DARKE COUNTY – When country musician Hunter Hayes takes the stage at this year’s Darke County Fair, he says fans should expect to see an energetic performance.
“My show is a great cardio workout,” he says, “a lot of running, a lot of jumping.”
The Louisiana-born singer-songwriter, 23, should look to add weightlifting into that mix. In addition to the more than 30 instruments he can play, Hayes may need more muscle to carry the ever-growing number of trophies he’s been awarded in his young career.
Along with winning awards from the Country Music Association, BMI, Teen Choice and People’s Choice Awards, among others, he has also been a Grammy Award nominee (five total) for three years running.
“A Grammy nomination is so huge,” he said, “it blows my mind that we’ve had three straight years of Grammy nominations.”
“Five nominations? Far beyond what I would have dreamed or hoped for at this point in my career.”
Of the awards he’s taken home so far, he calls the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Country Artist the one that means the most.
“That was a pretty serious category to be in,” he admits. “The fact that we won, the fact that the fans rallied behind me and supported me in that way. I very proudly display it at home. It’s special that the fans showed their love that way.”
Though his music appeals to a younger demographic of country music fans, Hayes says he gathers inspiration anywhere he can find it.
“I listen to everything, I’m inspired by everything,” he said. “But it all comes back home to me — country music is home.”
When asked to describe his musical influences, Hayes said, “There are so many, too many, to list,” but cites singer-songwriters Lori McKenna and Gordie Sampson, performers Garth Brooks, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Michael Buble, and Stevie Wonder, and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham as among those on that list.
His debut studio album, the eponymous “Hunter Hayes,” was released in 2011, followed by the studio album, “Storyline,” in 2014. He has three number-one singles including “Wanted,” which hit number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs with sales of the song reaching multi-platinum status in both the United States and Canada.
Hayes said there is no definitive schedule in place for a third studio album. He says he and his band have been putting out new songs at their leisure and do not feel constrained by how music has been issued in the past.
“This is not something we have a plan for,” he says. “We’ve just been putting out new music this summer one track at a time.”
“I want to listen to the fans, to hear how often they want new music, and when they want it. I’m seeing a shift in what the definition of a ‘record’ is, and I’m trying to see what this next chapter in the music world becomes. Because of this shift, I’m super stoked for these new options. It’s so much more fun doing it this way.”
“I wrote a hundred songs for my last record — we recorded 12. It excites me that we can release music in a new way.”
Darke County Fair concertgoers will be privy to some of Hayes’ new songs at the performance, in addition to familiar works from his previous albums.
“It will be a good mix, a little bit of everything,” he promises.
Ultimately, Hayes hopes that fans see his music as being “written from the heart.”
“Music is very powerful,” he said. “It can lift you up. Even sad songs make you feel better. I want to have a catalog of songs that do that, that were a part of people’s lives. I hope and dream that something I’ve created does that, for someone.”
Hunter Hayes performs at the Darke County Fairgrounds August 23 beginning at 8 p.m.