Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 22: Hunter Hayes

One of my favourite movies trilogies of all time is Back To The Future, filmed in the 1980’s and starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. You can all look up the series on Wikipedia, read the plot and the synopsis of all three movies if you want to. But I suggest that for this iconic movie series, you’d have to trust me on this if you haven’t seen it and go out and buy the DVD or Blu-Ray yourself, so that you could binge what I reckon is one of the most confronting and engaging movies series of all time- even to this day. This series is one of my favourites because of its warmth, heart, comradery, and the fact that it speaks about issues still prevalent today, such as trying to be a better version of ourselves that we were before, standing up for yourself and not letting others walk all over you, and being there for each other through thick and thin just like best friends Marty McFly and Doc Brown. If you want the cliff notes version- the story is about Marty who lives in Hill Valley in 1985, who after witnessing his scientist friend be gunned down and left for dead by terrorists, inadvertently travels back to 1955 in Doc’s time travel car that he created. There he accidently prevents his parents from meeting, and hence the premise of the first film was that Marty would try to get his parents back together all the while ensuring that he could convince Doc to make revisions on the time machine and get him back to the present and back to his life in 1985.

Yet also in the film series Back to The Future, Marty desperately wanted to change his friend Doc’s fate at the hands of the terrorists in 1985. So while he was in the past he wrote him a letter, and near to the end of the first film he tried to give Doc the letter. But Doc wasn’t having any of it, because he knew that the space/time continuum could be broken and severed due to the changing of the past… in the end though Doc lived in the new and improved 1985 because he listened to Marty. He heeded his warning and wore a bullet proof vest; thus the terrorists couldn’t kill him. Which brings me to this central key point. Because this film (and many other time travel movies as well) touches upon one key issue that I believe we all have wrestled with in the past. And it is this. If you have the opportunity to travel to any point in history and change events (for the better obviously!), which event would you change, knowing that even the slightest change could alter something unforeseen in the long run? Would we be like Marty, trying to do something noble in saving a friend from an untimely fate? Or would we be like Marty’s nemesis Biff Tannen who in the 2nd movie gave a sporting book to his younger self in order to get rich and profit from? Is changing an event in the past needed anyway?

I’m just throwing that radical idea out there and spit-balling that (hypothetically in this universe where time travel is real) we leave everything as is, simply because I’m of the opinion that every event happens for a reason, and that no matter the pain or confusion caused from wars, famines, diseases and other disasters… there is still hope and something good that comes out of the wreckage and the rubble, even if we can’t see it right now at this very moment. For those of us who are believers in Jesus, we can agree that God knows all and that we’re only human beings, thus we can’t see nor can we ever know the full picture of what God is wanting to do in our lives as a result of tragedies. Yet that doesn’t mean that we need to sit back and embrace every tragedy like it’s a good thing either. Time travel isn’t real, so while we can day dream and think about an alternate reality where time travel is possible and we can rid ourselves of all of our problems in just a blink or a click of the fingers; the somewhat starling and confronting truth is that we all need to live in the tension that while God has made us co-heirs in Heaven, our lives on earth in a world that’s still broken, means that there is still pain and calamity and noise and confusion and bad people. But that doesn’t mean we need to like it. Rather it means that we can stand in the face of adversity and trust God with the outcome in the end. Yet there is one shocking and unprecedented event that has occurred most recently that I am positive that we would all like to change. And that is COVID-19.

Coronavirus, or COVID-19 for short, needs no explanation. It is the one thing that will be long remembered past the last day of 2020- as well as its effects on TV, movies, sport, and every other facet imaginable. We don’t need to go into the nitty-gritty of this global pandemic (for that there is Wikipedia), but the long and short of it is that almost every single country in the world was in a state of lockdown around February and March- each country of varying degrees. Some countries are still in lockdown, and the upcoming 2020/2021 TV season is in limbo at the moment. For Australia- where I live- we never fully went into lockdown. As in ‘cut the country off and live in isolation for however long’! Yet back in March (which some would say was too late of a time to start making proactive decisions!), many places were closed (such as pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms, outdoor gatherings for a large amount, restaurants and cafes limited to takeaway only), and others remained open- such as schools, supermarkets such as Woolworths, medical centres, pharmacists, and other ‘essential service’ roles. The result was me having a six week break at home from the beginning of April to the middle of May- just a few weeks ago, whereby I relaxed, helped clean out the garage, powered through with some more company work that I was behind in, as well as renewing this site for 3 more years and steadily progressing through reviews. I also binge watched a few TV shows… simply because. Yet more than ever throughout my time at home- and beyond; I clung onto music and the power of God speaking through any type of music and any genre as well. It’s because I truly believe that God can use anything (and I do mean anything!) to draw us closer to Him- and thus it was throughout the past couple of months or so that my love for mainstream music, and all of the subtle nuances and hidden meanings that could be interpreted to be about God, excelled and exponentially grew.

