Hunter Hayes Details Personal Transformation on New Album 'Red Sky'


Hunter Hayes is gearing up to release his new album Red Sky this year, the second part of a trilogy of albums following 2019's Wild Blue, and with each album, fans will get to know the singer/songwriter like never before as this collection of music showcases personal transformation.

Red Sky includes Hunter's previously-released single "The One That Got Away" and the more recent "If You Change Your Mind."

Fans have a lot to look forward to as the release of Red Sky approaches, because as Hunter puts it, "I just think Red Sky is a heart burning musically, lyrically and spiritually. I think there was a lot of personal growth to make this record."

Hayes recently opened up about his forthcoming new album, how he has personally transformed from his previous albums and his last album Wild Blue, his new single "If You Change Your Mind" and its music video, and even teased Part 3 in his album trilogy. Read on below.

Tell us about your song "If You Change Your Mind" and what inspired it?

"I just recently found the voice memo for this, and it's really interesting because we were on our way to a gig, the back of the bus was like my little mini studio, and it's my happy place when we're not at my happy place yet, which is the stage. And I just could hear this two minor to one chord progression with a bunch of strings and harps and this sort of dream-like thing with this title, 'If You Change Your Mind.' I think I had the title 'If You Change Your Mind' for a minute, and I just liked the pacing of the words and that tempo with the strings. The strings, a lot of the feel very dreamlike. The topic was you're not confident enough to say you should come back, but you're still holding on to something, and you still miss somebody. It's the point at which you're missing the good things. And it's kind of an embarrassing place because while part of you is like, I should be moving on, part of you is still stuck in it and can only remember the good things and is still holding onto it. And it's a bit of a dreamlike state to be in, it's borderline euphoric because you can only remember the good. And so I wanted it to feel very dreamlike. The strings contributed to that. I love how bluesy elements contribute to this confidence/this 'miss you' nature. So, yeah, I just have a session with 90 something string samples, and I took it into a writing session with my friend, Rachel [Braig] and Johnluke [Lewis], and the song wrote itself. I love when that happens, because we're just receiving songs. We just open the door and allow them into the room and let them become things. And when a song is easy to write, that means that you're really open and you're really allowing your experiences to be translated into a piece of art that other people can have. So, I love when a song is written quickly, it means that it's meant to happen. And that song felt like it was meant to happen. And then afterwards it was just so much fun to keep working on and play for people, because I don't know what I expected, but the response it was, at the time, a lot of gutsy musical decisions. And when I played it for people, I expected it to be polarizing and it was quite the opposite. Everyone responded in such a strongly positive way and more often than not, I got a statement that made me feel like people heard me and my passions and music. My favorite sounds, my favorite grooves, my favorite instruments, all of my favorite things. I felt as though people responded in such a way where they felt like they heard a lot more of me in the music, which made me really happy. And that kind of became the bar of, I should be this present in every song on this album. So I'm very grateful for that."

Tell us about the "If You Change Your Mind" music video? Do you have a favorite memory from filming it?

"It was so much fun to film this video. I have said this over and over again, and I will continue to say it. I got to work with such an incredible group of people, and specifically, the director and the director of photography, Bia and Rachel. I actually begged them, essentially, to do a lot of other music videos. So, we've already worked together since, and we have a lot of work to do together going forward, which I'm really excited about and I'm very grateful for. But, there's just something magical when you have a group of people that really want to make something come to life, especially visually. And all of these people on set were ... I just love being surrounded by people who love what they do so much. You can just feel the hunger, you can feel the desire to give something life. And that's what I felt working with this team. My favorite memory from filming it was honestly meeting a lot of these people for the first time. I've been lucky. I've worked with a lot of people that I love that I will continue to work with different directors in different teams, but this team felt really connected to Red Sky as a concept, and I just felt like that was meant to be. It's just really cool when you find a group of people who are all connected, and connect and relate to the music that you're making. It's just really spectacular. You can't make that up."

This song comes from your upcoming album Red Sky. Tell us about what fans can expect to hear from the rest of the record?

"It's just all of me. Red Sky is about the fire inside. I'd gone through multiple versions of like, this is the adventure, and it is. It is an adventure. I've gone to every place I wanted it to, musically, and the things that didn't work taught me a lot, but the things that did work yielded such results that I consistently get the response from close friends or people in the business that I've played it for, that this is what they've been waiting for from me, which I love hearing, even though that's not what I'm going for. That's a good sign. That means that I'm present through the whole thing. And I think that was the lesson that the album taught me. At first, it was going to be this super alt rock record, and song by song, it's just revealed to me that's not what I wrote it to be. And so I had to really listen to these songs and it was like I was talking to myself from the past. That sounds super weird, but I was in one musical phase, writing about the next musical phase, and writing about the next life phase. But, I just think Red Sky is a heart burning musically, lyrically and spiritually. I think there was a lot of personal growth to make this record."

