it would have been amazing, but I was lucky enough to go with three nominations and that blows my mind. I was sitting in the audience with Ellen [DeGeneres] and Kelly Clarkson and all these superstars, and on top of that I got to play my own song, which was awesome.
JJJ: And you got to play your own piano too!
HH: That was really cool. It was all last minute. We had our truck with all our gear in L.A. and we just happened to get the piano over to the Staples Center. They said, “OK, we have a place for it. We think we can make this work.” We tried it out during rehearsal and sure enough, there was a way to get it in and out. I got to play on my own gear with all my lyrics on it. The way I played the song was just by myself and that’s the way we do the song in the show. For a section of the song, it’s just me and the audience. It was so cool because I wasn’t sitting there with this edited track in my ear monitor. I wasn’t wondering, “OK, how does this go?” Because that’s happened before, where you edit the track and you don’t remember how you edited it. This was just me at the piano, which had a huge comfort factor to it. I felt, oddly, right at home (laughs).
JJJ: Was there anyone in particular that had you starstruck? Or are you used to it by now?
HH: You never get used to it. I won’t. I hope I don’t, at least. I was warming up, getting ready, just trying to get rid of all my nerves. I had just met one of my guitar heroes John Mayer. I just met him the night before at this party. I barely know him, but John comes in – apparently somebody said something about me being nervous in the hallway and he heard it – and he comes in, nobody with him, nothing to it, just walks in like, “Hey man, what are you nervous about? Talk to me. You’re going to be fine.” He was really encouraging. That was a freaky moment for me, like “I can’t believe this is happening.” It just goes to show you. I was in this room with these superstars, but when it comes down to it, everybody is making music for the love of music. That’s something I say a lot. I got “for the love of music” painted all over everything, but it’s an important thing. That was pretty awesome that he just came back – unprompted, nobody told him to – and wished me luck.
JJJ: Where were you when you found out you were nominated for six ACM Awards? You have the second most number of nominations!
HH: All I know is, I freaked out. I was not even awake. My management actually called me and woke me up. And at first, I looked at it and was like, “This can’t be good.” I was in a different time zone. I completely spaced on what the day was and what was supposed to happen. I answered and they were both on the phone – both of my managers – and that’s when they have either really good news or we have to figure something out. I’m like half-asleep, but they’re like, “Oh, no. It’s good news! You have six ACM nominations.” I was like, “Are you serious?” I freaked out. I don’t even remember what I said because I was half-asleep. It’s unbelievable. And especially because they are for “Wanted.” That just goes to show you how much a song can change your life.
JJJ: We’re big fans of “Wanted.” And you don’t have to necessarily be a country music fan to love that song!
HH: That’s the dream, you know? As a songwriter – I can’t speak for anybody but me – but that is the dream. To have a song that someone listens to, and what you said, that’s huge. That’s groundbreaking. And to be part of that transition is “Wow.” It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. And as a songwriter, it’s even better to have a song someone can relate to and dig, and say, “We used this as our wedding song.” People come up to me often about my song “Cry With You.” It was an emotional song for me to write and I don’t do it live because it’s very emotional, but I have people say that song helped them through a lot. And that’s like a moment I just want to go, “Wow. I can’t believe I get to do what I do.”
JJJ: What is your songwriting process usually like?
HH: Honestly, it depends on the day. It depends on the time. It depends on who I’m in the room with. It depends on where I am, the climate, what watch I’m wearing (laughs). Literally, there are so many variables in the way I write. It changes daily. I have this song “In a Song,” and we were sitting in a hotel room on tour. We had a day off. And I was trying to figure things out because it looked like it was going to work out with this one particular person. She and I had been talking, and then it started looking like it wasn’t going to work out at all. I was so bummed out. I realized the first thing I do when I realize things go wrong – I go through my playlist [to find a song] that I can sing along to that gets me, you know? I feel like I’m not the only one who does that. I don’t even do that as a musician. I just do that as me – as a 21-year-old trying to figure this crazy life out.
I remember sitting there going, “How funny is this that I search for myself and meaning in this relationship that didn’t end up happening? How funny is that I invest all this energy and at the end of it, how easy it is for me to turn on a song and boom – I’m myself again?” So I came up with this title “I’ll Find Myself in a Song” because again, I feel like I’m not the only one who does that. I wrote a bunch of lyrics that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I played a show the next day – it was a quick show. It was almost too quick. I needed to play more. It was like I needed to have an experience and I didn’t get to have it. So I got back on the bus and we were rolling down the road at 10 o’clock at night. I started strumming away on this one groove. I ended up just playing 20 minutes of this one riff and different inversions. I recorded it all on my iPhone. Then I sat at my laptop for 30 minutes and just literally went crazy with lyrics writing anything that came to mind. About an hour and a half later, I had this song called “In a Song” and it’s all about that. Some of them are journeys like that.
JJJ: Wow. And you’ve been writing songs for a long time, right?
HH: Since I was six.
JJJ: Did you have a normal high school experience?
HH: What is a normal high school experience? (laughs) Everybody has a different high school experience. It’s so funny you mention this because I just wrote a song all about that as well. I will say this: it wasn’t bad at all. I wasn’t physically bullied or anything like that, but I was definitely an outcast and I definitely felt it. I spent a lot of days trying to figure out what I was doing wrong until I figured out I wasn’t do anything wrong. I’m sure thankful that now I have the perspective that I have now. Looking back, I wish I could have talked to someone in my position now because they would have probably told me, “Dude, don’t even worry about it. You’re doing what you love and it’s going to pay off.” I feel like that goes for anything. Everybody tries to fit in. I know I tried to fit in so, so badly. I tried to find that thing that I felt at home with and always knew it was music. So I started writing. I spent my weekends doing the same thing. All that time, I was just kind of searching for that, hoping that it would pay off. And it did.
JJJ: You were on a few TV shows when you were younger, including Nickelodeon’s Figure It Out. What’s it like watching those clips back now?
HH: Embarrassing (laughs). I mean, it’s awkward! It’s like you have friends over, and mom and dad point out the baby pictures. You just want to run out of the room for a second. It’s not quite as bad, but it’s weird. It’s really weird to watch videos – that’s why I don’t (laughs) – but it’s weird to see myself as a kid doing on a different scale in a different world what I get to do now. It’s very bizarre. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to find music that early on in my life.
JJJ: You’re on tour with Carrie Underwood right now. How’s that going?
HH: It’s going great. We did 55 dates last year on the “Blown Away” tour with Carrie. We had a blast and it was really cool that they invited us back. With that, we got to sit down and watch what I call “the game tapes” where we go back, watch the show, and critique it. We had about a month to think about it and to figure out what to do better. Very rarely do you have that kind of sit-down time. We tour all year round. The way my mind functions, I can’t be off for more than a month at a time. I was off for a month and I went right to the studio. Even being off the road that long bugs me a little bit. So I love being on the road and staying on the road. We very seldom have that time to regroup after a tour.
JJJ: Have you had any strange fan encounters while out on the road?
HH: I actually had one fan come to a meet and greet, and ask me to find her inhaler. She said, “Will you find my inhaler?” I was like, “Oh, uh, yeah.” And she was like, “Because you take my breath away.” (laughs) Oh, that’s good. That’s awesome. That’s one story that sticks with me. I know the term is “fan,” but I feel like we’re closer than that. They’re so supportive. They’ve been really good to me and we have a lot of good memories.