When most kids were still figuring out how to crawl, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had already embarked on the path that would lead to a successful musical career.
His grandmother gave him a toy accordion when he was only 2 and by 4, he had begun making appearances on local and national TV shows.
He performed "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" with Hank Williams Jr. on the Nickelodeon game show Figure It Out
. At age 7, he was invited to perform for President Bill Clinton for a White House lawn party.
How exactly did he sustain the success that often eludes successful child performers after they grow up?
“If I knew, I would write a book about it,” says Hayes, 25, via phone from Los Angeles. He performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21, at House of Blues
. “I have tried to dissect it, and it’s impossible to trace it down. For me, I always come back to the authenticity. If you come to music from a real place, people know that and you can have real conversations. To imply I know [the key to success], implies that know more than I know. I have no idea. I just love it. When you love it, you dedicate more than the 9 to 5 requires. You find that extra layer of absolute vulnerability."
After signing to Atlantic Records, Hayes issued self-titled debut in 2011 and then followed it in 2014 with Storylines
. In 2015, he issued The 21 Project
, an album divided into three sections. Each song is available as a studio recording, an acoustic recording and a live performance from his Wheels Up Tour.
All the while, Hayes has been at work on yet another studio release and last year issued a few singles from it.
“The 21 Project
is something I wanted to do while working on this next project since I wasn’t fully where I wanted to be for the next project,” he explains. “For that project, I wanted to try something new. It was an awesome opportunity of nowhere to do something different with those 21 Project
By isolating himself at a studio where he can work 24-7, Hayes has focused on crafting new tunes and “starting from scratch.”
“Saying I’m 'starting from scratch' means that the further I’ve gotten in my career, the more challenging it has become to truly be yourself, whether it’s because of expectations of the business or pressure you put on yourself,” he says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to determine how you deal with those expectations is through yourself. The approach is that I want to feel like I did on the debut album. I don’t want to make the same music, good heavens. I want to do something that feels good and feels right and feels like I’m not just trying to be something else. It’s a constant checking back in but a great exercise in shedding weight and just getting rid of a lot of things around the creative process that mess with the creative process.”
Last year, Hunter released three new tracks from the album to digital and streaming services, including "Yesterday's Song," "Young Blood" and "Amen.” The uptempo “Yesterday’s Song” features twangy guitars and a steady drumbeat as it draws equally from country and pop. Hayes co-wrote all three songs and produced "Young Blood." He also co-produced "Yesterday's Song" and "Amen" with longtime collaborator, Dann Huff.
“A lot of the blues guitar stuff I love that I love and always listened to [inspired ‘Yesterday’s Song’],” he says. “The song was written during a Michael Jackson phase. It has a danciness. It’s a lot of things. In that case, it was a good melding of the different influences on me at that time.
After playing a handful of small-hall shows in this month and into the summer, Hayes, who plans to play some new material when he performs at House of Blues, will return to the studio to put the final touches on his next album.
“We released three new songs last year in September,” he says. “That’s a hint that there’s more to come. They’ll be a lot of new music this year and hopefully more of all of it. Our show has a lot of energy right now. I’m pretty stoked with it. We have a new show and a new approach even from what we had last year with a solid set of good new music.”