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Hunter Hayes is Alberta Bound: Interview


Grammy-nominated country music singer/songwriter Hunter Hayes is treating Edmonton fans to two shows this summer. With his new album Storyline, Hunter’s got a string of new music to perform in addition to his breakout hits “Wanted” and “I Want Crazy”.

The country music star will be playing a free show at West Edmonton Mall on the HMV Stage on Monday, June 23 at 6:30 pm. After the show, Hunter will sign autographs for fans. Visit wem.ca for more information.

Hunter will be back in Alberta for a headlining performance at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose on Friday, August 1. For tickets and more information, visit bigvalleyjamboree.com.

Where Edmonton interviewed Hunter before his June 23 show at West Edmonton Mall! Read on to find out what the country singer had to say:

There’s a viral video making the rounds called Why Country Music Was Awful in 2013. The video suggests that mainstream country music by male artists has become cookie cutter dull and derivative with formulaic, empty lyrics about trucks, dirt roads, tight jeans, beer, and little else.

The video has a point, so it’s refreshing to listen to Hunter Hayes’ new album Storyline and not hear any of that. The lyrics—most of  which the young performer penned himself— delve into typical themes of love, but with a refreshing take on celebrating and fostering positive relationships—with others and with ourselves—and even explore healthy, self-aware breakups. Hayes estimates he had about 80 songs written for the album before selecting which ones would make the final version, and says that the songs on Storyline were very inspired and in-the-moment ideas:

“I did a lot of writing on the road which was very different than working in Nashville. For the first record, I had three or four days a week booked in a writing room because I wasn’t touring or anything at the time. About a month out you would know exactly what day you’d be writing and in which room you’d be in and who you’d be writing with… it was such a systematic way of writing and it kind of freaked me out. Writing is such an emotive process—you’re talking about your life. It’s tough to schedule something so personal that far in advance. I mean, really, what do you schedule that far in advance? It’s just funny to me. But I eventually learned how to collect thoughts and build ideas and close them off in a theoretical jar and release them on the certain days you were writing with certain people.

On the road you can’t schedule anything. Our show days are crazy and busy which is exactly how they should be, but you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and say ‘let’s talk about my life'”. We would usually have about 45 minutes at the most to write, which isn’t the most ideal…. but it worked. One night between 10 pm and 2 am we had written three songs. [Being on the road] is a way to write in the moment and actually capture things. You hear that phrase a lot…capture the moment…but that’s exactly what it is. That spirit you’re in on the road is actually the most conducive to [writing]. You’ve just come off the stage from a show and the fans just gave you a ton of energy and you have to capture that because it’s special and magical and you’ve got no where else to go except to write and create things.”

Where Edmonton (WE): Tell me the story behind one of the songs on Storyline [at my request, Hunter relayed the story of “Flashlight”]:

Hunter Hayes (HH): I wanted to have a conversation about my faith, and I had a song on the first record called “Faith to Fall Back On” that I was really proud of and I wanted to write something like that, but I didn’t want to just make a new version of that song. I had written a few songs about [my faith] but I wasn’t really happy with any of them, none of them really felt right. My friend [and co-writer] Troy actually came up with the title, and as soon as he said “flashlight” I was like… yes. We have to talk about this. We have to discuss what this means. You’ve heard that “footprints in the sand” reference, and to me it’s another version of that. It’s another way of saying that even in the darkest moments of our life we are still able to make it through somehow. Even in the worst of times you can find the light and the positives and the thing that leads you out of the darkness, and it leads back to one thing that never changes or wavers or disappears, and for me that’s my faith.

There’s a line in the song that says ‘it’s funny when I realize all the places that your miracles can hide’. It’s saying how it’s funny how often we can encounter small miracles every day.

At a meet and greet when a fan says something to me very quickly—almost in passing—about a song on the record, I wish there was some way for me to tell them in that instant how much that lifts my spirit. I wish there was some way for me to put into words how much that means. Something as simple as that changes my whole day, it changes my whole outlook, because it means the world. Different versions of that happen all the time and just light up your day.

With “Nothing Like Starting Over” I had that title for a year and every time I looked at that title it brought me back to the feeling I had the day I thought of it. I knew it was simple but I wanted to write a song about the option that you have in a break-up scenario to make it good or bad. You can each walk away with respect and good things, and sometimes you have to work hard to make it happen but it’s always worth it. It’s always worth it to make a good scenario for both parties. I wrote that song between two meet and greets in 45 minutes.

WE: What’s been the most surreal moment of your career so far?

HH: It’s still kind of surreal to look at the pictures from the arena tour we just finished up…I love the pictures that our photographer got from behind the stage and of the whole audience because that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, arena tours. I’ve always wanted to build a show for an arena. When I think about it, it still kind of catches me off guard that I got to do that, and that is one of the most defining surreal things that I’ve gotten to do. Another thing that has been surreal was the Guinness World Record thing, but I don’t know if that was surreal or just kind of nuts. It was a brilliant day considering everything that could have gone wrong. Well done on the team’s part and of course the fans were great. The fans packed each place and sold out every show. I think all the reporters were wanting to hear a stressful story, but it was really a lot of fun.”

WE: What are three words to describe a Hunter Hayes concert, perhaps to describe it to someone who’s never seen one of your shows?

HH: I say all this with “hopefully” at the beginning… energetic, emotional—good and bad, mostly good, but you gotta go through all of it—and memorable.

WE: You play over 30 instruments, so what is your approach to performing? How do you build a show?

HH: I’m leaning a lot lately to being a guitar player because that is my home and that’s my instrument. But I would never step out and say “well, I’m a guitar player!” You know? I play things on the piano during most shows. But lately I’ve been trying to step away from the instruments and just sing and just be a vocalist…not even trying to be a vocalist, it’s not about that…but with a song like “Invisible”, when we first started playing it live I didn’t want any instruments to distract from the song and the message and I just liked to perform it. This isn’t in any reference to any recent events, but I like trying to channel my inner Michael Bublé and just sing and emote.


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