To be fair I was long on this journey of me liking mainstream music for a while now. Throughout the past year, I’ve been listening to Jon’s week-to-week artists for his Momentous Mondays blog post (as well as the artists I’m talking about for my own blog series about future music influencers!), and let me tell you that my viewpoint towards mainstream artists has shifted dramatically. No longer do I think that mainstream music is the enemy. Rather, God can use both CCM and mainstream music to further His kingdom and to help us all grow as people. Artists like Avril Lavigne, Josh Groban, U2, Train, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Jess Glynne, Rachel Platten, Little Mix, Lauren Alaina, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Echosmith, Martina McBride, OneRepublic, Daughtry, Faith Hill, Tori Kelly, Maren Morris, Philippa Hanna, Ed Sheeran, Michael Buble… the list goes on- of all of the artists who have shown me that music can be inspiring no matter the belief or lack of belief… and we’re not finished yet in terms of number of blogs! And for this week, let me introduce you all to a relatively new artist (and definitely a future influencer!) whom I am positive will blow you away and will comfort you and encourage you during this uncertain time of quarantine and lockdown. Hunter Hayes has been creating music his whole life (his debut album was in 2011, and he created 5 independent albums before that- and he’s only 28!); but it’s only now that I reckon that he’s stepping out into his own and becoming the influential man of God that God wants for his life. And I guess it’s fitting that I speak about Hunter now, considering that he was just unmasked in The Masked Singer, and is looking for a change to expand his musical genres beyond country music.

Throughout my childhood, further along in my teenage years and then beyond that until now, I had never really been an active fan of country music. My musical tastes growing up were pretty stock standard as far as a believer in Jesus growing up would listen to- as my family life was pretty sheltered, I was introduced to Carman and Delirious?. Over the years I branched out into other types of music, but it was these two bands that essentially saw me through high school when push came tot shove. Yet while I was branching out into other types of music, there was one type of music which I hadn’t actively sought. And that was country music. That southern twang, and the lyrics about girls and cars and beers and more cars… it grated and annoyed me to no end. And up until around about one and a half years ago, I had only listened to a handful of Carrie Underwood songs- and that was only because a few of her songs were playing on the local radio station. Yet with Jon starting up his Momentous Mondays blog post about influential artists of all time, as well as me reviewing Carrie’s latest album Cry Pretty; country music came back to my attention, particularly when I realised that quite a lot of country tracks have thoughtful, poignant, heartwarming and inspirational messages that are relevant to society…even though these songs don’t overtly talk about Jesus. I was taught from a young age that any music outside of ‘Christian music’ wasn’t worth listening to- but now I know that that isn’t the case. Any type of music can be used by God to speak to you, and this is especially true of country music. Established artists like Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban, along with up and coming artists like Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Dan + Shay, Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini have all contributed inspirational and relevant songs which have graced my ears over the past year and a half (and you can read about Jon’s and my thoughts on country artists in a few of our Momentous Mondays blogs!)- and it’s only recently that I have concluded that country music, aside from CCM, is one of the most vulnerable and honest genres out there. Hunter’s music I firmly believe, is right up there with the best of them- as he’s one of the most vulnerable, emotional and honest country artists I’ve ever heard (yep, you heard right!) and now it’s time that I remind you of why he’s such an inspirational guy to listen to!

“…every day was a gift. Even the people I was working with I was like, “Yes, I want to make it as far as I can, but if I’m back tomorrow I’m happy.” You have to take every day and be grateful for it. For me that’s what it was because I had no idea what I was doing and no idea how it would translate. And I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself. That’s what this whole chapter is about for me, taking pressure away and really feel free in expression and I feel like the show did that…[The Masked Singer] was such a Godsend. We cleared the touring schedule for several months because I wanted to work on the new album and honestly… The new album is part of a three-part series that’s all about growth and change and moving and adventure and just growing as a human and in writing and talking about that musically it gave me another mirror to see myself through and to learn the things I like and certain kinds of music I like and to incorporate that. But it was a weird double life for a minute because we had these early mornings where I’d go to rehearsal and I’d finish halfway through the day and then I’d come back to my home studio and work like I normally would, but informed by experiences I had on the show. It kind of blew the doors open and took the walls down on the music I was making at the time…”

