By Dahlia Neeman
On November 1 2014, Hunter Hayes played at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. for his “Tattoo Your Name” Tour. This talented 23-year-old country singer-songwriter knows how to bring in a crowd and keep them on their feet. The two-hour show was full of energy and passion, and completely shattered my expectations for a young artist in the music industry.
Hunter Hayes’ debut album, Hunter Hayes, was released in 2011, with his song Wanted topping the charts and landing him a Grammy nomination. In May, he released his sophomore album Storyline, which climbed its way to the number one spot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums. Hunter has a writing credit for every song on both his albums, and each song reveals a unique story and emotion. Nowadays, it is so typical to hear generic songs on the radio that can be easily traded from one artist to the next. But ratings or numbers do not motivate Hunter’s music. He is a true artist, using his music as a tool to express his emotions and his perceptions of moments in life.
This dedication to music was visible throughout the show. Many shows rely on costume changes, strobe lights and extravagant scenery to keep the audience interested. But Hunter was able to pull in the audience through the delicacy and authentic melodies of his music. Instead of changing outfits, he changed guitars. There must have been twenty something guitar switches throughout the show. He was very much in sync with his music and his band. While he thanked his fans for their support, he did not spend time onstage waving or smiling at them – something most young artists do that sends fans into hysteria. Hunter was one hundred percent tuned into his music, focusing on his instruments and occasionally glancing and nodding at his band members.
This devotion was appreciated by the audience, which consisted of a very unique demographic – kids, teens and older couples, both male and female. Country music fans are the most loyal out of any musical genre. This could be seen in the older faces in the crowd. The show was not a trendy social experience; it was a shared experience brought on by the love for Hunter’s music.
Hunter spent equal time on all sides of the stage. He had two runways that enabled him to get closer to more audience members. He even performed two songs in the upper levels standing on a small step, singing literally in the middle of a bunch of fans.
He performed his hit single Invisible which had debuted at the Grammy’s earlier this year. Before singing it, he thanked his fans for supporting the song, explaining that it “takes guts” to support a song like this. Invisible is a song Hunter wrote that reflects his bullied past. It is an inspiring song, addressing all victims of bullying, promising that the bad times will pass and things will get better.
When I first heard of Hunter, I could not help but compare him to other artists his age. Nowadays, different fandoms are prevalent on social media sites, usually consisting of teenage girls expressing their admiration for their favorite heartthrobs, such as Harry Styles and Austin Mahone. Seeing that Hunter is a young, charming guy, I impulsively threw him into this category. But after listening to his album and experiencing this show, I now view Hunter in a completely different way. Hunter Hayes is not a pop sensation, a brand, or a manufactured fresh face with a good voice. Hunter Hayes is a musician, a performer, and a really talented one. His passion and artistry will bring him a long way, insuring longevity in his career and loyal fans that will grow with him.