Hunter Hayes Talks Nickelodeon Cameo & New Music: 'The Definition of a Record Is Changing'

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Hunter Hayes performs during the Watershed Music Festival at The Gorge on August 1, 2015 in George, Washington. 

New songs “Saint or a Sinner” & “Trouble With Love” arrive Friday on Spotify.

Although recent Hunter Hayes music has been available only via digital platforms, his management confirmed to Billboard on Thursday (Aug. 6) that a “physical project” will be headed to retail this fall.

On Friday, Hayes is releasing the final two songs of his The Drop campaign on Spotify, centered around current single “21,” and he’s been outspoken about not necessarily following the traditional album-release model.

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“This [current] music wasn’t created with an album in mind,” Hayes tells Billboard. “I’m a traditional guy in the way that I like making a record, 10-15 songs at a time, but I really believe the definition of a record is changing. I want to experiment more with other things. Creatively, it’s more exciting with one song that goes out and takes on a life and spreads its wings and then you get to go back on the bus and are driven to keep creating, versus creating this massive thing -- all this material for this one album -- and then it’s all just out there.”

Hayes’ Drop campaign contains six songs and videos -- so far, "21”; “Where It All Begins," a duet with Lady Antebellum; "Young and in Love“; and "Someday Girl" have debuted -- plus the final two, “Saint or a Sinner” and “Trouble With Love.” The upcoming retail project (management isn’t calling it an EP) is the next step in the evolution of the songs and will contain six to seven tracks. It’s all part of what the Grammy-nominated country artist told Billboard is his “year to be brave.”

New tune “Saint or a Sinner” does have some pretty bold origins. Hayes penned it in January in just one afternoon with co-writers Lori McKenna and Barry Dean, and he performed it that same night at the Bluebird Café in Nashville as part of a fundraiser he organized for Nashville’s Alive Hospice.

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“I’d never been invited as a writer to the Bluebird before, so I did my own writer’s round, as a fundraiser, and I set a challenge for myself,” he tells Billboard. “Normally I don’t love the idea of writing on a show day, but I said we weren’t just going to see what happens, we were going in there and writing a song and I was going to sing it that night. I needed my iPad so I could remember the lyrics because I forgot them a few times. It was so thrilling for me to have that experience as a songwriter. I’m all about getting out of my comfort zone right now.”

Ditching his comfort zone also finds Hayes taking his first stab at acting. He just wrapped a shoot for the Nickelodeon show Bella and the Bulldogs, in which he cameos as himself and performs “21.”

In the episode, set to air in the fall, high school football star Bella ditches a team activity to see Hayes in concert and faces some consequences. “Part of it is being myself and the other part is actually doing something with a script,” Hayes says. “The fun thing is, in addition to the music, it’s a great chance for me to introduce myself as a person. The character is not far from who I really am. There are some serious parts for the sake of the storyline, but it was fun to just be goofy.”

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Hayes is also showing off his lighter side on social media. “It’s nice to show everybody the stuff that goes on behind the music and around the music,” he says. “It’s important to find your voice, and I’m taking every opportunity to show who I am using Instagram and Twitter.”