Country music fans know Hunter Hayes for hits like “Wanted,” “Storm Warning” and this year’s “Rescue.” Before the baby-faced singer was a star, he was a Louisiana whiz kid who literally started performing as a baby. The Breaux Bridge native got his first accordion when he was 2. By 4, he was playing Cajun music on national TV, and by 7 he had sung at the White House. At 16, Hayes moved to Nashville to write songs. He was just 20 when his first album went double platinum in 2011 (over 1.1 million copies sold).
He was named the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year in 2012 and in 2013 he sat with Stevie Wonder at the Academy of Country Music Awards, where the two of them performed Hayes’s smash “I Want Crazy.”
Hayes, 26, is now a veteran. He’s done three albums and toured with Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. This summer, he released “Rescue” as a stand-alone single on social media instead of a cut from an album (the usual way). It got the industry talking. We asked Hayes about his success.
Next: How did your new marketing strategy work out?
HH: In the first week, we had one of the most successful weeks we’ve ever had in terms of streaming. It was astonishing.
Next: Did you ever think about doing anything besides music?
HH: When I was a kid I came up with all kinds of crazy things, but once I got into middle school and high school, music was all I ever thought about.
Next: Who were your role models growing up?
HH: I really looked up to Garth Brooks for the longest time because he was a rock star who made country music, and I wanted to be that, too.
Next: Are any of your songs inspired by people or things in Louisiana?
HH: Potentially, maybe, yes. [Laughs.] But I’ll just leave it at that and let the music speak.
Next: What do you like to do when you visit Louisiana?
HH: Honestly, just sit on the couch and visit my grandparents and go see friends. I always try to borrow someone’s really sporty car and just drive around, going back down memory lane. I have actually written so many songs about that very thing!
Next: What can young people learn from your success?
HH: Last year, my word of the year was “conviction.” A pastor once told me the best thing he ever taught his kids was to fail and fail early, so that they weren’t afraid of failure. I have learned not to let my fear of failure keep me from trying something.