Born in Louisiana as an only child in 1991, and having Cajun ancestry, along with English, German, Scottish and Irish; Hunter has indeed been singing his entire life. Having released 5 independent albums between the years of 2000 and 2008 (yep, he indeed started recording when he was 8 or 9!), these albums aren’t anywhere on the internet. Nothing on Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon… nowhere whatsoever. Now when you listen to Hunter’s passionate and heartfelt voice whenever he sings… you can tell that he’s got such a strong and skilful voice. I would have to say that blind Freddy would have to agree with me on that. So why would his 5 albums pre-label debut in 2011, simply be erased? Perhaps it’s a marketing decision or maybe Hunter himself requested it as maybe he wasn’t fond of those records over time. But whatever it is, the fact that 5 albums were made before we heard his self-titled debut (and also the uncanny but true fact that Hunter can play over 30 instruments!) means that this guy is the real deal, he gives 100% into everything he does (maybe even more), but more than that; Hunter has put in the hard yards, has reaped the rewards, and is a reminder to all of us that though adversity may strike us, instead of trying to erase our mistakes and the pain to the best of our ability, we can soldier on and look past the hurt to a brighter future and the end of the seemingly long tunnel. If you’re experiencing hardship and hurt, Hunter’s music can sooth your soul and remind you that you’re not alone, that the God of the universe loves you and has a plan for you, to give you a hope and a future; but Hunter’s music can also remind us that it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that if we keep plugging away and staying the course, good things will happen for those of us who do not quit and who do not give up!

I first heard of Hunter’s music from Cimorelli, like most other pop artists that I’m now familiar with. The six sister all girl group and semi-cover band (who will receive their own slot in my blog series!) released their version of “I Want Crazy” (which at the time never sounded like a cover- that’s how good their version was!), and from then I was hooked. “I Want Crazy” is a country song (complete with banjos?), and also a love song at that, as Hunter emphatically and brilliantly coveys his intense love for his significant other (or at least the persona in the song!) relaying that ‘…I don’t want good and I don’t want good enough, I want can’t sleep, can’t breathe without your love . . . I don’t want easy, I want crazy…’. Even though Hunter is a country artist, he’s different from other artists in that the pop leanings are evident throughout his entire discography- and for me I reckon that marrying of the two genres of country and pop that Hunter so professionally undertakes is partly the reason why I resonate with him so much. He writes thoughtful songs and releases them in a musical format that’s accessible to pretty much everybody. Can any one of Hunter’s songs make it on pop radio? I’m sure all of them can, and I’m sure each of them have the ability to succeed if given the chance as well; and it’s because of this versatility that I reckon Hunter is one of the future greats in music period. “I Want Crazy” is proof of this catchiness juxtaposed with relevant and ever true lyrics of longing for someone so bad that you do go crazy; and it’s a great reminder to chase after the things we want in life, because no one is going to give them to you. This song may have been about a person, but I reckon it extends further than that- as Hunter could be singing about chasing after our dreams and maybe even chasing after God. Being comfortable and happy in your own skin can be good, but I reckon real life begins when we can get out of our comfort zone and be honest with the things we really want (inclusive of romantic and platonic relationships!), and live life to the full… and maybe acting a bit crazy isn’t a bad thing at all!

Throughout the entire of Hunter’s own professional career, we are blessed to hear some of the most heartfelt, emotional and relevant songs that we’ve heard, that can probably still tug at our hearts even today in this economic and health crisis. “Storm Warning” and “Wanted” are the first two singles off Hunter’s debut 2011 album, and both, though 9 years old, still contain some pearls of wisdom for any of us going through life at a frenetic pace and wondering what the point of moving so, so fast is. “Storm Warming” is exactly what it is- a warning for us to listen to, but it’s not a warning about the weather. It’s a warning for us to not be heavily involved in romantic relationships that we know are toxic, or we know are going to end soon for whatever unforeseen reason. It’s best not to be involved at all- even if it hurts us now, the pain we feel if we drag out the doomed relationship will be infinitely times worse. Hence the reason for the “Storm Warning”… but you all can take this song to mean it to be a warning to not associate with toxic people period, no matter if they are potential romantic candidates or potential friends- because they won’t be. They’ll be parasites. “Wanted” also speaks to the core of our being and what it means to be human, as Hunter sings specifically to young girls, letting them know that they are loved and wanted, by other chivalrous men and also by God. The country version of “Priceless” by Aussie duo for KING & COUNTRY; Hunter excels here because he is vulnerable and able to come from a place of raw emotion- something that other country artists or wannabe country artists can only ever dream about (and yes, I am looking at you Lil Nas X and Old Town Road!); while heartfelt ballads like “Faith To Fall Back On” and “Love Makes Me” remind us how much a great lyricist Hunter is. With the former being an encouraging song about having faith in God and in people, that we all just need to trust in the plans God has for us rather than trying to go through life alone, because we know that we will never make it otherwise; the latter is a tongue in cheek song about all the ways love makes Hunter do crazy things- providing us all, especially single people, hope and optimism for the future that we would one day find a love like that on earth, mirroring the love our Heavenly Father has for each of us.

