Hunter Hayes is ready for the future.
“We’re in a new age,” says the 25-year-old singer-songwriter, calling from Nashville in the midst of the annual publicity whirlwind known as CMA Fest. “We’re not in an age where you work for six months making a 12-song record, and then go out and tour for six months. We kind of do both all the time.”
Hayes, who still holds the record for being the youngest male solo artist to top the country charts after his single, “Wanted,” hit No. 1 in 2012 when he was only 21, says that the relationship between artists and fans is something that needs to be nurtured more consistently than it was in previous years. Fans want to connect with their favorite artists regularly, on social media, at concerts, and by listening to new music.
“It’s time to embrace releasing music more often,” Hayes says. “It’s time to let the creative process reflect that as well.”
And Hayes is ready to back that up. Though he’s in the middle of a national tour, which stops at The Paramount in Huntington on June 23, Hayes says this summer will be filled with new music from him, even before he releases a new album this fall.
“I have 100 songs waiting in the wings,” he says. “They came with me just kind of letting it happen.”
Hayes says that in the last few years, he has maintained a schedule splitting his time pretty evenly between touring and recording. “A lot of it has been recorded in the basement of my house,” he says. “I can take all day on a song, working for hours on, say, a drum sound, getting to sculpt it until it’s right.”
That means Hayes can experiment with all kinds of sounds for his music. Last year, he released three songs that reflected a variety of styles, from the straightforward country rock of the single “Yesterday’s Song” to the gospel-tinged “Amen” and the edgier, blues-influenced “Young Blood.” However, at this point, it’s not clear if any of those songs will be on the new record and that’s just fine with Hayes, who was as thrilled to be part of the recent Malibu Guitar Festival with Carle Place native Steve Vai and Mick Fleetwood, as he was to work with Nashville scene fixture David Davidson’s string quartet on new material. “It’s super-good for my soul,” he says, laughing.
Hayes’ embrace of the future includes a willingness to take the good with the bad. He enjoys playing new music for his fans and says he will likely unveil new songs for fans when he hits Long Island. “We just play stuff,” he says. “We’ll play a song that we wrote a week before . . . The way I look at it, nobody can walk on stage and turn off the mic.”
Revealing new material in this age where smartphones are always on hand to send the songs straight to YouTube, though, creates its own set of issues. “It’s nerve-wracking because you want to make sure the first impression is a good one,” Hayes says, adding that sometimes he gets scared to read the comments about his songs. “In a way when people put it on YouTube, they’re saying, ‘I support this.’ And when they talk about it, I just feel incredibly uplifted. It makes me feel good. It’s just rad, man.”
Hayes says fan reaction can also make him rethink his feelings about a song. He recently played a new song and saw three different fans upload it to YouTube the next morning. “They voted for the song,” he says. “They gave it a story, as they talked about it, and it rose in its importance to us.”
His next single, though, is already set, even if he wants to keep it under wraps for a bit longer. Hayes produced it with busbee, who has worked with everyone from Keith Urban to Lake Grove’s Jon Bellion, and wrapped up the video for it earlier this month. “It has a lot of personal value to me,” Hayes says of the song, which will most likely be revealed in July. “It’s about the people who kept me glued together . . . who showed me my own inner strength. The song has a message that’s uplifting to me, and the video is just beautiful.”
That team, as well as his fans, bolster Hayes’ belief that he is doing the right thing by releasing so much new music. “Business is not my favorite part of this,” he says. “It’s a lot like a song. You have an idea and a dream for it. . . . We have a totally different plan now, and it’s really fun.”
WHO Hunter Hayes
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. June 23, The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington
INFO $35-$75; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Hunter Hayes says his upcoming album will likely feature a collaboration with singer-songwriter Vince Gill that he says came after a “two-and-a-half-hour artist therapy session.” Hayes wrote a song that he thought fit Gill’s famous voice well and sent it to him. “It really means a lot to me that he decided to do it,” Hayes says. “It was just super encouraging.”
It’s the latest in a growing line of memorable collaborations in Hayes’ young career. Here’s a look:
‘ALMOST PARADISE’ (2011)
WORKED WITH Actress-singer Victoria Justice
THE STORY When Hayes was just starting out, he teamed with Justice for the remake of the Mike Reno and Ann Wilson ballad from “Footloose,” as part of the soundtrack to the movie remake.
CHART PEAK N/A
‘EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMEBODY BUT ME’ (2013)
WORKED WITH Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz
THE STORY When Atlantic Records rereleased Hayes’ eponymous debut, following the success of his hit, “Wanted,” he decided to rerecord this song as a duet with Jason Mraz, whose acoustic rock seemed to influence the original. The result was another hit for them both.
CHART PEAK No. 15 on the country chart
‘WHERE IT ALL BEGINS’ (2015)
WORKED WITH Lady Antebellum
THE STORY As part of his “21” EP, Hayes rolled out a series of surprise singles including this anthem with his touring partners Lady A that has quickly become a fan favorite, especially when their harmonies kick in.
CHART PEAK No. 45 on the country chart
— GLENN GAMBOA