OFFSTAGE: Hunter Hayes: The Before, During and After of a CMA Winner

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

I didn’t get to talk with Hunter Hayes after he won his prestigious new artist of the year award at Thursday night’s (Nov. 1) CMA Awards . But we did catch up before the show on the red carpet and talked about the best parts of nights like this one. For starters, Hayes says he loves getting dressed up. “I don’t often wear a suit. I mean, I like wearing a suit. I just don’t get to do it a whole lot,” he told me. “And my favorite part is putting Chucks [shoes] with a suit.” Hayes also said he truly loves watching the performances because he’s always been a big live show fan. “I love buying concert tickets. I love going to shows. And this one is when everybody gives everything they’ve got.” Then, after the show, Hayes loves a good post party. “It’s just so nice to run into people here in the hallway or at the post parties and feel the kinetic energy that is like the conclusion of what everybody’s been working on,” he said. “And everyone finally gets to breathe and relax and enjoy everything they’ve worked so hard for.” I’m sure Hayes enjoyed that breathing and relaxing even more this year because of his big win as new artist of the year. In his humble acceptance speech, you could hear how honored he was. “I don’t even know what to do right now,” he said onstage, adding thanks to his fans, his family and his mom and dad for doing “so much to get me right here.”

Past CMA new artist of the year awards have gone to The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.