(Reuters) – Hunter Hayes’s blend of country infused with a dash of rock has made him a four-time Grammy nominee and multi-platinum seller in the United States, but for his British launch his pop credentials are being brought to the fore.
The 23-year-old Louisiana-born Hayes has been an entertainer since early boyhood – he performed for U.S. President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn at the age of seven. His most successful single, “Wanted”, sold more than 3.5 million copies in the United States, making him the youngest male act to top the Billboard Hot Country songs chart.
He also has toured with Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood and won the award for Best Male singer at the Teen Choice Awards for the last three years.
His entry into the British market – which in the past has given a warm welcome to Shania Twain and had Dolly Parton as a headliner this year at the Glastonbury music festival – has seen his latest release “Tattoo” re-worked for an audience that is less familiar with country but might go for “pop-western”.
“This is a new take on the song. It’s a new sound for me. (It) kind of caught me off guard at first,” Hayes told Reuters in an interview in London this week, speaking about how the sound has been reworked.
“But then it’s still got the heart, it’s still got the mandolin, it’s still got the guitar, it’s still got the same vocal performance right?
“So it’s still got the heart of the song and the sound that I love so it’s able to stay true to the sounds and yeah, the heart of the music, and what it is that makes my music my music, you know? I don’t feel like it lost that it in its re-imagining.”
Hayes describes the single as being about “when you feel that confident about something it’s more than really words can describe. You end up needing other forms of artistic expression to say it – in this case, a tattoo.”
Hayes had his debut London show in the heart of the theatre district on Tuesday for a crowd of fans and media, entertaining them with tracks including his U.S. hit “Invisible” and a cover of One Republic’s “Counting Stars” as well as “Tattoo”.
He is no stranger to the stage, having performed at the 2014 Grammy Awards. “I started playing gigs when I was four, five, three … something like that,” he said.
At age seven, when he was invited to perform for President Clinton for a White House lawn party, he was “fronting the band”.
“I was seven, eight or whatever, but you know doing two-hour shows … just kind of doing my thing and that was a blast, that’s all I wanted to do,” he said.
He cites Garth Brooks, Coldplay and Michael Buble as his favourite entertainers.
Hayes is proficient in more than 30 instruments. His first was toy accordion his grandmother gave him when he was two. His love for music did come at a price, however.
“My friends would go out on the weekend and, you know, I very quickly stopped getting invited because all I’d end up doing is hanging out and making music – writing and demo-ing or whatever and being on the road, you know.”
Hayes’s new album will be released in Britain in 2015.