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On the Road with Hunter Hayes as He Sets a Guinness World Record

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49th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - Show

By Annie Reuter

This weekend Radio.com spent 24 hours on the road with Hunter Hayes as he broke the Guinness World Record for playing the most concerts in multiple cities in one day. Radio.com’s Annie Reuter followed Hayes along his journey and was there at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, when he beat The Flaming Lips’ previous record of eight shows in 24 hours. Here’s her report from the road:

Last March, Hunter Hayes told me about his time opening for The Flaming Lips as they set the previous Guinness World Record for most concerts in 24 hours.

“I have to say, it was really impressive,” he said. “Four busses roll up and they have this 24-hour live TV show going on. They’re tracking the whole world-record-breaking process. The Guinness people were on hand with their notebooks. There were thousands of people that gathered around this little club for this little show and it was really cool.

“There was something about that that was really fascinating to me. That’s one day that I look back on with great interesting memories between the waking up early and the show. That was a fun, fun gig.”

Unbeknownst to me, Hayes was planning a record of his own. This year, he further explained how that experience sparked his own dreams of setting a new record.

“I definitely spent the entire trip home thinking about how we could maybe try it and attempt it and maybe even get a couple more shows in there. I remember looking on the map and texted my manager and said, ‘I think we could do maybe nine if not even 10.’ I thought it was nuts and apparently so did they but not nuts enough to not do it. We all decided it was a good idea and we’ve wanted to try it since.

“I feel like the road race has purpose now working with Child Hunger. It’s a chance for us to not only to tell people about this issue in talking during the road race. All the folks we’re going to see during that whole experience and [we're] also getting to set up places where you can donate meals and donate food. Anything you can do to help is always key to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Especially with something as big as this.”

On Friday, May 9, Hayes kicked off his own record-setting journey at 8:17 a.m. with his first performance on Good Morning America. He was supposed to take a helicopter to Boston for his second show at Paradise Rock Club an hour later, but the weather got in the way.

“Essentially, right before we left to get on our plane we were told that the airport where our plane was nothing was leaving or coming into our airport,” he told me before the 10th show of the tour in Philadelphia. “We had to figure out another airport and another plane to get to Boston.”

Just a little hiccup in what took months of planning, Hayes and his team found another plane and got to Boston in record time. Not to say they weren’t worried. Lucky for Hayes and his team, the remaining shows ran early.

“I was astonished at how far ahead we got so quick and everybody was efficient coming in and out of the venues,” Hayes said.

At breakfast that morning, right before the second gig in Boston, members of the press, the crew and label were given the run-down of the day. Four buses would go from city to city and it was crucial that each of the 75 people that were a part of his 24 Hour Road Race to End Child Hunger got back on the bus immediately following his last song. After the second concert we all got the gist of how important it was for timing and by show three the entourage of 75 people felt like a well-oiled machine.

Hayes powered through his 15-minute performance in each city, switching up the set each time since he knew his fans were following him from show to show. One mother and daughter drove to three of his 10 gigs during the day.

“It’s so much fun, he hasn’t slowed down one bit,” Debbie Murray said at the New London, Conn. Stop at Garde Arts Center. “I’m driving. We’re following the busses, which is so nerve-wracking but so much fun.”

While her daughter, Meredith, described it as being “a little stressful trying to get from venue to venue on time to beat him,” she was happy to support Hayes in the process, and see him three times in the same day.

Throughout each of his 10 shows, Hayes apologized profusely to be playing a shortened set.

“We’re here for another two-and-a-half hours normally,” he said. “We appreciate you guys making this all happen because we’re spreading awareness and helping our friends at Child Hunger Ends Here today. What you guys have already done to make that happen is beautiful.”

And truly, it was. The logistics of the 10 gigs are much more detailed than a typical tour. In fact, there are several rules Hayes must follow in order to achieve this specific Guinness World Record, as Guinness World Records Official Adjudicator Alex Angert explained.

“In terms of the concert, the most important part is that he has to play for a continuous 15 minutes,” Angert said. “At each show, we’ve been timing each concert and he has gone over the 15 minute mark. Other rules, for the venues, each city has to have a population of at least 15,000 people, at least half of the cities have to have a population of over 100,000 people. Each city has to be 31 miles from the last and each concert venue has to have a capacity of 300 people and tickets have to be sold to the general public and advertised.”

Angert went on to say that Hayes’ particular record is a logistical challenge, since he’d be traveling to six states and has to guarantee 300 people attend each show. It was no problem for Hayes though, as he packed each venue in every city, with many of the shows being sold out. Seven shows in, he still had an immense amount of energy and admitted he was only on coffee number two.

“My goal is to make sure that every minute that we are lucky enough to spend with you tonight, we want to make sure you have all the fun,” he said on stage at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, Conn. “This is our seventh show we’ve done today. As you can tell, we’re still having all the fun there is to have. Let’s sing this next one all together, shall we?”

Meanwhile, the media team was feeling the exhaustion seven shows in, many of us opting to take a nap in the bunks before the eighth show in South Orange, being awakened just as Hayes was about to go on the stage. I tried out all of the bunks and learned that for the least interrupted sleep from bumps on the road, the top bunk is the best. Also, using the bathroom is extremely awkward. But that’s for another time.

While Stamford had by far the loudest screams of the day, South Orange was a complete 180. A sit-down theater that felt like a middle school auditorium, the crowd was silent. Not to say they weren’t excited. When Hayes admitted he was only on his second cup of coffee one girl screamed, “I’ll get you another one if you need it!”

“I love this environment because I feel like I can just hang out and chat with you,” he said. “Technically speaking, this is the show that ties us up to the record and we haven’t fallen asleep or gotten completely delirious yet. A lot of you have been following us from show to show and that is absolutely epic.”

The next show at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, officially crowned Hayes as the new Guinness World Records holder for the most shows in 24 hours.

“What a legendary place we’re playing. Not only are you here and ready to rock, you’re ready to rock at 4 a.m. This is the kind of stuff that makes history,” he said at the start of his set.

During the second to last song of his set, “Invisible,” his road guy came out on stage with a fog horn to indicate Hayes officially beating The Flaming Lips’ previous record.

“Thank you so much for making this dream a reality. Here’s to making history,” he said before going right back into “Invisible.” Later, he explained to the media bus what he felt in that moment and that he told his crew to interrupt him the second he beat the record, no matter where he was in his set.

“I kind of got a vibe from them that we were really close before we started ‘Invisible,’” he admitted. “I was questionable whether I should start a song. As it turns out, I was just like, ‘Actually, this song is about this moment. This moment is about what’s in this song and they kind of go together.’ If it happens in the middle of the chorus, so what? It’s supposed to happen. It actually worked out great.

“It was bizarre because at that point, we had broken the record, officially technically speaking, but at the same time we’re not done. We had a lot more. We had this show [in Philadelphia] and we still had another song in the set list. It was weird to know we could technically call it, but no, keep going, keep rocking!”

Hayes played an extended set to a sold-out crowd at 7:30 a.m. at Philadelphia’s Trocadero. At the end of the set, Hayes was presented with his official Guinness World Records certificate before a stream of confetti hit the stage.

So how is Hayes going to celebrate? By sleeping. That, and eying yet another world record.

“Everyone goes to bed. Everyone gets some sleep,” he said. “I’ve had my eye on how we could break this if we wanted to.”

If he does, we’ll be along for the journey.

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