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Country heartthrob Hunter Hayes an old pro at 23

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Multi-award-winning Hunter Hayes, who opens for Lady Antebellum, has been writing songs since he was little kid. COURTESY RAY BURMISTON

Breaux Bridge, La.-bred country prodigy Hunter Hayes is doing his best to stay humble these days. His two albums – 2011’s “Hunter Hayes” and last year’s “Storyline” – accumulated not only Grammy nominations, but a mantle full of BMI, Teen Choice and Country Music Association Awards. But things are starting to get surreal, he admits. Some of his fans, dubbed Hayniacs, adore him so much, they get tattoos of his HH logo, and even their favorite song lyrics he inscribes on them. “Have you ever tried to write long passages on someone’s arm, while they’re shaking? It isn’t easy,” he says.

By all accounts, you had a rather unusual childhood. Raised in a Cajun-descended household, speaking English and French?
I suppose – it depends who you ask. If you ask me, it was normal. But that’s just because packing up and going to gigs was completely normal for me. And yes, my dad spoke fluent French, and all my grandparents, as well. So I learned a bit of it, I tried. But I’m not very quick on new languages. It’s not my thing.

Did you career start when your grandmother gave you an accordion?

Yeah. For my second birthday. My family loved to listen to music. And I was already picking up things around the house and making instruments out of them. So I was given that accordion because I loved making noise, and I was really passionate about it. And I remember watching my favorite artists, like Garth Brooks, on TV, and I just wanted to do that — to get up onstage and play a big show, in front of a ton of people.

How did other schoolkids view you?
Everybody else had their sports. But music was my thing. So weekdays, I’d rehearse with the band I was playing with at the time, and on the weekends we’d get out and just go play. It was what I looked forward to, all week. I was 6 or 7 when I started really fronting the band, and I think that’s why I love playing long shows outside – because what I played back then were outdoor shows, all fairs and festivals.

And you began penning originals pretty early, too, right?

When I was 6, I wrote my first song. It was called “Six Years Old,” actually – how original was that? And I didn’t even know what I was saying – I just fell in love with making up stuff. Then songwriting became a very powerful, therapeutic tool, something that gave me comfort in high school. It was my journal, an outlet, a form of expression. And it’s become even more so, as I grow and age. Uhh, at 23!

IF YOU GO
Hunter Hayes
opening for Lady Antebellum
Where: Shoreline Amhitheatre, 1 Amhitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7 p.m. June 26
Tickets: $30.75 to $60.50
Contact: (650) 967-3000, www.livenation.com

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