Hunter Hayes and Stevie Wonder are teaming up for Monday night’s (April 22) episode of Dancing With the Stars, accompanying the remaining finalists in the competition.
It’s their second show together in a matter of weeks. Earlier this month, they appeared together at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas, then visited the pressroom together after the show. Hayes told reporters that he and Wonder are working on new music together, too.
“I played him something of mine that I thought was really, really influenced by what he does. He brought up a collaboration, and I said, ’You let me know when and where,'” Hayes recalled.
A former child prodigy himself, Wonder praised the 21-year-old singer’s talent.
“You know, what can I say? This young man is a blessing to country music, and to America, because he really has listened to all kinds of music,” Wonder said. “You can hear those influences in what he’s doing — and he does it so incredibly well. And he blends it with what he knows and how he feels. But most of all, what excites me about Hunter Hayes is the pureness inside that heart, his love for music. It’s really emotional to me because I see God working in him.”
Hayes released his self-titled, major label debut album in 2011. As a new artist in his teens, the Louisiana native was entrusted to write, play and co-produce every song on that project. Now he’s a regular on radio, thanks to “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” “Wanted” and “Storm Warning.” Hayes is planning the Encore edition of that album for a June 18 release. The deluxe album will feature eight new and rerecorded tracks, including his new single “I Want Crazy.” (However, the Wonder collaboration is not part of the project.)
“I always love experimenting and collaborating. Obviously, I did the whole original first record by myself, so there’s not a whole lot of collaboration there,” Hayes said with a quick laugh, “and I missed that. I love the way I did it, and I do it not because I think I’m good enough to do it, by any means. But I did it because I’m comfortable working that way.”
He continued, “So on the Encore edition, the deluxe package of the original record, I went in with musicians that I really wanted to work with and that I’d seen on other records. And I’ve got a couple of guests. Jason Mraz came in and Ashley Monroe came in and sang some tracks. I’m finally getting to do some collaborations.”
Meanwhile, Wonder is pursuing a project with producer David Foster and the London Symphony Orchestra, drawing on new songs and reinterpretations of familiar material. He’s also working on a gospel project, which he promised his mother he’d make.
Reminiscing about his own studio experience as a child, Wonder added, “When I was working with music and the songs that I did as a little boy, it didn’t really work out exactly how I wanted it to. So I was happy when I was able to find the synthesizers and all this stuff. Not because I didn’t believe in the musicians, but — and I’m sure [Hunter] feels the same way — you know exactly what you want the drums to do. You know exactly what you want the guitar to do, what you want the bass to do. And if you can play it yourself … heyyy!”
After sharing a laugh with Hayes and reporters, Wonder noted, “As he was saying, it doesn’t take away from your ability to collaborate. Bringing people together to play is a great thing.”