Hunter Hayes: Fan response 'fuels the fire' for 'Wanted' man

hunter-hayes-red-carpet-325.jpg Hunter Hayes couldn't be more pleased that so many music fans are making him feel so wanted.

A year after the young singer-composer was up for best new artist, he'll return to the Academy of Country Music Awards with six nominations -- propelled by his double-platinum crossover hit "Wanted" -- when CBS airs the 48th annual event Sunday, April 7. As he continues touring, both as an opening act for Carrie Underwood and as a headliner, Hayes is seeing the impact of that tune (which he co-wrote) and others from his self-named debut album.

"That's the best part," he tells Zap2it. "The first time I got to see the effect of 'Wanted,' it was even before it was a record. Somebody in the business heard it at a [performance] showcase, and -- and this was the only time I've done this -- we arranged to be at a wedding and play it for the couple's first dance. I saw it become a part of their soundtrack.

"The cool thing is hearing the stories from people after a show. Somebody came up to me and said she'd been in and out of the hospital all last year, and she'd had other challenges in her personal life, and she'd been listening to [my song] 'Faith to Fall Back On' sort of religiously. She said, 'That's been my theme song this year,' and I still get tears just telling the story. That just fuels the fire, and you go back in and keep writing."

Recently nominated for three Grammys, the 21-year-old Hayes was named new artist of the year at last fall's Country Music Association Awards. He admits that with his schedule, he hasn't had much time to watch how the ABC series "Nashville" portrays the world of country music, but he likes what he's seen.

"I saw the first couple of episodes and dug it," he says, "then saw a couple more pieces later on. I love telling the story of Nashville myself, from my own perspective. The city is made up of several industries, but one of the biggest obviously is music, Everybody goes there to fight for their dreams, and they're all trying to do what they love. It's a cool story."
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