Multi-Grammy nominee Hunter Hayes is diligently committed to his craft. You could even say his musical journey has been his life's work. However, the articulate country newcomer claims there is actually no "work" involved.
"My dad said it when I was young, and I believe this is true," he said. "When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
"I think the happiest people are those who find what they love and do whatever they can to do what they love to do," he went on. "And I've been really, really fortunate to be able to make music because that's what I live for. And because I live for it, it's very easy to stay up until 4 o'clock in the morning in the studio and not realize it. You're just having fun."
Though the singer-songwriter is only 21, don't let his age fool you. He's far from a musical novice. In fact, the well-spoken Louisiana native sang and played the accordion at age 4 and has devoted much of his lifetime to honing his craft, mastering numerous instruments and fine-tuning his songwriting chops. What's more, he's expanding his audience, too, opening shows for Carrie Underwood during her Blown Away tour.
But the proof of his efforts lies within his Grammy-nominated and self-titled debut gold record. Nominated for best country album, it features his multiplatinum selling hit, "Wanted," which is nominated for best country solo performance. But his recognition doesn't stop there. He's also holding a spot alongside the best new artist nominees cross-genre, running alongside the Alabama Shakes, Fun., the Lumineers and Frank Ocean.
"It means everything," he recently told CMT.com regarding his latest accomplishments. "It means something went right in the first record process, and I don't know what it is. I wish I could write it down and do it again. It means a lot to me because that first record was my introduction. I put everything I had into it, but I didn't have nearly the perspectives -- and I won't say experience because I don't have much more experience now. But that was the beginning. That was my way of saying, 'Hi, I'm Hunter. Nice to meet you.'"
With the Grammy Awards airing Sunday night (Feb. 10) on CBS, Hayes shared his thoughts on a few Grammy-winning classics ranging all the way from 1965 to today.
"Always on My Mind," Willie Nelson
1982: Best Country Vocal Performance Male, Song of the Year, Best Country Song (Songwriters: Johnny Christopher, Mark James, Wayne Carson)
That's a song that's been covered a lot because it's so relatable.
"Does He Love You," Reba McEntire (With Linda Davis)
1993: Best Country Vocal Collaboration
Beautiful duo there! Two of some of the most iconic voices. It's just one of those songs you'll never forget. I feel like everybody knows that song.
"Go Rest High on That Mountain," Vince Gill
1995: Best Male Vocal Country Performance, Best Country Song (Songwriter: Vince Gill)
Quintessential Vince Gill song. I feel like when you mention Vince Gill, if someone is crazy enough not to know entirely who you're talking about, that's one of the first songs I go to. Beautiful song. Beautiful performance. Gosh, nobody else could even touch that song, and I don't think anybody ever should. I think it should forever be a Vince Gill song. As much as I would love to sing that song, I just know that I could never do it justice. That's just one of those songs he performed and made it his own so well. It is timeless.
"Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ole Days," the Judds
1986: Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, Best Country Song (Songwriter: Jamie O'Hara)
I heard that song a lot on the radio when I was in school.
"Jesus, Take the Wheel," Carrie Underwood
2006: Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song (Songwriters: Brett James, Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsay)
It was such a huge hit and such a huge moment for someone that I am lucky enough to tour with. I love that she still does it in her show. I've actually heard it every night in her show. It was such a great introduction to get to know somebody. It's a beautiful song.
"King of the Road," Roger Miller
1965: Best Contemporary (R&R) Single, Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance Male, Best Country & Western Single, Best Country & Western Vocal Performance Male, Best Country & Western Song (Songwriter: Roger Miller)
That's one of those songs everybody in the world knows. You've heard it at one time or another.
"Stand by Your Man," Tammy Wynette
1969: Best Country Vocal Performance Female
Iconic. I don't know any other words other than "timeless."
"Stranger in My House," Ronnie Milsap
1983: Best New Country Song (Songwriter: Mike Reid)
Oh, my gosh! Standard in my world. I am a huge, huge Ronnie Milsap fan. I have been for a long time. I remember one year I had his 40 #1 Hits collection, and I didn't take that out of my stereo for the entire summer I was home. That is absolutely one of my favorite songs from him -- period. I actually covered that song for a couple of years in my show.
"There's a Tear in My Beer," Hank Williams Jr. and Hank Williams Sr.
1989: Best Country Vocal Collaboration
I go immediately to the technology. The fact that you can do that. They took a track that was made in those days and brought it to now, and he was able to sing with his father and even interchange some of the parts and things. That's fascinating to me.
"You'll Think of Me," Keith Urban
2005: Best Male Country Vocal Performance
One of my favorites from him actually. "Take your cat and leave my sweater" is one of those lines that just connects. When I heard that line in the chorus, it was like, "That's brilliant!" It's so iconic. That song is so real, so relatable. Again, one of those soundtrack songs. I remember turning that song on as part of my soundtrack.