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There’s no denying that 2013 was the Year of Hunter. The 22-year-old country music artist racked up three Grammy nominations (and another in 2014 for “Let’s Be Crazy”), headlined a major CMT tour, collaborated with several of his idols like Stevie Wonder, and was named a CMT Artist of the Year. He also re-released his self-titled debut record, Hunter Hayes (Encore), in June with new tracks, and the result was a platinum-selling album and his third No. 1 single. We sat down with Hunter to chat about his life in music and his Nashville favorites!
I’m the guy you want to ask about burgers, trust me, and there are a few good places in Nashville. There’s Whiskey Kitchen’s burger—it’s one of my go-tos—but I love, love the burger at The Southern. That thing is intense! And the service at The Southern, they have been so good and consistently welcoming ever time I’ve gone.
I love going to Hillsboro Village. It’s got all kinds of cool food and coffee, like Jackson’s.
I got my first place last year, so I’ve been going to GasLamp, Too and finding a bunch of cool things there. I also end up in Green Hills more than I care to admit.
Best hot chicken:
You could probably interview 20 of my friends and ask them what my favorite dish is, and they’d all tell you one thing: the Whiskey Kitchen hot chicken. They might as well have a booth with my name on it. I can call and give them my order, and they know who it is.
Favorite live music venue:
The Ryman, undoubtedly.
Favorite underground spot:
I’ve seen some cool stuff at the Listening Room, and a lot of cool shows happen at the Basement—history is made there.
What’s the most touristy thing you’ve done in Nashville?
We made quite a few trips to Nashville to check out Fan Fair (now CMA Music Festival) when we were still living in Louisiana, and we always went to Jack’s Bar-B-Que. Even now when I go downtown, I feel guilty if I don’t stop in Jack’s. That was our tradition: We did not come to Nashville and not go to Jack’s for at least one meal.
What’s one thing you’ve still yet to do in Nashville?
I still haven’t been to the Parthenon. I need to work on that. I really want to go to the whole Hall of Fame. I’ve been there a lot and we’ve gotten to do a lot of really cool things with them, but I’ve never toured the whole thing. There are a lot of restaurants I haven’t been to, as well: I’m a big Italian fan so I’d love to check out some of the newer Italian places in town, like Rolf and Daughters. And I still haven’t been to Husk.
Favorite date spot:
I’m kind of spoiled. I’ve been to The Palm a couple times with all my music biz friends, and they are on it with their name-remembering skills. It’s remarkable how well they remember me considering how little as I’ve been there. If I’m going to go on a date, I want to go somewhere where it looks like I’ve been there a lot, and it looks cool when you go to The Palm and everyone knows your name. Every once and awhile I’ll splurge and go there.
Fondest Nashville memory:
I love how many people I run into on a daily basis. Just the other day, I ran into one of the guys from the Zac Brown Band in my apartment complex and have run into half a dozen throughout the year. I would only dreamed of running into these people living in another city. And it’s Nashville it’s just like, “oh hey, what’s up?” “Oh I just came to get coffee at the grocery story. What are you doing?” “Oh, I’m out of water.” I just love how music is reality here. You live in another city and you just dream about making music. Being here, it’s just unreal to know you’re among it.
Craziest thing that’s happened to you since becoming famous:
Anything that has to do with this record and this past year. You’ve put out your first record, then comes the time where you prepare for your second record, amongst what’s happening with your first record good or bad, and you prepare for the stress and the pressure of it all. But I’m so relaxed going into this record, surprisingly so considering how intense and paranoid I can be about some things. I put more pressure on myself than anyone could put on me. But the fun thing about all of this is that it just keeps getting more fun as we go along, as we get to the next thing. It keeps getting sweeter and sweeter.