By Brian Ives
The release features seven songs, each with an acoustic version, a studio version and a live version. Radio.com caught up with Hayes to discuss for the project, about being 21, and his greyhound Cole.
Tell me about why you decided to put out The 21 Project the way you did – showing each song a studio version, acoustic version and live version.
Well, I really wanted to do something fun with some of the songs from this summer, and since they weren’t really created or released as part of a full on record, I felt like they needed to kind of have their own moment or their own chapter of sorts. But since it was only 7 songs we decided on I wanted to give the fans more than that, so I thought it would be cool to finally put out a project with a live portion and an acoustic portion, especially seeing as how the fans have all seen how the band and I always love doing the weird acoustic versions of things. It was such a blast to put together and I can’t wait to get the fans take on how it came out.
How do you classify this in your discography – is it an album, is it an EP — or do such terms even matter anymore in 2015?
Well you make a great point. Number one, it’s really neither a record or an EP which is exactly why I wanted to do it this way because number two, I couldn’t agree with you more that there are so many more options in with how we release music now and that really energizes me and makes me wonder what could be next.
Tell me about writing the song “21.” What was great about being 21-years-old?
Well, for me personally, that was the year that I really began headlining tours and seriously touring with our own show and I got to build a ton of different style shows and write a ton about life and everything along with it. Got my first place I think that year as well! It’s funny how just a year and a number sort of feels like you’re staring at the next big part of your life.
Talk about the writing/recording process for “Where It All Begins” with Lady Antebellum.
Right before we announced the tour we found a day in our schedules where all four of us could get together and create something. We worked on a few ideas and nothing was really resonating with us yet. So Dave [Haywood] had this musical thing he pulled up on his computer and Charles [Kelley] started kinda just singing random stuff and I swear I heard him say “Where it begins” or something like that, but I’m not sure. Nonetheless we started talking about the concept of looking at a moment of challenges as the beginning of a story rather than the middle or the end. Looking at a tough time as a chance to start over in a way and rise above. I think we all had our own versions of that message that we each felt strongly about but that was my perspective and it was so much fun to write something that was so personal and positive.
Have you starting to think about your next album? What are your plans for 2016?
Absolutely. Already working on the next record. Stoked about the sound of it. Don’t know how to describe it quite yet but I’m so inspired and I have so many songs written for it already. Next year will be a whole lotta fun!
Finally, as a guy who has rescued greyhounds, thanks for rescuing one yourself! Why did you choose a greyhound to be your “bus dog?”
That’s awesome that you’ve got a few as well. Well I just wanted a dog as we’ve had quite a few in our family growing up so when I got my own place [I wanted one]. After a lot of research, I really felt compelled to adopt a greyhound for a lot of reasons. I didn’t really intend for him or her to be a full time bus dog but I knew that with the amount of traveling we do it would have to be considered and everything I know about greyhounds leads me to believe it would be a good fit as they’re so chill and so kind. So I met Cole a few times before adopting him, welcomed him into our crazy world and it was one of the best decisions I feel I’ve ever made.