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Hunter Hayes relishes growing spotlight in the big time

Wade Payne/Invision/AP - Hunter Hayes performs at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Wade Payne/Associated Press
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Wade Payne/Invision/AP</em></div>Hunter Hayes performs at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Wade Payne/Associated Press
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP - Hunter Hayes arrives at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Chris Pizzello/Associated Press
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP</em></div>Hunter Hayes arrives at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.  Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
 

Hunter Hayes, at the tender age of 21, is just getting started — but after a No. 1 hit and opening performances in major arenas, he's savoring holding on to the big time.

Hayes, the singer and songwriter who is opening for Carrie Underwood on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center, released in October 2011 his self-titled debut album, which includes the Top 20 hit “Storm Warning” and the romantic No. 1 hit “Wanted.” Since then, he has toured with major acts Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, and now Underwood. Hayes, who won the Country Music Association new artist of the year award earlier this month, has headlined some shows in smaller venues, where he says he enjoys the intimacy, but those big arenas are addicting.

“It's nuts,” says the native of Lafayette, La. “It feels great. It makes me anxious to headline arenas. You get bit by the bug, once you play in an arena.

“It's an exciting thing,” Hayes says. He moved to Nashville four years ago. “There's an energy in an arena that you don't get anywhere else. ... I live for the performance, and I live for the show. To get on the stage and to do a show in an arena is ... the grandest of the grand.”

The experience of performing in front of a sea of faces is just surreal, and the volume of people gives performers energy, Hayes says.

“It's almost like you're watching it through a screen or someone else's viewfinder, if you will,” he says. “The more people that I can feel that are in a room, the better it feels for me to actually perform.”

Though Hayes is not officially putting together a sophomore album now, he is thinking about his next project and writing songs. Another single also may come from his current album.

“This year has been an amazing year for me,” Hayes says. “I want to give a huge thank-you to fans.

“It's amazing to hear someone say, ‘Well, you're just getting started.' It's a crazy thing to think it's this good already.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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