CMA Awards Predictions: Best New Artist
CMA Awards Predictions: Best New Artist

Over the past several months, there has been a considerable amount of hype concerning Louisiana native Hunter Hayes. He not only co-produced his debut Atlantic album with Dann Huff, but he plays every instrument on the set. After seeing Hayes at the CRS New Faces Show last month, we'd have to say that the hype is very much true. He seems to have all the ingredients in place to soar above the Music City stratosphere in 2012.

The 20-year-old singer admits it has been somewhat of a whirlwind ride so far, especially when he reflects on opening shows for Rascal Flatts.

"It's been like one of those perfect movies," he told Billboard. "Getting to tour with Rascal Flatts was weird because I would stand on stage every night, and think about how I was sitting in the audience just a couple of years ago watching them. That was a fun tour. We're continuing with a headlining tour right now, which if you had told me I would be doing that a year ago, I wouldn't have believed you. It's been a blast. We've had a lot of fantastic crowds that have singing along to the words to every song, which has been great."

The musical ride of Hunter Hayes started when his grandmother gave him a toy accordion at age two. As a youngster, Hayes got to share the stage with such legendary acts as Charlie Daniels and Hank Williams, Jr. He also appeared with Robert Duvall at age six in "The Apostle." He admits that music has always been close to his heart.

"It's obvious that I was bored as a kid," he admits, "and music is the only thing I ever did -- which I am glad about. It makes me glad that I spent all those nights in my home studio when I could have gone out. It makes me glad I invested in Pro Tools, bought a couple of mics, and kept on going."

Just how many instruments does Hayes play? "On the record," he says, "we counted 30. I learned a lot of stuff on the spot. I don't consider myself to be a professional on all of them, but it's that process that I took when I was young, and doing all the demos by myself. It all took on a new meaning when we started this record, and I just kept with it. I'm really glad we did. It allowed a lot of myself to come out on the record."

He admits that had he recorded with Music City session players, things might have sounded different. "I think if I had been sitting there on my debut record in the chair, across the window from a lot of pro studio musicians, I would have been quiet. I wouldn't have let a lot of myself come out on the record. So, once I got comfortable with it being just me and Dann Huff, it was like being back in my studio doing the demo process. It was comfortable. I'm glad we did it like that."

Hayes, who climbed up to No. 14 with "Storm Warning" in a 28-week run, says that the audience reception to his music is something that floors him. "It's amazing seeing them sing along to a song that I wrote. I remember the day, what the weather was like, and what I was feeling when I wrote these songs."

Hayes' next single, "Wanted," recently debuted at No. 56 on Country Songs. Watch Hunter perform the song at Billboard's NYC offices: