Hunter Hayes Speaks on Expression, Embracing Your Identity and New Music

Contrast sits down with the skilful, stylish and shy Hunter Hayes to talk shop. From his new album, to growing up, artistic influences, song writing and what’s important in life, Hunter is proud to admit, “I feel like I was meant to make noise” and after several studio albums, singing for the likes of former president Bill Clinton, penning songs for Rascal Flatts, Hunter says that making noise “is not just part of my life, it’s me, it’s part of my identity.”

When it comes to music, there are very few artists that can say they “play” close to 30 instruments. He’s certain to clarify the word play though, “I’m always making sure that nobody uses that word too lightly.” Hunter is one that is only too keen to experiment saying it’s all about “figuring stuff out. You want something on the record… you can try anything. There’s no wrong.” This new album has been all about experimentation, the multi-talented musician saying “what’s different about this project is that I’m not thinking of it as an album. I’m not making rules.” The album came more of an experimental art project for the singer, saying “the whole thing is just splattering paint, this entire project is about splattering paint.”  To Hunter, the “splattering paint” metaphor is all about creative freedom; something at the heart of Hunter’s artistry.

Quizzing Hunter on the most important things musically like honesty in lyrics, authentic and original sound, getting the post-production right, he’s only too eager to open up about studio time. “I love taking things into demo world and just messing with them. Doing a bunch of weird production and just seeing if it works, and if it translates.” Hunter goes on to say “The most important things musically for me is probably just transparency. That basically means I believe it. I believe that musically all of those things were things I really wanted to do, and not things I felt like I had to do.” And after several hit records and sold out tours, it’s all about wanting to do things, not having to do them for Hunter, like writing for the likes of Rascal Flatts.

When we asked how he decides what songs to keep and what songs to give away, Hunter replied “Well if anybody wants it like Rascal Flatts, you just give it away. [Although] because I’m writing for myself, seldom will I expect anybody to connect with it the way that I do.” Having written “Play” for the bands 2010 album, we were curious to know some of the dream collaborations – to which the list is long: Jon Bellion, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth, Tori Kelly, just to name a few.

However, it’s not only new collaborations that the musician yearns for. “I really want to get my pilot’s license. I want to design sets for other people too. I also want to design buses for other people. It’s funny all these things are somehow connected to what I do. But I would love to get my pilot’s license at some point. That’s definitely a real dream.” Says the star. Hunter also jokes “I could be a race car driver. I’m totally kidding… I don’t think I could, but I’d LOVE to.” Forever laughing, the country music star is quick to share that there’s always one thing guaranteed to make him laugh “any time after midnight in the front of our bus when we’re all hanging out after having a couple of drinks. Anything happens there. That is guaranteed to make me laugh.”

It isn’t always laughs though. The shy Hunter hurriedly admits he still gets nervous to this day. “I get nervous before every show. I get nervous before anything. Always nervous. I don’t think that will ever go away. I think it’s just because it matters to me. You know. I care.” The naturally nervous, seems to come hand-in-hand with his reserved and shy nature where the he mentions, “I’m the guy at a party that just wants to leave. I just don’t do well. But overcoming it in the industry I think I just speak through my music. I think there’s a lot of us that are that are scared of our own shyness, but I want to embrace it. I want that to center me.”

At the center of who Hunter Hayes is, the singer/songwriter says “it’s not about like being unique. It’s about the fact that we were all created to be whatever we are and not embracing that with open arms would be just be a shame.” He also adds the best piece of advice given to him was “to never have business with anybody that you wouldn’t do dinner with if you had no business to discuss. What it means is don’t do business with anybody but friends. I want to be friends with everybody that I work with. I want to know that we’re all in this together.”

With an enduring and relentless attitude of friendliness and kindness, Hunter doesn’t look at work as work. Instead, a living dream, meaning he can’t ever imagine stopping. When we ask him what’s next, he’s quick to reply “Just more music, more touring, and more of everything. I just pray it doesn’t stop any time soon because I love it too much. I don’t want to take a break. Keep going. Keep doing it. You know I love what I do.” And just like the saying, love what you do and never work a day in your life, Hunter embodies that belief.

There’s something uniquely different about Hunter Hayes. When he talks about music, you can hear the passion and you can feel the shyness melt away. Expression comes in many shapes, but for Hayes, his voice is found with a microphone front and center, and a guitar in hand. When he’s not recording and performing, that expression is found through song writing and exploring music through the nuts and bolts of composition while toying with production. Admitting that he always knew he was meant to make noise, the singer doesn’t just make noise, he makes music.