Quite a lot of songs in Hunter’s discography are pretty sad- dealing with pain, loss and heartbreak, but there is always a silver lining to most, if not all, of them. The slow ballad “Somebody’s Heartbreak” is poignant and heartbreaking, given that it was inspired by Hunter’s unrequited attraction to a girl who didn’t feel the same way about him. However the song turns a sad concept into something positive and freeing, letting us know that love is worth it even if we are rejected- sort of similar to the saying ‘better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all’. The piano and strings led “The Trouble With Love”, from the 2015 album the 21 Project, extends Hunter’s tension and predicament of being unlucky in love, relaying lots of other things that he has trouble with- ‘…the trouble with tomorrow is it’s always tomorrow, and the trouble with memories is sometimes they lie, the trouble with lonely is it sleeps right there beside you, the trouble with dreams is they never die…’; but then later on relaying that the ‘trouble’ that he finds with love isn’t trouble at all, given that he’s accepted that God has someone special out there for him that he’ll meet in His timing, thus Hunter’s need to fall in love because that person could be The One for him. “Nothing Like Starting Over” speaks about the end of a relationship for whatever reason, and the somewhat freedom it gives Hunter to reinvent who he is and his whole being, starting over without expectations; while “Love Too Much” is as a tear-jerker as there is any With Hunter speaking to the down and outs, the least of these reminding them they they’re seen and not forgotten, and also speaking to himself and the rest of us, reminding us all that ‘…you can’t say you love too much, you can’t say you care enough, there’s no such thing as reaching too far, we all got a heart…’; we are presented to a quasi-social justice song that encourages us all to get up off of our feet and change the world actively if we want to see a difference made- similar in theme to “Be The Change” (Britt Nicole) and “Do Something” (Matthew West). It’s songs like these that on the surface are about ‘trivial’ issues but are indeed about something bigger than ourselves, that remind me of why Hunter is so important in an industry where sadly singing about beer and trucks are more and more commonplace.

“Tattoo”, one of the singles from the 2014 album Storyline, is a pop toe tapper that describes the intense, head-over-heels kind of love that we all want to feel someday, as Hunter relays that he loves this person so much that he wants to tattoo their name in permanent ink all over his body. I know, I know, that this song is a bit farfetched and out there, however I believe that “Tattoo” is a great encouragement as well to be in such a headspace as this in our relationship with God as well. Declaring to the world that we, like Hunter himself, are avid and strong believers in Christ, takes guts, the sort of guts that it would take to tattoo something permanent on our own bodies, but that’s the kind of commitment that we rarely see nowadays, when decisions are made so flippantly and hence reversed in such a quick time frame. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air to hear an artist sing about wanting a permanent love that lasts forever, and while Hunter may not have intended the song to be about Jesus- the fact that I took it as maybe a song that we could sing about Jesus, means that God is speaking in this song especially, in ways that we and maybe even Hunter can’t even imagine.

“Invisible”, a piano ballad nearing 5 minutes long, isn’t a single but is probably one of the most vulnerable songs from Hunter ever, as he uses this autobiographical ballad to delve into the overlooked issue of bullying, of which Hunter was subjected to quite a lot of in his formative years. and while the story of this song is better said by Hunter himself, let me just say that again “Invisible” shows us a singer/songwriter secure in his own identity enough to share that messy part of himself, and also confident enough to know that that vulnerability won’t turn fans and listeners away from probably therapeutic and healing songs for all of us.

I always write about something pretty personal, [but] this sets a new standard for me. I didn’t go in to write this song necessarily, I went in to write something else.[Songwriters] Bonnie Baker, Katrina Elam and I ended up writing about how we all, in different ways, can relate to the message of being an outcast, being misunderstood, being… essentially bullied. I say that very carefully because I know there’s a lot of people who go through that on a much larger scale. In whatever way I can relate to it, the song is about that.

