Sitting on the stage of the U.S. Bank Conference Theater in the Ohio Union, clad in a black leather jacket and jeans with a shock of flaxen hair, Hunter Hayes looks more like he should be on his way to class rather than performing a sold out concert in just a few hours.
However, the 24-year-old country artist has received four Grammy nods, three BMI awards, as well as taking home a win at the Country Music Awards for New Artist of the Year 2012. Performing at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion later in the evening, Hayes participated in a Q&A put on by the Ohio State University Chapter of the Country Music Association.
The event aimed to provide those interested in the music business an opportunity to gain insight from leaders in the industry. Joining Hayes on stage were managers Dan Wise and Bobby Simmons, as well as up-and-coming artist Ryan Lafferty.
“We’re just trying to make decent noise,” Hayes chuckled when prompted to discuss his career’s success. Hayes continued on to call himself just a “geek” with a love for music, though the majority female crowd that gathered to hear him speak may offer a different assessment.
When asked if he has ever considered pursuing a career other than performing, Hayes responded, “I think it’s kind of better not to have a plan B.” He cites his lack of a backup plan as part of the reason why he has been so motivated in his professional pursuits, he then stopped and corrected himself by adding, “Nothing I do is professional,” with a smirk.
Simmons, Hayes’ tour manager, touched on the logistics and hard work that goes into a tour.
“There’s so many moving parts that (go into) putting together a show,” Simmons said.
Lafferty recounted the lack of sleep, late nights and exhausting days that happen when on tour.
“My routine is gone,” Lafferty said.
Hayes added, “The instant you realize there’s going to be no consistency in your life, the happier you’ll be.”
Touring with Hayes is even more of a challenge, considering his tour last year broke a Guinness world record. Hayes performed ten different shows in ten different cities over the course of 24 hours, breaking the Flaming Lips previous record of eight shows in one day.
When asked about how the idea for the tour came about, Hayes laughed, “It was like one of those things you pin on Pinterest and you know you’re never going to do it, but you pin it anyway.”
The singer continued, “Cover your ears, Dan (Wise). I’d do it again tomorrow if I could.”
The group also commented briefly on the changing music industry in terms of the growth of streaming services.
“Good or bad it’s the future,” Hayes said. “I look at it from a creative standpoint in that it allows for outlet and discovery.”
Hayes also discussed the business advantages in that he nearly dropped a song from his album before discovering that on Spotify, it had actually become more popular than the singles he had already intended to release.
Later, in a one on one interview, Hayes went a little more in depth about his musical origins and songwriting process, he names his parents as some of his biggest influences and supporters.
“I’m such a creative, all over the place person and my parents didn’t really know the musical world very much and so I got to learn it and find my own path with the guidance of my parents,” he said. “But never in a way that they told me to write this certain type of music or play my shows in a certain ways so I kind of got the best of both worlds.”
Hayes offered some reflection to close the session.
“Music is awesome and it should always feel close to your heart, it should always move you in some way,” he said. “I’m just grateful to be on a bus and on the road. It takes so many really important and awesome people to get me in this room and to be able to talk to you about the things we’re talking about.”