Five-time GRAMMY nominated artist Hunter Hayes is diving into a new era of music with his new single “Missing You,” which brings fresh and familiar sounds to his vice for nostalgia.

Fans may know Hayes from his hit song “Wanted” or from his appearance as the Astronaut on Season 3 of FOX’s The Masked Singer, but now he’s evolving beyond his country roots and reality TV experience. “Missing You” is an introduction to a new era of music for Hayes, where he blends genres and isn’t confined or defined by labels.

Hayes chatted with Music Mayhem about the story behind the song, the adventures that inspired his forthcoming Red Sky album, and the unconventional ways he’s connecting with fans.

A serendipitous moment led to the writing session that birthed “Missing You.” Hayes was at a dinner when songwriter Kevin Griffin’s name came up in conversation throughout the evening, so Hayes was amused and surprised when he received a text from Griffin during the middle of that dinner. Griffin asked Hayes to join him for a writing session the next day with a writer he hadn’t written with in person before. Hayes told Griffin, “I’m gonna be honest with you. This sounds like a blast. And tomorrow I also have my first performance in front of people since lockdown. So I’m kind of a nervous wreck of energy, but it might be good to get some creative juices flowing and write a song. Here’s the time limit that we have. Can we work with it?” Griffin agreed and they met up with co-writer Dan Book at Hayes’ studio.

“We were trying to write this song,” recalled Hayes. “And I think it was based on tempo and vibe and the line right before the chorus, which we had still not figured out what it was gonna be, was ’I’m really missing you missing me.’ I had to sit with that for like five minutes, ‘cause it was my favorite line.”

That moment made him realize they could go down a different path. “It was a scary thing to say to the room like, Hey guys, I think we’re writing the wrong song. And I think after an hour and a half of working really, really hard, we need to undo everything we’ve done and start over. But we did. And it worked because within 45 minutes we had this song written.”

He added, “It kind of started with a conversation about nostalgia and just how it can feel very nice and familiar, but it can also be a vice after a while and it reexamined my relationship with nostalgia.”


“What I loved about ‘Missing You’ is that it has elements of familiarity,” shared Hayes. “It has familiar sounds and familiar techniques and familiar ideas, musically production wise, but there are also some fresh things that I’m doing for the first time on ‘Missing You.’ And it’s kind of just a soft introduction to some of the other things that people will hear on the album and lyrically.”

Hayes described the transition from his last album, Wild Blue, to his forthcoming album, Red Sky, set to be released in 2023. “Wild Blue is the optimistic dreamer, looking out of a window and dreaming about adventure and Red Sky was very much the actual adventure.” He added, “It has been my diary, my journal alongside a very adventurous part of my life.”

Like many people, Hayes was forced to be introspective during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It definitely sent me on a personal mental health journey,” he shared. It also sent him on a physical journey. Without a touring schedule to confine when and where he could record music, he set out on an epic road trip to California.

That was the start of the adventures that inspired Red Sky. “I got to drive a car on the salt flats of Bonneville, which is something I’d always wanted to do. We finally got to see what Joshua tree’s all about and what the hype is around that.” He added, “I think the road trip was a nice reset because it really got rid of any form of old habits.”

The journey of self-discovery helped Hayes change his approach to music. “Just thinking less and feeling more, I think is the biggest thing I’ve learned. I am a big feeler,” said Hayes. “I just started giving myself permission that if I was gonna be that emotional and honest in my lyrics, then the music and the production had to also represent those emotions.”

Hayes hinted at surprises on Red Sky, but wants fans to discover them as music is released. “I want them to hear every song as it comes out and understand, oh, this has been in his heart and his soul… and these sounds, these production things have been in my world for a long time.” He added, “We’ve weeded out the stuff that doesn’t feel authentic.”

He attributes that authenticity to the journey he’s been on for the past two years. “The biggest adventure has been figuring myself out and learning myself and applying that to how I make music, how we market the music, how I talk about it and, and what I wanna do with it moving forward,” said Hayes.

One of the ways he’s applied those lessons learned is in how he connects with fans. “I really miss touring,” shared Hayes. “I really miss so many elements of it, but the most important part is human connection.”

After exploring several virtual options, Hayes decided to start co-hosting a weekly live radio show on the app Amp. “It kind of gave me a really fun opportunity to start putting Easter eggs out and talking about things that are happening without being so obvious.” Hayes shares hosting duties with Val Sizemore, a longtime friend and part of his management team. The pair play songs, share commentary, and engage with listeners throughout each themed show. “If [fans] really wanna dive in and dissect things that are said or things that we talk about, they’re getting this very subconscious documentary footage of what’s happening during the record making process and the conversations that are happening.”

Hayes revealed that he will be touring again soon. “I get to play shows this year. I get to see the fans again.” He added, “I’m also figuring out what the show is going to look like once the album is out. And I am really excited for more music to come out before we get to tour again so that the tour can feel like the album.”

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Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Nicole has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.

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