By the time Hunter Hayes was 12 years old in 2003, the musical prodigy had already performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton and appeared in three feature films: The Apostle, Charlie’s War and My Dog Skip. The Louisiana native, who also made several TV appearances singing and playing accordion — including a memorable one alongside Hank Williams Jr. — had also released a series of independent albums in his home state.
In 2003, the pint-sized adolescent emphasized his Cajun roots on a Christmas LP titled Holidays With Hunter. In addition to traditional songs (“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and a rip-roaring instrumental medley of “Joy to the World” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”), the album’s original tunes included “Louisiana Christmas Day,” “Baby Jesus Is Born” (which had previously been recorded by Garth Brooks) and a soul-stirring ballad called “More Than a Child,” penned by contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Larry Holder.
Holder was inspired to write the song after hearing the 1986 Ricky Skaggs-James Taylor duet “New Star Shining” and explains on his website that he later wrote a flute part for it so his daughter could accompany him during a Christmas program at his church. The website also quotes Hayes saying, “It is SUCH a great song! It has a strong lyric that says so much from the point of view of a thankful believer acknowledging the humility yet awe of the savior he/she serves.”
Along with his recorded version of the song, Hayes performed it during the annual Festival de Noel in Lafayette, Louisiana, on December 14, 2008. At 16, he was taller and his voice had deepened. Having been a live performer for more than a decade at the time, the teenager displayed the confidence that would eventually carry him toward his major-label debut in 2011 – just three years later. And although he had mastered dozens of instruments by that time, the only one he’s using for this performance is his voice.
The Holidays With Hunter album closes with the 12-year-old’s heartfelt spoken reflections on the meaning of the season. “I believe the holidays are a special time for everyone, no matter what the holidays mean to you religiously,” he says, sounding wise beyond his years. The “Invisible” singer concludes the message saying, “One word or work of kindness can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. I don’t have the answers to all the problems but I do pray that God will help me to be a better person every day and hopefully one day make a difference in someone’s life.”
One more indie LP followed Holidays With Hunter. To date, he has released three albums for Warner Bros., including 2015’s The 21 Project.