Since being crowned the CMA's best new artist in 2012, singer-songwriter Hunter Hayes has more than lived up to the title. In fact, the 22-year-old has not only achieved chart-topping success, but he's also garnered several award nominations including three Grammy nods for best country album, best country solo performance and best new artist.
On Dec. 3, the Louisiana native will be honored with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw during the 2013 CMT Artists of the Year special.
Despite his relatively quick rise to fame, the talented artist remains grateful for the opportunity to make music for a living. He's got a good answer when people ask him what he's learned during the past year.
"My favorite thing to say is, 'Hey, you know what's really cool about having dreams when they come true? It's still that much fun,'" he said. "It's pretty magical, and it hasn't lost its magic. Not that there's any reason it would, but you would think some of that would wear off eventually. And it just doesn't. It gets better, and it gets better and it gets better. Just the fact that we're still getting to play every night, you couldn't ask for any more than that. And all this other stuff, it's kind of mindboggling."
In fact, living the dream started at an early age for Hayes. A video featuring the 5-year-old future star singing in front of 200,000 people with Hank Williams Jr. has already reached almost 6 million views online.
All that early practice paid off for Hayes, who spent half of the year opening concerts for Carrie Underwood before embarking on his first-ever headlining tour. He also headlined a performance at Webster Hall in New York City as part of MTV's Artist to Watch series. He's quick to point out that performing live is the favorite part of his job.
"When I'm onstage, that's what I live for," he said. "I write the songs. I make the records. They are all part of the thing, but being onstage is when it all makes sense. I guess I want people to know that, and I want to give them every ounce of everything I've got -- and then some."
Hayes certainly struck a chord with fans this year as his album became one of only four debut country albums to go platinum in the past five years. What's more, his last three singles have all reached platinum status including the smash hit, "Wanted," that went quadruple platinum in October.
"My favorite music -- the music that I attach myself to and repeat on my playlist -- are the songs that I've lived," he said. "They're a part of my life. When people come and sing along and have value in those songs, that's when it all comes together. That's the circle. That's the complete perfection of getting to make music. That's what it's all about."
The star's latest single "Everybody's Got Somebody but Me," a collaboration with pop singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, has already become a Top 20 hit on Billboard's country airplay chart. The track is featured on the deluxe edition of Hayes' debut album.
For the first time, the CMT Artists of the Year special will premiere live on CMT and CMT.com. The show airs Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET.