With a third single from his debut album out and his Country Music Award for New Artist of the Year still warm in his hands, Hunter Hayes says it's "early at this point" to be too worried about his next album. But rest assured he's thinking about it.
"I'm writing for it," the 21-year-old Louisiana native tells Billboard. "I'm thinking about it creatively. But I'm trying not to give myself an agenda. I'm trying not to say, 'I need this song or that song.' I've got a nice pool of songs I'm excited about, but I think it'll be awhile before we sit down to it." Hayes says he's been writing with "a lot of the same people from" 2011's "Hunter Hayes," which peaked at No. 4 on the Country Albums chart and No. 18 on the Billboard 200.
"I got comfortable that family of writers," he explains. "I feel like we jelled well. There's a shorthand between some of us now, this unspoken language that works." Hayes also plans to return to producer Dann Huff for his sophomore set.
"But I'm not in any rush," he adds. "I'm seeing a lot more creative time now -- not just creative freedom, but creative time. You've got these superstars in Nashville now that really take time and make good records now. That's starting to happen more and more, and I love that. As a fan, I'm sitting here buying these records and saying, 'Yeah, that's exactly what I want to be like. I want to know that I took my time and didn't rush it or think about it. I just let it happen.' I just want to make sure I got at it with the same approach and treat it with the same respect I treated the first record and not just make a follow-up record, y'know? This will be its own record."
He's well aware that expectations will be high for whatever he does next, however.
"I don't pay a lot of attention to it, 'cause if I did I'd go nuts -- and I'm naturally paranoid, anyway, about the stupidest things," he notes with a laugh. "It is so easy to go into a comfort zone and say, like, 'Wanted' worked. Let's get another slow love song ballad.' No, no, no, no. I don't care if we have another one of those, ever. Obviously, I would like something like that again, but I'm not going to sit down and say, 'We have to have another love song.' I just want to go fishing again and show some different sides of me. That's what my favorite records do from other artists."
Until he gets down to it, Hayes -- who's currently on the road supporting Carrie Underwood -- is still working "Hunter Hayes" and says he's happy that "Somebody's Heartbreak," the follow-up to his chart-topping "Wanted," is getting its chance to be a single.
"That literally has been sitting on my laptop as a demo the longest out of all of the songs on the album," he reveals. "I've always dreamed of releasing that song. 'Wanted' was written just before the record came out, 'Storm Warning' just as we started making the record. But ('Somebody's Heartbreak') is the song that has been playing in my mind for years and it's now on the radio and I'm so excited."