The Country Music Association’s choice as the best New Artist of 2012 earned his trophy because of his intense, single-minded dedication to his music. Hunter Hayes works at his craft virtually every waking hour. In his world, there are no days off. There are no hobbies or outside interests. Everything is focused on musical self-improvement. “With me, it’s always going to be music,” he states. “That’s the one thing I know. That is my thing. That is my place. I make music because it’s the only way I can breathe. This is how I want to spend the rest of my life.”
Hunter's debut gold single, "Storm Warning," was followed up by hits including "Wanted," "Somebody's Heartbreak," "I Want Crazy," "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" and "Invisible."
Despite his youth, Hunter already has a lifetime of musical experience. The Louisiana native began picking up various instruments when he was only 2 years old. At age 4, he joined his first band. He took his accordion on stage and sang “Jambalaya” with Hank Williams Jr. that year, too. At age 6, he was cast in the Robert Duvall film The Apostle. The actor gave Hunter his first guitar. Hunter recorded his first album when he was 9 and his second at the age of 10.
“Being an only child absolutely helped,” he says of his extraordinarily youthful development. “I credit a lot to that. It gave me more time to be alone and spend more time with the art. I won’t say I grew up faster, but I definitely got into what I wanted to do quicker because I had to," he adds. "Music was all I had. And my parents did everything they could to support me.”
Hunter spent his early teenage years playing shows, making two more albums and developing as a songwriter.
“People were just trying to help,” he says now. “But they wanted me to change my sound and told me I had to lose my boots. The turning point came when I stopped listening, and finally let my music be a natural reflection of who I am.”
During his high school years, his parents began taking him on trips to Nashville. Gradually, a team of supportive entertainment industry insiders began to form around the youngster in Music City. When his mother found out about a correspondence course that her son could take to complete his senior year, the family moved to Nashville in 2008.
“I made a promise to myself that as soon as I finished that course, I was going to write at least a song a week,” Hayes recalls. “In fact, that first week, I wrote a song every day.”
When “Storm Warning” was a hit, Taylor Swift chose him as her opening act. So did Rascal Flatts, to whom Hayes gave his song “Play.”
Hunter has performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Talk, E! News and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. One highlight was his appearance on the ABC-TV special The CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock, performing “Wanted” surrounded by 50,000 fans.
He also picked up a Teen Choice Award as the Male Country Artist of the Year, earned a No. 1 video with “Wanted,” won a BMI songwriting award for “Storm Warning” and was a nominee at both the Academy of Country Music Awards and the CMT Music Awards. Additionally, he was chosen to sing the national anthem at a New Orleans Saints game.
“There’s an energy that happens live," says Hunter. "That’s where I’m most myself. When I get onstage, that’s my home. That’s my element, and I’m not shy anymore. That’s where I’m comfortable. Getting to play live every night, that’s what I’ve always dreamed about. I’m blessed beyond belief.”