Hunter Hayes, who played every instrument on his debut album and co-produced its follow up, Storyline, can now add Music Director to his resume. The 22-year-old was the mastermind behind the gloriously stripped-down version of John Legend’s “All of Me,” featuring Legend and Jennifer Nettles on vocals and himself on guitar, at Wednesday’s CMT Music Awards.
“They asked me if I’d be interested in arranging a version of ‘All of Me’ for [Legend and Nettles],” Hayes tells Rolling Stone Country. “John was like, ‘I play piano a lot and I want to do something different.’ So I got on the phone with him and he was talking about acoustics and I said, ‘John, hear me out: What if we did a bluegrass version?’ And he was all about it. He said, ‘Man, try it. Let’s have fun with it.’
“Long story short, I took the band to my apartment,” continues the musician. “We literally got off the bus, ran to my apartment, grabbed a bunch of instruments and recorded it on an iPhone. I texted it to John and said, ‘How do you feel about it?’ And he loved it. He texted me back and said, ‘Let’s do it in the studio, too.'”
So, into the studio they went, with Hayes also producing the new version of the megahit song. In the exclusive behind-the-scenes video above, he gives us an inside look at the making of the track, taking us onto his tour bus for the initial musical brainstorming and then into the studio with Legend and Nettles.
The countrified version of “All of Me” will be available on iTunes starting June 6th, and Legend hints it may even be released to country radio.
“Hunter arranged the song so beautifully. I was so impressed with him,” says the R&B icon. “I think it’s so gorgeous and a new way to present the song that everyone’s heard a thousand times now.”
“I’m really excited about it because it speaks to my heart,” echoes Hayes. “I get to hear a song that I love in a version that has the sonic characteristics that I love. It was a great opportunity for me. I got to produce John Legend and Jennifer Nettles! Hopefully it’ll happen again. It was a brilliant experience.”