I’m careful to say that because even in my own experiences, I know that there were a lot of people that had it a lot worse than me. So I will not stand here and complain about it. But, yeah, I went through a lot of different feelings that come with being someone who doesn’t fit in at all and will not fit in at all. I was music-obsessed — all I thought about, all I wanted to do. I would sit in class and draw pictures of tour buses. I would design stage sets on the side of my notebook. And it’s such a geeky thing to do, really, if you think about it. Or at least that’s how I thought about it when I was in high school. Because nobody else was doing it, and I thought it was weird. It took me a while to realize that it’s OK to be proud of that. Because in that time and period of my life, if you didn’t fit in, what else was there? Fortunately for me I had incredible parents, I had an incredible support system, musicians around me, and that showed me that there was hope — that there was maybe something else I could look forward to

With Hunter covering a wide range of topics that we all can relate to throughout the years, the fact that Hunter can easily switch between the happy and the jovial to the reflective and contemplative, is a real positive for me, as this versatility means he’s not a one-trick pony or a panda bear that only knows how to sing in one genre. Sure, rock isn’t in Hunter’s wheelhouse musically yet, but I’d imagine he’d be very good at it, considering how much he’s good at pop- much better than other pop artists who can’t do country. “21” to me is the epitome of the pop song, as the track speaks about partying and living life like we’ve just turned 21. It’s a seemingly shallow song, but to me it’s ultimately a track with the deeper meaning to live life to the full, and to do the things you want to do now, because as time goes on you won’t have time to see the world and have fun in the way that 20-something year old’s do. A ‘carpe diem’/seize the day type of track, “21” has Hunter hitting all the right notes- musically and lyrically! “Light Me Up” is another predominately pop track that Hunter nails to perfection, which relays like “I Want Crazy” did, his love for his significant other that lights up his life and makes life all the more picturesque and worth living; while the happy go lucky jazz/swing 2 minute tune “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” is melancholy in nature lyrically, as Hunter bemoans about his lack of a love life- however musically this is something different that Hunter usually doesn’t record- but he excels at this quite brilliantly- again letting us know of his great versatility musically. Again musically doing something different in the laid back acoustic ballad “What You Gonna Do?:”, Hunter enlists the help of country singer Ashley Monroe as he continues to ask question after question- reminding his significant other than they need each other because ‘…what you gonna do when I’m gone, oh, and where you gonna go when there’s nobody home? And who’s gonna love you when you’re all alone?…’. While “Storyline”- the title track from his 2014 album, is as close as a country/rock song as you could get, with Hunter once again inspiring us with a heartfelt message- this time about living life with no regrets, and writing your own story as you go along in life, allowing yourselves to make mistakes because that is where you will grow as people.

Every once in a while, artists have a song that makes you go ‘wow! Where did that come from?’, but Hunter has more than one song- he has a few! While “Invisible” was a pretty emotional tear jerker and it did do well in the radio charts as it was marketed as a single, other lesser known under the radar songs from Hunter show us that he is a well-rounded artist and does devote time and effort to the songs not publicised by radio. “Cry With You”, sung from the perspective of a close mate or even God the Maker Himself, drives home to concept of us standing beside or sitting beside someone who is hurting and broken, and not giving any advice, but just being there and crying with them, which in some ways can be more cathartic and beneficial for the other person than us trying to fix whatever issue that needs fixing. We all need a helping hand sometimes, but in other times we just want others to just be with us, with no strings attached. In this song Hunter relays to us that we can be that someone for another, and God can be that Someone for all of us struggling with whatever we’re dealing with. “Flashlight”, another pick me-up emotional uplifter carries on from the notion of us being there for someone in need, as the track is sung from the perspective of each of us, singing to God, thanking Him for bringing us back into humanity, back from the brink and into the light of His love and mercy. In mainstream music it’s not that cool to sing about your faith, but Hunter doesn’t care about potential ostracisation and unashamedly declares that Jesus is Lord especially in this song, reminding us all that God’s everyday miracles is what helps him get through the day. “Saint and Sinner” is another identifier of Hunter’s strong faith, as he beautifully encapsulates the ever true notion that ‘…somewhere between darkness and light and the grey where we live between wrong and right; whether I’m lost or I’m washed in the river, You love me a saint or a sinner…’; while “Where Is All Begins”, a vibrant and revitalising duet with Lady Antebellum that flips the concept of trials being markers for who we are on its head. Normally we wouldn’t welcome any kind of suffering, but Hunter, Hillary, Charles and Dave beautifully relay to us that we need to be optimistic and look at trials as opportunities to rise above them, and to declare that this is the time where we ca get back up and overcome. Similar in theme to TobyMac’s “Get Back Up”, “Where It All Begins” can be controversial as it could seem like we’re welcoming trials with open arms, but it’s more of a reluctant acceptance that turns into reliance on Jesus to pull us through trials unscathed, and as better people at the end of it. Which is exactly how we should view our time of quarantine because of COVID-19- as opportunities to overcome our own fears and insecurities, to love more, harder and deeper, and to recultivate relationships that may have been dormant otherwise. “Where It All Begins” may be one of Hunter’s most important songs he’s ever done- and for that fact alone he deserves and warrants listeners diving deeper and deeper into his music.