Red Sky follows Wild Blue, and both are part of a trilogy. Why did you decide to release your new music as an album trilogy?

"I could foresee changes in my life. I could foresee changes in my music and things that I could see big change on the horizon. Subconsciously, I think I was trying to both protect myself, but also allow myself to grow. Cause I knew I wanted to grow. I knew I needed to grow. And so the trilogy was a way for me to give myself a safe space. It was almost like me saying, 'Hey, here's a safe place to create whatever you want. Fail until you get it right. No one has to know about it. And when you get it right, no one's going to know what's coming.' It was kind of a pep talk. It was the safety equivalent to a therapy session. You can say everything here and we'll put it out there. I suppose in the past, there's been versions of that, but Wild Blue was really the first time that I did that — made an album as if no one was watching. And I found so much out about myself from that process that this is the next step forward. This is me breaking out of the safety of people I've worked with before and working with a lot of new people. Believe it or not, it's quite intimidating for me to walk into a room of creators if I've not met them yet. And it's easy to listen to your insecurities in those moments. So this album is a process of having harsh conversations with my insecurities, and basically saying it's been great, but we can't be friends anymore. So the trilogy was just basically allowing me, giving myself the room to go splatter, paint in it and saying, you're going to go on a journey and you just allow yourself to do that."

These albums reflect a personal transformation. Tell us about how you've personally transformed?

"I mean, I don't know a single person that hasn't said this. So, I do feel like it's quite common and maybe really obvious, but last year [during] lockdown, we all lost the ability to do things that we love, and to see the people that we love. And for me, personally, traveling and touring and playing live shows was a big one for me. I always got to hang out with my best friends on the bus. Like every weekend, it was just like, guaranteed. I didn't take that for granted, but looking back now, and I appreciate that so much more. And the fact that we get to play music is like ... together, there's nothing quite as magical as that. And then you add to that meeting people and seeing people and connecting with fans and people, whether you know them or they're new people. It was a shock to the system not to get that because I knew that that was my favorite part of what I do. I just didn't realize how much that fed me and charged me up and how much that fueled my fire. So I had to find other ways to fuel my fire. And I also had to find out what my fire was. I think I had covered up a lot of the things that I was really passionate about, musically, and kept giving myself more excuses not to do things, than reasons to do things. I knew that there was a big personal transformation of allowance on the horizon. There's this weird thing that I was going through where I felt like I wasn't allowed to XYZ, you know? So I had to work through that. There are a lot of old things with my voice that I got to work through, and just basically a lot of therapy, and intensive therapy, a lot of therapy surrounding it. And coming to understand who I am, fully, so that I could show up for this record, fully, and make the music as my whole self, not just the parts I thought people wanted to hear."

This new music is different from your country albums – what made you switch gears?

"I wouldn't say switch gears, I would say I'm just including the rest of the story as well now. Wild Blue was the beginning of that phase. I want to include more of the things that influenced me, more than things that I love. And Red Sky is me going for all of it. And there's elements of Country. I mean, that's part of my heart, that's part of who I am. But, I think the point of this conversation is saying that's that is part of who I am — 'part' being the operative word. It's part of who I am. There is a lot more that I want you to know about musically, lyrically, etc., and I want people to hear all of it. And I want to allow myself to allow people to hear all of it. And I want to include all of it in the music that I make. I have a lot of influences, and it's my job as an artist, not to emulate other artists, but to find how the sounds that really, really light my fire fit into the story that I'm telling, musically and lyrically. So, this is me saying everyone's welcome. I almost don't even want to put a genre label on it because there's a little bit of everything on this album. But that's the point, that's what I've always wanted to do, and that's what we've always strived to do. I think this album is just a testament to really taking all the locks off the doors and just saying we can do anything, we can try anything. And then once the album's done or once the music is done and it's out there, everyone's welcome. That's been our mantra for the album is 'everyone's welcome.'"

What can fans expect from the final part of your trilogy? Is there anything you can share about Part 3?

"It's mostly done already, which is kind of fun. It's weird to write one record and produce another in a given time window, however, it's contributed to the safety. Writing in total anonymity, writing in such a way where no one knows I'm writing the next chapter, but I'm getting to write the next chapter. And I'm also working with the people, building a new team, or not building a new team, but adding to the family of people that I really feel safe working with and love working with. And by safe, I don't mean safe in the form of I'm going to do the things that make me feel safe. I mean, I feel safe to explore very, very therapeutic music making at this point. Part 3 is a very, very confident lesson from Red Sky, and I'm really, really excited for people to hear it. But, I think the journey to get there, is this adventure part, is definitely Red Sky. The adventure is what currently excites me the most."