At the tender age of 20, country singer-songwriter Hunter Hayes sounds as though he’s been singing country all his life. That’s because he has, pretty much. He’s been making appearances on television since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, and at the age of 13 he competed on the short-lived David Coulier-hosted talent competition America’s Most Talented Kids. Before his “debut,” self-titled album was released last year on Atlantic Nashville, he spent his teen years releasing a slew of independent recordings.
That said, Hunter Hayes’ path to national fame has not been as smooth or child-prodigy-ish as, say, Taylor Swift. Nor has he had the benefit of American Idol notoriety, like Season 10’s winner and runner-up, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina (teens and country singers, both). Rather, Hayes’ path has been one of slow and steady plodding—which is perhaps what has made him sound like a veteran, even with that boyish face of his.
And yet, “slow and steady wins the race.” Isn’t that how the saying goes? While Hayes isn’t as well-known as others in his peer group aforementioned, since his self-titled album released last October, his music has been slowly and steadily climbing the charts. His single “Wanted” quietly went platinum, and now sits at a very solid Number 3 on Billboard’s country chart.
The thing is, because of this slow-and-steady path, the success Hunter Hayes is seeing now is not due to a hype machine or heavy promotion; it’s owing to the fact that he’s genuinely talented, and musically mature beyond his years. It’s worth mentioning that he played every instrument on his album. It’s also worth mentioning that before releasing said album, he was penning tunes for acts like Rascal Flatts. Hayes may only be 20 years old, but he’s no rookie to this business. He’s not relied on charisma or talent alone, but he’s combined his talent with a lot of hard work. Now that hard work is paying off.
Whether the name Hunter Hayes will ever be as well-known as Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton or Taylor Swift—well, that remains to be seen. But of this I have little doubt: even as a young veteran, Hunter Hayes is just at the beginning of a long and productive career in country music. This young man is definitely one to watch.