Hunter Hayes Talks 2015 Grammy Awards, Playing With Grammy Camp Students + Preparing Acceptance Speeches
"I've always wanted to host something, and it was really special to get that invite from the Grammys," Hayes tells The Boot. "I got really nervous, actually. I was so excited about the opportunity and got really nervous because I realized it's a pretty important job ... [but] I'm really, really looking forward to it. It's going to be a special night."
"There's so many categories that don't get televised, so during the pre-telecast, there's a lot of great acknowledgements to a lot of hard-working music makers, and I can't wait to see all of it," Hayes adds. "It's going to be a fun night, and I'm excited. It's the perfect way to get warmed up for the Grammys, too."
The singer-songwriter had another role to play leading up to "Music's Biggest Night": contest judge. Hayes helped pick the winner of Whirlpool's "Care is" contest, which encouraged participants to submit videos of themselves singing 'You Are My Sunshine,' dedicated to a loved one.
"Music is just such a good way to show appreciation. That's the whole point of music anyway -- to express, right? To express what you're feeling, what you're going through," Hayes explains, "and in this case, it's just a perfect combination: showing appreciation to somebody or some people, anybody who cared for you and who you care about."
The winning video, submitted by Alex Bell of Eastampton, N.J., will be used in a 30-second commercial during the Grammys telecast.
"My mom and dad worked so hard ... to make sure that I had the opportunities to do what I do and live my dream, and I'm here because of it ... I know we probably said thank you, but we didn't say it enough," says Hayes of his reason for wanting to get involved with the initiative, "and so here's a chance [to help other people do that]. It's a contest, but it's more or less just a chance for so many people to [say thank you]."
In addition to his responsibilities the night of the Grammys, Hayes spent part of Grammy Week working with members of Grammy Camp -- Jazz Session. Together, they took the stage on Wednesday night (Feb. 4) as part of the sixth annual Grammy in the Schools Live! event.
"It was a blast; it was just awesome," Hayes says of the experience. "The band and I just got a trip out of it. It was amazing. It was inspiring, it was energizing, and it was exciting for us. I'm so grateful that we got to do that."
After their own performance, the Grammy Camp student musicians each had the opportunity to join Hayes on stage during his set, as guest musicians, and play with the country star and his band.
"It was so much fun to do it that way because we got to play a longer set, and they got to be involved in more of the rehearsal process and more of the show, and it expanded our chance to get to work with them, which was what we really wanted," Hayes says. "We didn't want it to be short and abbreviated; we wanted it to be a full night of a full show, and we wanted to experience it with them."
For Hayes, getting involved with Grammy in the Schools was an easy decision.
"It's such a brilliant organization that supports music education, and it's such a great thing that they support," he says. "It's not even just about education; it's about the support. To me, it's a bigger picture, you know?
"For me, the best thing that ever happened to me was having family and friends that allowed me to dream about making music for the rest of my life," Hayes adds, "and the fact that these guys and girls have a chance to do their thing and rock it -- and they were amazing! They were absolutely just musically mind-boggling."
So, winning his category at the 2015 Grammy Awards would really cap off a great week for Hayes. A recent winner at the 2015 People's Choice Awards, Hayes has been nominated for five Grammys, including this year's nod, and won a few other awards, but he says getting up on stage to make an acceptance speech is still pretty nerve-wracking.
"As much as you prepare, I guarantee you're going to walk up on stage, and it's going to leave your mind because you'll be so overwhelmed by the moment, which is beautiful. That's what it's all about, you know?" he explains. "And you speak from the heart, but as well, there's so many things going through your mind, and there's, like, 23 people waving their arms telling you stop talking, and there's a big teleprompter screen that's like, 'Time's up! Get off the stage!' And all of that stuff's being thrown at you.
"It's the most intimidating experience you can ever have." Hayes adds. "But, you know, it's still one of the most incredible experiences you have."
So, does Hayes have a speech prepared, just in case?
"Trust me, if you want to talk about being prepared, I am the first person that wants to be over-prepared, but at the same time, I'm also a guy that doesn't like to get expectations and hopes up and all that stuff," he says. "I just like to feel it and live in the moment, sort of."
The 2015 Grammy Awards will air live on Feb. 8 at 8 PM ET on CBS.
See a Childhood Photo of Hunter Hayes