Hunter Hayes Reflects on Ronnie Milsap’s Influence
Hunter Hayes may not have been born until 1991, but one of his biggest inspirations is a country star from the '70s and '80s.
Ronnie Milsap's heyday was before Hayes' time: His last Top 5 hit, 'Turn That Radio On,' hit the charts the year of Hayes' birth. But the two joined together last fall at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium for a duet (see video below), and Hayes also played during Milsap's recent induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"It's nerve-racking to cover anybody's songs, but it's funny how much I enjoy singing Ronnie Milsap's songs," Hayes tells Rolling Stone. "I think that's because I spent years of my life literally trying to sound like him. I started with ['40 #1 Hits']. I had that on repeat for a couple of years. I learned everything in the catalog and then started learning stuff outside of that collection."
Hayes says he is particularly inspired by Milsap's ability to create crossover hits like 'There's No Getting Over Me' and 'I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World.'
"The range of an artist like Mr. Ronnie is just astonishing and a great sort of lesson for somebody like me who's trying to find my own sound," he says. "Take everything you listen to and find a place for it in your music. Let it change, let it evolve. Let it be different from one record to the next. He is a shining example of how to continue to find new things and the way you can present things. It's just amazing to listen to his records."
Watch Hunter Hayes and Ronnie Milsap Perform 'Stranger in My House':