If Hunter Hayes wants to feel as wanted as the person he croons about in his huge crossover hit, he’s pretty much there.
Six bids in the Academy of Country Music Awards will do that. The young singer-composer of “Wanted” enters the 48th annual ceremony — which CBS televises Sunday, April 7, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas — as one of the top nominees, quite a leap from his being in the running for best new artist last year. Though he didn’t get that honor, he did win the Country Music Association’s equivalent last fall.
“It’s crazy,” the friendly 21-year-old says with evident pleasure about his success with “Wanted,” which at this writing was nearing the triple-platinum mark in sales. “As a new artist, you have nothing to compare it to, and nothing to prepare you for. People will tell you, ‘This is probably how it’s gonna go,’ … but until you actually live it, there’s no way to put into words how it feels. And heaven help me if I ever had to explain it.”
Hayes’ “Wanted” fame and his touring, both as the main event and as an opening act for Carrie Underwood, have boosted his self-named debut album that also has yielded the certified-gold singles “Storm Warning” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak.” For “Wanted,” which he also co-wrote, he’s in ACM Award categories including song of the year and single record of the year.
“What’s really cool about [my] ACM nominations this year,” the Louisiana native tells Zap2it, “is that it kind of goes over to the songwriting world that I’m so proud to be a part of. To be recognized as a songwriter and a producer for ‘Wanted,’ it’s a pretty big achievement in my book. It means a lot.”
The only artist with more ACM nods this year is Eric Church (“Springsteen”), who has seven. Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift have five each, while Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves (“Merry Go ‘Round”) and Luke Bryan — who will co-host the ceremony with Blake Shelton — each have four.
Hayes also is slated to be among the performers at the ACM Awards. There’s little doubt he can handle that — particularly after last December’s Grammy nominations concert, in which he offered a remarkable acoustic medley of nominees for best pop vocal album, transcending various styles to put his own stamp on music first done by artists from Kelly Clarkson to Maroon 5.
“The most interesting thing to me,” Hayes reflects, “was that they had the faith in me to call and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do something we don’t normally do. And we think that somehow, you can do it.’ I felt like I’d just been called into the game for real, and I thought, ‘OK. I’m not gonna let you down.’ “
With “Hunter Hayes” still faring well on the charts, the album’s star doesn’t have a definite timeline for its follow-up. Which isn’t to say that’s not on his mind, though he’s trying to keep in perspective the juggernaut that “Wanted” has been.
“I know the technical term is ‘follow-up,’ but as an artist and a creative person, I cannot look at it as that,” Hayes reasons. “That’s why ‘Somebody’s Heartbreak’ was such an easy decision [as the subsequent single]. It’s almost the polar opposite of ‘Wanted,’ and it introduces a totally different part of my music. It just comes back to trying to tell my story, however I’ve got to do that.”