Hunter Hayes to take Kent State


Courtesy of Tribune News Service Hunter Hayes backstage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Jacob Derwin

Hunter Hayes is not your typical country pop star. He is not singing about beers and pickup trucks driving off into the sunset, nor avidly adding misplaced rap to heartfelt coming-of-age songs. Hunter is a 24-year-old from Louisiana who just happens to be an instrumentalist with one of the biggest music labels, Atlantic Records, backing him up.

Now with a large fandom of screaming college girls and general country music fans cemented, Hayes is more prepared than ever to take some risks both with the music and with his live shows. 

His new single, “21,” was a big step for the singer. His previous two albums, “Hunter Hayes” and “Storyline” were both collaborative efforts between Hunter and teams of songwriters and producers. The piece “21”, on the other hand, is Hayes’ first song that doesn’t list his name in the writing credits. 

“It’s a new thing, creatively,” Hayes said in a phone interview. “Not being involved in the original part of the writing process is very bizarre for me.”

Though not an official writer on the track, Hayes said the writing team was alright with him working on the song to see how he could make it his own.

“I called the (writers)… I said, ‘are you cool with me messing around with and, if not, it’s fine I totally understand,’ but I love writing,” Hayes sad. “They were so… open to it and I think because of that you end up with something… sort of a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.”

His upcoming tour, titled the 21 Tour, will take Hayes to 21 different cities across the country. Most of the tour stops announced so far are college campuses, including Kent State.

In a massive digital music experiment, Hayes’ team collaborated with Spotify to identify which schools were streaming his music the most, and set up the tour to hit those schools along the route. Other schools included in the tour are Western Carolina University in North Carolina and Purdue University in Indiana. 

“Streaming… is more than a new way to get a song,” Hayes said. “It’s a new way of listening to the fans. In my opinion… it’s a new version of social media for music.”

Hayes has been calling 2015 “the year to be brave,” both in reference to trying new things musically and personally. On top of embracing a new and unfamiliar songwriting process as well as the digital world of music, Hayes also teamed up with the American Red Cross as part of their “country in my blood” campaign. Hayes’ goal was to help encourage 21,000 blood donations by the end of 2015 despite himself being deeply afraid of needles and the blood-drawing process.

Hayes will perform at the M.A.C. Center on Friday, Oct. 23. Tickets are on sale at the M.A.C. Center or through Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.

For the full interview with Hunter Hayes, including information about his favorite venues and even his favorite soup, go to

Contact Jacob Derwin at [email protected].