Quite a bit of what fans see during the CMA Music Festival is scripted and planned. However, there are always a few surprises that filter into the week’s worth of activities. Hunter Hayes definitely gave his fans a little something extra on Friday with a surprise performance downtown. Hayes said the event takes him back to his earliest CMA Music Festival days.
“The first couple years we did so much. I really want to do more of the surprise performances like we’re about to do in a minute. I’m really stoked about playing LP Field and the meet and greets, but you also just want to jam and play for the fans,” he said.
Hayes got to play for the fans quite a bit on his recent arena tour- a career first. What did he think of the experience? “We came off stage every night thinking ‘This was just as much fun as we thought it would be and more.’ It was a life changing experience but a glimpse of what I have always dreamed about. It was enough to give me a teaser of ‘Do you really want to do this for the rest of your life?’ I answered ‘Abso – freakin – lutely.'”
Hayes also took a great deal of pride in his opening acts, Danielle Bradbery and Dan + Shay. He hopes they enjoyed working with him – just as he did the acts he opened for. “I love to give the vibe on the tour that I loved when I was an opening act. – the feeling that Rascal Flatts gave me when I was hanging out in their dressing room before the show. To feel the cohesiveness and the family vibe on tour is really important to me for them to feel. We have it as a team, a crew, and a band, and I want that to spread. If you’re doing it because you love it, you’ve got to have as much fun as humanly possible. We tried to make sure we conveyed that to them.”
With his sophomore album, “Storyline,” already having topped the chart, Hayes is excited for fans to hear the new single. “I’m excited to release ‘Tattoo.’ It’s about that time – summertime, and it’s such a fun song. I’m excited to have a single with a little bit of fun guitar work. As you saw on the [CMT Music] awards show, I got to do some dueling guitar work with my guitar player. The song is a step in a different direction for me lyrically – talking about something I know nothing about. But, it’s a version of a love song. It’s the comfort zone of home, but also changing things up a little bit. I’m excited to sing it with the fans. Hopefully, I’ll have a reason to get a tattoo soon – good Lord willing,” he said with a wink.
Hayes also made news during CMA Music Fest week by serving as the arranger of the John Legend / Jennifer Nettles version of ” All Of Me” that was performed on the CMT Music Awards. He admitted that was a high he won’t come down from anytime soon.
“I was invited to be just the guitar player, but I told John ‘I’ve got an idea, if you want to check it out. Why don’t we do sort of a bluegrass version? I’m obsessed with bluegrass, and I thought there was a way we could do a double-timed thing with the song – paying tribute to all the versions he’s already put out, but also being true to the sounds I love and grew up with. It’s very tricky when you get asked to arrange something for somebody else because you want to stay true to their sound, but anything I do is going to have my sound on it. But, he loved it. He was thrilled with it. He texted me on Monday, and said ‘Why don’t we record this in the studio.’ I thought ‘Yeah.’ So, we booked the studio that day, and I ended up at Southern Ground – Zac Brown’s place, such a super cool room. I can say I got to produce a track with John Legend – pretty cool stuff.”
Before his performance, Hayes took part in a meet and greet for several of his biggest fans in the Samsung Galaxy Owner’s Lounge. He said he was glad to be working with the company. After all, that’s what he uses. “I love the camera quality. I’ve got the Samsung Galaxy camera, as well. I use it for my own personal use – just capturing the moments. I love the lens on it. I’m really picky about lenses and depth of field, and things like that, but it’s a touch screen, so it acts very similar to the phone. The two of those things combined make up a power duo in my world.”