By Alan Ho
Who: Hunter Hayes
Where: Nashville, TN (by way of Breaux Bridge, LA)
For fans of: Rascal Flatts, Scotty McCreery, Billy Gilman
Although he became known early on at age 13, where he performed the 1951 classic Hank Williams hit “Hey Good Lookin’” in front of a national TV audience, released three albums before that point as an indie country artist and co-wrote at age 19, the Rascal Flatts super-hit “Play”, many country music fans up until last year were still unfamiliar with now-exploding country music phenomenon Hunter Hayes.
Miles away from the fresh-faced 13 year old who wowed with that Williams classic, Hayes has grown steadily into his own, with the aforementioned turn as a songwriter for Rascal and Montgomery, but also on the performing side, something he had done since he was at the age of 6, where he first learned to pick up the guitar and eventually the accordion (his first instrument at age 2 was a toy accordion from his grandmother), the bass, drums and keyboards. All these immense talents led Hayes to the attention of Atlantic Records’ head man Craig Kallman, culminating in his eventual signing to the label just two years ago.
His self-titled major label debut album was an instant hit in 2011, peaking at no. 7 on the country albums chart and no. 18 overall, impressive for a still-relative newcomer. Produced by legendary producer and session player Dann Huff, Hayes’ self titled album showcased both the fantastic songwriting, his country-made vocals and his prodigious instrumental talent (allegedly 21 different instruments were all handled by Hayes himself on top of providing his vocals!). Last year might be the moment where Hayes’ career could potentially explode into future superstardom, as he landed an opening slot on ten dates for Taylor Swift’s wildly successful “Speak Now” tour and this year, he completed a leg on Rascal Flatts’ tour, with whom critics compare Hunter’s vocals to Rascal’s front man Gary LeVox…high praise indeed for someone still very young!
Catch what Hunter Hayes in his debut video “Wanted”, right off his self-titled debut is all about and why The Spotlight smells a potential bona-fide country music superstar! Did we also mention he is also nominated for a CMT Music Award?