“I need coffee and Cole — my dog is chomping at the bit to get out of the bus,” the singer said from the road to Billboard. “So as soon as we park, I need to get the coat on him and take him out.”
The singer is in the midst of a tour to promote his latest set, The 21 Project. Containing three discs of each song performed in a studio, live and acoustic setting. Hayes said he wanted to do something different than just release another EP. “I wanted it to be more of an event — not just, ‘Here’s seven songs.’ We thought about a different way to tie things together. We talked about a live record, and then an acoustic record, and then at the last minute, I threw out the idea: ‘Let’s do three different versions of everything. Instead of one EP, let’s multiply it and do a studio record, a live record, and an acoustic record.’ I’ve been really stoked to how people have responded to it, but the idea was born out of just wanting to give the fans more.”
Fans have been responding to each of the discs of The 21 Project, but he admits there is one that he hears about a little more than the rest. “I’ve been asking everybody about the package, and it’s been an awesome reaction from everyone. They really seem to be connecting to the music, and the more I ask, it really seems they are digging the acoustic record, which really excites me.”
Billboard also got Hayes’ thoughts on a few things you might not know about the man behind the hits “Wanted” and “I Want Crazy.”
Hayes is a big fan of… HGTV?
“I got a new apartment, so I’ve been finding antiques and things like that — just trying to make it feel like home. So I’ve been looking for stuff all over the country, and I got really obsessed with watching HGTV. My favorite show on the network is Fixer Upper, where it’s all about potential. It’s not about what you see in the house at first but what ends up making it a home. I think the hosts, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are two of the coolest people I haven’t met yet, and I really want to meet them. I wish I could get them to Nashville, get a house, and check it out.”
Of all the food dishes in the world, his mother’s gumbo is his fave.
“It’s Mom’s. What else do you have to say? I grew up with it. It’s what feels and tastes like home. The smell of it getting ready in the kitchen is really rad. It’s my favorite.”
Among country artists, Hayes considers Bryan White a major influences.
“I’m a big Bryan White fan. If you study country music history, I really think that Bryan had a huge impact on the sonic nature of the music we make today. I think he set the stage for a lot of the characteristics of things today. He bridged a lot of sounds together, and made it seem realistic in a really cool way. I have a lot of respect for him. He was also one of the first guys I met when I moved to Nashville. He really had a massive impact, particularly on me and my music. I don’t know if he even knows that. I should tell him that. I love his music, and I would love to do something with him at some point.”
Hayes plays over 30 instruments — and plays them well. But there is that one…
“The violin or the fiddle, whatever you want to call it. God bless that thing. We have never gotten along. It would be different if I picked it up, I sucked at it, and I didn’t care. I could let it go. But I want to play it. I want it in my music so bad. I want to design a string section and I want to play the double-stop kind of stuff. But I’ve never really gotten along with it.”
You just might see him at the movies soon. He’s a big James Bond fan.
“I haven’t seen Spectre yet, but it’s on my list of things to do when I get back in town. It’s probably going to be a Thanksgiving holiday weekend kind of thing. I am a fan. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s a combination of cars, gadgets and everything unrealistic. You really just have to toss out reality. I also love the themes. I found Chris Cornell thanks to the James Bond theme (‘You Know My Name’) that he did, and I loved Jack White and Alicia Keys‘ theme, ‘Another Way to Die.’ That’s probably my favorite one. I know a lot of people will fight me over that, and I don’t care. I would really love to create a James Bond theme one day. That’s on my dream list.”