When Hunter Hayes kicked off his Tattoo Your Name Tour earlier this month, he was already thinking of ways to improve the show. As the high-energy performer told Rolling Stone Country during a visit to rehearsals in October, “It’s all about keeping it new, so that we don’t get comfortable with anything.”
A few weeks later, Hayes, who says he is brutally honest with himself after each show, has already made some tweaks. “The first night on this tour, I was really hard on myself,” he says. “I was like, ‘This is close, but this is not enough.’ We have to give them more than this.”
Exceptionally hands-on, Hayes met with every part of his production team, from lighting to his band, to explain his vision. “I gave every department their own set of notes. We can’t work on everything together, it’ll take too long. So I said, ‘I need you to work on this, I’ll work on this. As a band, let’s run through this. Tell production we’re changing this, this and this. Lighting, please help me with this,'” he says, breathlessly rattling off his to-do list. “We definitely made some changes and they all worked so much better.”
Despite his success so far and a rabid fan base that would show up to watch him drink a cup of coffee, Hayes refuses to let himself phone in a performance. “I firmly believe that if you’re lucky enough to step onstage in an arena and your name is on the sign, you owe the fans more than just a good set list and a couple of lighting cues,” he says. “They deserve months and months of planning. They deserve sleepless nights. They deserve you going to bed every night trying to figure out how to improve the tour.”
Unfortunately, Hayes was forced to cancel tonight’s show in St. Louis after Missouri governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in advance of a grand jury’s decision involving the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. The incident set off a wave of riots throughout Ferguson, Missouri. Hayes’ tour resumes tomorrow night in Chicago.