The Sunday Playlist: Hunter Hayes shares his top 10 tracks

Record producer and multi-instrumentalist Hunter Hayes shares his musical memories and favourite songs for the Gentleman’s Journal Sunday Playlist, in association with KEF

Hunter Hayes can play more than 30 musical instruments. Let that sink in — especially if you still struggle to strum your way through ‘Wonderwall’. He’s also been nominated for five Grammy awards, collaborated with Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz, and even counts Elton John as a fan. It’s fair to say, then, that Hunter Hayes — singer, songwriter and record producer extraordinaire — knows a little something about music.

So who better to soundtrack your Sunday? We turned to Hayes, who this week released his latest track, ‘If You Change Your Mind’, for his top ten tracks to enhance your weekend. But first, which musical moments have defined the artist over the years — and what role does music play in his everyday life?

When do you usually listen to music?, Recently, I’ve been listening to music as my late-night ritual to wind down. My mind loves to dissect music and it’s a great substitute for binging a show when falling asleep.

What was the last song you listened to?, ‘Takin’ It to the Streets’ by The Doobie Brothers. I’ve been attempting to learn their songs on keys lately. That’s one of my favourite hobbies, as weird as it may sound. I absolutely love learning new music and stretching my limits.

Spotify or vinyl?, That’s not fair! It’s like saying; “Do you like having a car that can take you all over the world — or do you prefer horse-back riding?”

There’s something incredibly therapeutic about horse-back riding, but I’ll never turn down the convenience of a chair strapped to a V8. The fact that we have almost all the music under the sun at our convenience, anywhere on earth, is mind-blowing. But there’s nothing more healing than a glass of whiskey and an album playing all the way through.

What was the last album you bought?, Everyday Life by Coldplay.

What is your favourite workout song?, I always go to my Mac Miller playlist, and start with ‘Dang’.

What do you play when you want to relax?, I go to either Punch Brothers or Goat Rodeo Sessions. I’m clearly a massive Chris Thile fan. I find everything he works on to be thought provoking and calming at the same time.

Which instrument (that you don’t play) do you wish you could play?, I really want to learn how to play strings — violin, cello etc. I’ve always been obsessed with orchestral parts in music. I would love to be able to arrange proper string sections in songs.

What’s your favourite lyric?, “When I’ve forgotten what’s inside and who I’m meant to be / I’m reminded what’s inside has not forgotten me,” from ‘Hello Beautiful’ by MercyMe.

Tell us about a time you had an amazing musical experience that made you ‘listen and believe’?, I am incredibly grateful to say that many moments come to mind. My first U2 concert, Coldplay live last year and a Punch Brothers concert in London where I sobbed my eyes out three times. But my absolute favourite music memories are the ones I got to participate in.

I’m going to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to Desmond Davis, Colton Parker, Johnathon Smith and Matt Cummings. I was looking for new players to tour with in a season where my former band-mates were all starting their families. A friend of mine, Hubert Payne, introduced me to a group of musicians known as The Network. I went to Matt’s garage to hear these guys and I got so emotional. Phenomenal musicians present and passionate about every note. Absolute magic.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received was getting to tour with them over the course of that entire year. Every single show was like musical therapy for me and I really hope we get back on the road together soon. I miss playing music with them.

Hunter Hayes’ Sunday Playlist

1 More Year by Tame Impala. Ironically, this album came out while I was staying in LA at the beginning of 2020 — and I’d listen to it every time I went to the beach in Malibu, dreaming of living here someday. One year later and I have a home just outside of Malibu, and I feel like a local.

Church by Coldplay. This song feels like what I see when I drive around the Santa Monica Mountains on the weekend. It feels like freedom.

Kyoto by Phoebe Bridgers. I fell in love with this track during quarantine and it takes me back to touring in Japan — which I miss, deeply.

Blue World by Mac Miller. We lost one of the most prolific songwriters of our time when we lost Mac. This song is like a celebration of his brilliance in authenticity and I’m just grateful for it.

Narcissist by No Rome ft. The 1975. I love The 1975 for so many reasons and, after listening to Notes on a Conditional Form on repeat for approximately seven months straight, this was a recent discovery that makes me feel like sunshine and happiness.

lmho by flor. I had the chance to work with these guys recently and I’m just obsessed with their sound and vibe.

Sunburn by Gordie Sampson. One of the best albums ever made. An all-time classic, with great writing and super cool production. I never get tired of this album and this song. This was a CD a friend of mine gave me while I was driving back and forth from Nashville to Louisiana, right after I’d moved to Nashville and began writing what would become my debut album.

I begged my publisher to help me get into the room with Gordie, and in our very first session together, we wrote my first single, ‘Storm Warning’ with Busbee. Ever since, he’s always felt like part of my creative family — and I still see him as an absolute genius and legend.

Another Animal by Ethan Gruska. I’m just such a huge fan of Ethan and his solo records. I absolutely love his musicality and creativity. I’ve had the privilege of working with Ethan and came to appreciate his work on an even deeper level knowing how musically brilliant he truly is.

New Light by John Mayer. This feels like a follow up to Mayer’s third album, Continuum. He blends pop and blues in such a fresh way.

Movement and Location by Punch Brothers. I’ve always loved this song and just how ‘open road’ it feels.

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