Hunter Hayes Says CMA Award Was a Welcome to Country Music’s Family

Hunter Hayes has been the reigning CMA new artist of the year for the past 12 months. But with the awards right around the corner — they will be broadcast live on Wednesday night (Nov. 6) — he’s ready to pass the trophy on to the next worthy winner.

But wait. Not so fast. I wanted to know what he’s been doing to reward himself for winning the prestigious honor so soon after he debuted his first single “Storm Warning.”

When Hayes won the CMA prize last year, he said in his acceptance speech he was “blessed beyond belief.” And it sounds like he still feels the exact same way.

“What that award said to me was, ‘Maybe I can keep doing what I’m doing,’” he told me last week. “It was sort of a welcoming into the family. This was saying, ‘You know what? You’re absolutely welcome into the family of country music, and if you want to keep making music, then you’re welcome to.’ That meant that maybe I’ve done something right up until now and, hopefully, I can continue.

“If anything, I felt a responsibility,” he said of taking the award home. “Because now I feel like that CMA comes with a responsibility to prove that I mean what I say when I say that I love making music. I have to prove that that’s absolutely where my heart and soul are at. I have to do it for my own good. There’s no stopping to take it all in. I need to get better at that. It’s just fuel to make more music. If there’s any reward, it’s the fact that I can keep doing it.”

And even though he claims he never really feels like he can reward himself, he did settle into his first place this year and traded up to one of his dream cars.

“It wasn’t anything extravagant. It’s actually quite small. But I can fit all my gear into it. And it’s fuel efficient,” Hayes said, even though he wouldn’t tell me exactly what kind of car it was. It sounded like he was describing a Toyota Prius, but then he said, “It’s pretty rare. And it’s gotta be for a tiny dude. So it’s perfect for me. I’m not gonna go too crazy because it already feels too good to be true.”

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