For one reason or another, there have been quite a lot of songs from Hunter’s discography that weren’t attached to any album. It’s weird, because he’s such a talented guy, and maybe in that period of 2016/2017, he didn’t feel like touring for an album, so he didn’t release one. Nevertheless, there’s still some heartfelt and powerful gems, that are obviously underrated because of the lack of accessibility. Other songs though were present on compilations. “Yesterday’s Song” is a somewhat bitter and no-nonsense declaratory banjo infused melody that passionately relays that the persona’s loved one is no more, and is forgotten like ‘yesterday’s song’, which reminds us not to take anything for granted, especially relationships, as we don’t know when they’re going to be sour or not; while the quasi-spiritual “Amen” is similar to Maren Morris’ “My Church”, as Hunter, like Maren, sings about where he finds solace and comfort- instead of a car that’s ‘my church’, his significant other is his ‘amen’- reminding us all that when we find that love that we believe to be eternal and the most special love of all- we’d better not let go!

“More”, “Young Blood”, “This Girl”, “Rescue” and “Someday Girl” are the other tracks that Hunter has recorded as standalone singles- and though none of them resonated with me in the way that “Amen” and “Yesterday’s Song” have; that doesn’t mean that Hunter can’t inspire others with these same songs! Hunter also covered Elton John’s iconic 1973 pop tune “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, as well as writing a track for the official soundtrack of the 2012 movie Act Of Valor- the song “Where We Left Off” speaks about war, and is loved ones saying goodbye to their army friends and family, letting them know that when they come back they’ll pick up ‘where we left off’. “Almost Paradise” a stirring and compelling duet with Victoria Justice, is another of Hunter’s offerings that are poignant and encouraging- this song from the soundtrack of the 2011 Footloose remake, and is the love song that is sung between the film’s two leads; while Hunter also gets himself into the holiday spirit with the 3 song EP This Christmas, revealing to us a jovial and celebratory atmosphere as Hunter passionately sings about the season- hopefully there is the possibility of him recording a full length Christmas album in the future.

Away from the spotlight, Hunter has shown us to be a pretty well rounded and likeable guy- and if before you had no inkling to hear his music, well you’ll definitely want to check him out after you hear all of this! With Billboard having previously touted Hunter as the Leader of Country Music’s Youth Revolution, Hunter was also nominated for 5 Grammy awards, (including best new artist), as well as winning the CMA Award for new artist of the year in 2012 (as well as a host of other awards and nominations!). Cowriting with Rascal Flatts on “Play” and Owl City for “Here’s Hope” also proved to us that Hunter can mix it up with the big boys and the heavyweights, and still hold his own; while you can read about all of his tours here– Hunter truly has travelled the world touring with Dan + Shay, Kelsea Ballerini, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Reba McEntire to name a few. Hunter also has supported in the past many charities, and performed in many concerts in support of these charities, while also helping create footwear for Zappos- I’ve always loved what music and charity organizations can do together, and I think the tie-in with this song is undeniable. We’ve had the opportunity to work with so many awesome charities over the years, and I realized that, to me, they are exactly that: rescues. They are places of refuge for so many people who need a friend to help them through something or to be there for them. We’ve seen the power of music in so many ways, and I wanted “Rescue” to be a song that we used for good. However despite all of the good that Hunter has done throughout his career- the fact is that even he has doubts, and even he can feel small sometimes. This is certainly true of Hunter’s most personal album- the 2019 Wild Blue Pt 1.

What this record did for me was something pretty profound. Up until now, I haven’t written a whole lot by myself because I’m convinced that if I can’t sit down and start an idea [and] finish it, then I’m not really meant to write by myself. This was the first time I had instruments just laying around the house. In the past I had my apartment and I had my studio. I’d start allowing myself to just record bits and pieces of things. I [can’t] tell you how many things have been stitched together and totally made sense. It’s been really encouraging. I just finished a writing trip. I wrote like half of part two.

I’ve put a lot of heart and soul into this project. I wanted [this album] to be part of a bigger picture. I didn’t want to just put out an album and forget about it in two weeks. I know that there’s more of the story to tell that I haven’t figured out how to tell or lived and I don’t want to separate it. I want it to all be part of one gallery showing and I want to keep adding to the gallery because there’s so many parts that will make other parts make more sense. I’ve always wanted to do a double record or whatever and so this was my chance to say, “OK, if I’m ever going to do it and try it, see the works, this is it.” This is my chance to really like just live this and go as deep as I can.

