Dishing with Hunter Hayes

Country music hearthrob Hunter Hayes talks crawfish boils, musical legends, and life in Louisiana.

Story by Lacy Morris
Hunter Hayes
Hunter Hayes at the Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: Michael Lewis

Hometown: Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Occupation: Singer/Songwriter

What's on his plate: The release of his sophomore album, Storyline, on May 6

Favorite Venue: "The Cajundome in Lafayette is pretty spectacular because it's so massive. [It's special to me] because that's where I saw all my concerts growing up."

The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is in my hometown, the Crawfish Capital of the World. It's the first weekend in May with live bands all weekend long. When I was 4, Hank Williams, Jr., was [performing] and he saw me on the side of the stage playing a little accordion my grandmother had given me. He brought me up [on stage] to perform with him.

In Louisiana the festivals are instantly massive. That's what you do on the weekends because chances are there's one going on in your backyard. Growing up there meant I could perform three gigs in a weekend and never travel far. In a small town, what a concept! I'd pack the car, go down the road, and there were instantly thousands of people to play to.

My album is called Storyline because everybody's got a story and this is mine. I wrote or cowrote everything on it; it's like diving into my journal. I'm a 22-year-old getting to travel the world and live my dream. And it's happening in a pretty beautiful way.

There are a lot more topics to cover on this album than my last one. It's not from experience, because that's a relative term when you're 22. But from more experience than I had at 18, that's for sure. I'm just living and learning; that's what it's all about.

My mom makes an awesome chicken-and-sausage gumbo. She knows when I'm coming off the road and just when to text and say, "Hey, gumbo is ready."

I love crawfish boils; they're one of my favorite traditions. It's what I associate with hanging out on a Friday night. When I played the local venues in Lafayette, a friend of mine offered to cook for my band and me. We took the buses and everybody on the team, my family and friends came, and we did it right, the whole nine yards. My band is from all over the country and they got to experience the real deal.

There's a place in Breaux Bridge called Crazy 'Bout Crawfish Cajun Café. It's owned by a friend of mine, and not only is the crawfish really good, but somehow she knows when I'm headed back home and puts my name on the billboard. There's a burger on the menu that has my name on it too. That's how you know you made it!

Being considered a heartthrob is so funny to me. I'm the geek, right? I'm the dork, gladly self-proclaimed. I'm the guy in the way back. But ... I'll take it!

I love a sense of confidence [in a woman]. I'm very passionate about what I do and I need to be with someone who is just as passionate about something, even if we don't see each other for weeks at a time because of it.

I've been trying to get my pilot's license. I'm in touch with a trainer in Nashville to get some more hours in my logbook. It's one of my dreams; I'd love to be flying in the next couple years.

Stevie Wonder is one of my absolute favorite artists of all time. I got to work with him at the Academy of Country Music Awards. He blew my mind with how real he was. He has this spirit about him that's so warm, friendly, and welcoming. I instantly felt comfortable.

It's funny to me when somebody asks, "What do you do besides music?" Music is my hobby; it's what I do to get my mind off things. It's an obsession for me.