"I've got about 60-some songs I've written for the next record"
After taking the "Encore" edition of his debut album to the top of the Country Albums charts and exploring some fresh musical directions on its new tracks, Hunter Hayes says he's "very conscious about" his sophomore set and is deliberately taking his time recording it.
"The timetable is flexible, and I'm keeping it that way," the 22-year-old Hayes, the ranking Country Music Association New Artist of the Year, tells Billboard. "I feel like my team's done a good job of giving me a ton of space. I've got some demos I'm finishing up now. I've got about 60-some songs I've written for the next record. I finally feel like I've got enough material to pick my favorites from and go, 'OK, once again I feel like I"m honestly representing myself, I'm saying what I want to say. Nothing's missing.' I didn't sit and write another 'Wanted' or another this and that."
Hayes plans to work again with "Hunter Hayes" co-producer Dann Huff and predicts that, instrumentally, he'll "play almost as much as I did on the first record. There's a couple songs I may even do by myself. But I'll bring in some collaborators, too, musician-wise. I'll bring in some guys I haven't worked with but wanted to work with. I'm gonna lock down in the studio for about three months an just do it old school -- what I consider old school, at least, just 'Let's go in and make a record,' with not too much traveling in between. Just locked up in the studio trying to make a record."
Until that happens, Hayes hopes that the "Encore" edition of "Hunter Hayes" -- whose five new tracks include the singles "I want Crazy" and the Jason Mraz collaboration "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" -- will serve as a half-step towards the sophomore set. "I really wanted to be back in the studio, but I'm not ready for a (full) new record, right?" Hayes explains.
"These are songs that existed in a time warp where it wasn't like they were written for the new album but were probably going to get lost if we didn't get them out. Because I wrote them, I'm attached to them, and I feel like they belong in a certain chapter of my career. So I felt like this was an opportunity to finish my introduction and say, 'This is who I am. Here's what I'm feeling right now and how the music has evolved after I've toured it.' It's an update -- not the Facebook update where you go, 'What happened?' but the IOS update where after this much time of doing this I could bring more energy to the record."
Hayes adds that "I Want Crazy," which hit No. 2 on the Country Songs chart and was certified platinum, is a song he "stuck up for" even after the original version of the "Hunter Hayes" was locked and loaded. "I really believed in it," Hayes says. "I really wanted it to be on a record; I didn't know if it would be on the next one or whatever, but I told (Huff), 'I don't care what we're doing. We're doing this song!' It's a new direction for me musically, a lot of new territory, and I was excited to tap into that territory. We tried it and it evolved so quickly and sort of on its own that halfway through the process everybody felt the same way I did. That was the first time I let my own intuition stand up for the music that strongly, and it worked."
Hayes is in the midst of a headlining Let's Be Crazy Tour that runs through Dec. 7. He'll also be performing "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" at the 47th Annual CMA Awards taking place Nov. 6 in Nashville and televised on ABC.