By John Benson
Over the past two years, Hunter Hayes has packed quite an impressive resume.
Not only did the country music star score No. 1 singles with “Wanted” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” but his debut album went platinum. However, it was his move earlier this year that proved ingenious. While conventional Nashville thinking regarding what to do with such a rising star is to jump back into the studio and release a new album to keep the momentum, Hayes took a different approach.
He released what’s referred as the “Encore” edition of his self-titled debut that includes five more studio songs. Sure, artists have tried before to milk all of the life out of a big album for what amounts to a money grab, but Hayes ended up scoring a No. 1 hit with “I Want Crazy.”
“‘Encore’ was a bit of a happy accident,” said Hayes, calling from outside of Chicago. “I’m really excited about my next record, and I’m working on it as we speak, but I don’t want to make a follow-up record for habit sake. ‘Encore’ was a combination of me going into the studio last January, talking to the label and saying, ‘What are my options?’”
In a nutshell, Hayes felt a connection to a handful of tunes that either predated the songwriting session for his debut or were worked up after it was recorded. Because those tunes were conceived around the time frame of his first album, he said he didn’t feel they would be appropriate for the next record.
“They didn’t fit, you know what I mean?” Hayes said. “Honestly, I don’t think it matters to anybody but me. And it felt very odd to me as someone who believes when a record is done you leave it alone otherwise you’ll go back and fix it a million times. So I thought how appropriate we put a song called ‘I Want Crazy’ on something that I believe is kind of crazy.”
Crazy describes the life of the reigning CMA New Artist of the Year, who grew up musically inclined in Louisiana. Not only did he appear on national television shows playing the accordion as a preschooler but he got his first guitar from actor Robert Duvall when he appeared in 1997 film “The Apostle.”
A decade later, Hayes moved to the Music City to pursue a country music career. In the summer of 2011 he was pegged to open a few shows on Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now World Tour,” including what he said was a memorable show at Quicken Loans Arena.
Now Hayes, a three-time Grammy Award-nominee, said that gig seems like a million years ago. Since then, he’s played more than 500 shows, including his “Let’s Be Crazy Tour” that comes to Cleveland’s State Theatre Saturday.
Hayes is currently touring his latest single “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me,” which was reworked for “Encore” featuring a guest appearance by Jason Mraz.
Still, Hayes is going to have to release the dreaded sophomore album at some point. So far he said he has more than 50 tracks written but refuses to put a timeline on the project.
“That puts pressure on the creative process,” Hayes said. “I’m really taking my time with this record. I’m not going to take four years but my biggest thing is I’m not rushing it.”