Hunter Hayes' 'Yesterday's Song' Heats Up Country Airwaves

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Verizon
Hunter Hayes performs onstage during the go90 Live Concert Series Celebrating Super Bowl 50 at The Regency Ballroom on Feb. 4, 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. 

Hunter Hayes' new single, "Yesterday's Song," impacts at country radio this week. But it may be a minute, or more, before we hear the album it will be on. 

"Yesterday's Song" is one of three tracks Hayes has released digitally to preview his third studio album. He tells Billboard that he's written or co-written 100 songs for the project and hasn't pulled the plug on production yet. 

"We're a good ways along, very far along in the process, but I'm looking at this album very differently," Hayes says of the follow-up to 2015's 21. "The whole reason to make this record was not to rush it, not to manufacture a record. It's not gonna be, 'Here's the 12 songs I've got.' It's going to be a deeper record for me. So it's a constant thing; You'd think that after 100 songs we'd have everything we need, but some days I'm like, 'No, I don't think we've got everything we need yet.' So we keep writing and trying to find those things."

Hayes also acknowledges that he had a bit of trouble getting the album in gear. "I worked on a lot of stuff for this record that was too thought out," he says, "so I had to go back to the drawing board. I needed people to tell me, 'You're thinking too much.' That's why we're doing it this way and taking as long as we are, to avoid that."

Hayes has been working with a variety of collaborators, both familiar and new, on the material. Producer Dan Huff remains a key collaborator, while Hayes has enlisted Sam Ellis, one of his songwriter partners, to do some production as well as pop writer/producer Busbee, who Hayes has also worked with before.. "There's a lot of new names on this record," says Hayes, who has his first solo production credit on another of the new songs, "Young Blood." "I want to make sure I don't miss a great opportunity to get in a room and learn from somebody."

"Yesterday's Song," which Hayes co-wrote with Barry Dean and Martin Johnson, sets a bit of a tone for the album, in fact. "It's about moving on," Hayes -- who heard the song on radio for the first time during the weekend while in Detroit for a BMI Singer-Songwriters Series concert -- explains, and not just from the relationship that the lyrics imply. "For me, personally, it's about moving on in different ways It's an energetic song about letting go of something in the past and not even just walking away from it but racing towards the future and just truly, honestly letting it go -- with a little bit of attitude, maybe." 

Atlantic Records/Warner Music Nashville, Hayes' label, is not breathing down his neck for him to reach that destination, either. "To be honest, everybody is on board," Hayes says. "When I said I wanted to do the record this way and take my time, everybody knew why I need to do it. It's not just good for the record but good for me as a human being, too. So the label is totally on board. When I had the first songs they were the first to tell me 'This is good but this is not quite your best work 'cause it's not really you.' They've had great input and they've been very patient." And Hayes is hoping fans will give him the same leeway, especially with "Yesterday's Song" and the other two tracks to give them a taste of what's to come. 

"I can tell you, honestly we have no idea when (the album) will come out," Hayes says. "We're not putting a date on it 'til we feel like the record is really there. We're gonna keep working. There haven't been a lot of days off or vacation."