With Wild Blue Pt 1 being Hunter’s most heartfelt album to date, we dive deep into Hunter’s psyche and what he was feeling, and we are presented with some pretty heavy stuff- reminding us all that musicians are just like people- multilayered and trying to do the bets that they can with what they’ve got. “My Song Too” has Hunter looking inwards, with the piano ballad detailing the end of a relationship, and Hunter singing to the other person telling them that he still listens to their song because it’s ‘my song too’- even though he can be bitter, Hunter isn’t, as even though the relationship didn’t turn out like the way he wanted it to, there’s still positives as it made him to the man he is today. On the flipside, “Heartbreak” has Hunter looking outwards and to the future, as he sings in this 2 minute toe-tapper to his future spouse, reminding her that he is coming and asking her to wait for him- that every other failed relationship is ‘one heartbreak closer to you’. It’s a clever way to look at heartbreak as something positive… but it’s a true concept. Heartbreak is bad if you think that that person is the One, but when you realise that God’s got someone better for you, then you can embrace the heartbreak as a learning curve for you to be better in the future- even if you may feel horrible now. “Still” is essentially a worship song to God- again it takes guts to include this on a mainstream album that will be listened to by many, some of which won’t be believers; however Hunter’s faith is so secure that he’s not worried about backlash- instead he’s more worried about creating opportunities to share his faith- and “Still is a beautiful example of that”. “One Good Reason”, “One Shot” and “Night And Day” are other songs from Wild Blue Pt 1 that spoke to me- “One Good Reason” being a track that has Hunter saying that he has no ill-will to his ex, that he can’t find one good reason not to still love her, while “Night And Day” speaks about a potential relationship between two polar opposite people that hopefully lasts the distance. And while “One Shot” may be desensitising the act of drinking shots to have a good time, the song could also mean that ‘taking shots’ is a metaphor for taking risks and a chance at life- living life one risk and one chance at a time. But to me, there is no other song- and I repeat: no other song, to listen to from Hunter Hayes, than “Dear God”- if you all were to listen to one song from his and one song only!

These days I’ve been hearing a lot about prominent Christians falling away. From Marty Sampson of Hillsong and writer Joshua Harris to most recently Jonathan Steingard the lead singer of Hawk Nelson… we’re living in scary times. Yet for me “Dear God” is like the pinnacle of all of the questions encompassing all of our doubts- wrapped up in a 3-minute song. Hunter obviously had doubts in his life. We all do as believers. And he could have easily been a casualty of cultural Christianity- of not having roots deep enough to weather any and every storm. But instead Hunter fought for his faith and asked questions and sought to seek out the answers- no matter where it led. The result is the most vulnerable song he’s ever recorded and probably will record ever. Now I’m not saying that Marty or Joshua or Jon could have stayed close to God if they wrote a song about their struggles. No, not at all. I’m not even saying that their faith was fake to begin with. That’s a whole another can of worms to open- is Calvinism or Arminianism the right way to go? What I am indeed saying that if you have doubts, I believe you don’t just walk away. You wrestle with them for however knows long. And you talk to God. Even if the response isn’t what you would like to hear. Because He is speaking all the time. Through creation and miracles and through the living Word. We just have to be receptive to hear it. As for these three prominent influencers- who knows how their faith journeys will turn out at the end of their life? Who knows how any of our faith journeys will end up? but I for one would hope that we all use these three examples to check our own heart and to ensure that our faith is not based on a feeling but by the word of Jesus, by the Bible which never changes. And as I let Hunter explain to you all his thought processes behind the song “Dear God” as spoken on the Jesus Calling podcast; let us remember that God can handle all of our questions. No question is too small nor too big for Him. We can bring it all- and guaranteed He will provide comfort amongst the storm and healing in the calamity.

“Dear God” threw me for a loop. “Dear God” is like the therapy session tape you don’t want people to hear. And then when people hear it, all of a sudden I was scared of that song. I was proud of it, and scared of it. I started journaling on the plane. I started with “Dear World,” and I realized I was writing to God. And I thought, “Dear God.” That’s the title. I felt like that was the beginning of the conversation that I need to have with Him. So we were three writers that had never written before. I knew Andy, but Andy didn’t know Dave, I didn’t know Dave. So we were kind of strangers in a room, diving into this this voice inside our heads saying we’re not good enough.

And we’ve played with different lines here and there, and finished with “Dear God, are you sure that you don’t mess up?” And I was like, We can’t say that. That’s not allowed. That’s not okay. But I realized it was important because I don’t feel like it’s a question you would ask – unless you know the answer. And I feel like we all kind of know the answer already, but we need to ask it to hear it again. I feel like the Lord gives us big questions so He can answer in a big way. And that’s a big question. And I feel like sometimes He, no, I know that He’s answered me in a big way many times—but not unless I ask, not less I seek Him. And so I was scared of a song that didn’t have a resolve, and it doesn’t have a resolve all the way to the end. And I decided to sing one take that said, “Dear God, just remind me you don’t mess up,” to kind of close the song. And I felt better…I felt better about it, about singing in public.

It’s a series of tough questions. I believe you don’t go to your best friend with tough questions expecting them to have the wrong answers. And I don’t feel like you go to God with these questions expecting Him to not answer you. I feel like a lot of people disassociate faith with a negative question. And I think those are the questions you need to ask to know your faith. I think that’s important. it’s so critical, and I know that people sometimes feel brave enough to do it. But me, as a conservative Catholic kid, my dad and I had to have a long conversation on the way home from the first time I played that song. And we had another long conversation about it recently that lasted a week.

But you know, I was just explaining to him—and, and kind of explaining to myself, I guess, in the process—how important that question is and how important it is to talk about those struggles so that you can get an answer, so that someone can call from the dark and shine a light, you know?

Right now, I’m on a kick of reminding people of their self-worth. Because to question your self-worth, it’s to question your design and question your Maker. And I know obviously I’ve done that. I’ve done that, and I’ve made it public in a song. But I’ve made it public so that people can do that, so that they can get an answer.

You were made to be exactly who you are, as hard as that is to believe, as hard as it is for me to believe right now. My faults are what would make me. And I think it’s important to remind people of that. I think it’s important for me to be reminded of that on a very consistent basis, that we were made to be who we are, whatever that means. That’s the most validating thing in the world as a songwriter, when somebody comes when somebody comes up to you, a stranger, even like fans that I know have tattooed lyrics from “Wild Blue” or “Tell Me” or “Dear God” or “Invisible.” “Flashlight,” I’ve drawn flashlights because people want to reference that song and those lyrics.

That’s the most validating thing as a songwriter because you write all the songs in a vacuum. And then they basically just sit there, and then you finally get to play the songs live. And you have somebody that wants to ink themselves, to permanently remind themselves of a lyric.

I truly believe great songs aren’t something that we come up with. We just kind of receive them. So hopefully you’re open. And I speak often that it’s not a well, it’s a river. And you have to just be ready to receive the river. You have to just be open to it. So when that happens, I think it’s just a reminder that, yeah, it’s not about me. It’s about a greater message, about a greater purpose. And those are the moments where you were reminded you received it right. You opened yourself up. You made your vulnerable, and you spoke. And it reached. And it connected.

So it’s kind of just like, Okay, I’m doing my job. I’m serving my purpose.

No matter what we go through, every trial I believe is really an opportunity for our faith to be renewed and strengthened and it’s probably when God moves the most, when it all boils down to it. I mean, God is moving all the time, but I guess we see it more when we feel like our world is falling apart. And through the past couple of weeks when I have immersed myself in the uplifting and encouraging music that is Hunter Hayes; let me tell you one thing that I have learnt- if I can pinpoint it all down to one thing. It’s that as much as we feel like Marty McFly from Back to The Future- about wanting to change an event for the greater good, or wanting to erase that event so that we don’t feel the pain; we can’t cause we don’t have a time machine. But we shouldn’t do everything in our control to mask our feelings of hurt either. As much of Hunter’s songs are songs about heartbreak and songs about sadness- there are equally as many songs about joy, celebration, and the knowledge that we have a God in our corner who loves us and who cares about us all deeply, so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place some 2000 + years ago, all so that we might never die but have everlasting life with Him someday. I mean that’s part and parcel of humanity isn’t it? That we have bad experiences but also good experiences- and both shape us to who we are. God doesn’t cause the bad experiences, but He does use them for His glory and our good. So in this time of quarantine, when we’re searching for answers as to why COVID-19 is happening in the first place, and while we are trying to jam out to Hunter Hayes’s though-provoking, comforting and confronting tunes that have us all on the edge of our seat- either dancing or in awe of his lyrical prowess; let us remember that God, who is perfect, doesn’t mess up. Sometimes it may seems like He’s not there. But He is. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel and all of the other prophets… is the same God we all can talk to right now. The same God who loves us. Isn’t that cause for celebration? And why ever would we want to turn back time if it means we haven’t grown by the end of it? Sure “I Want Crazy” is popular, but “Dear God”… that’s the song that we all need to hear and that’s the song that will change the world. So what are you all waiting for? Hunter Hayes is here to stay, so let’s get on the band wagon! Pronto!

Does Hunter Hayes make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “Where It All Begins”, “Dear God”, “I Want Crazy”, “Flashlight”, and “Invisible”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

 

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