Hunter Hayes continues to expand his musical repertoire, transforming familiar pop and R&B hits by giving them a cool, country-flavored spin. His latest is an unplugged take on “Mirrors,” a ballad that was a worldwide hit for superstar Justin Timberlake in 2013. In a video for the Hear and Now series on YouTube channel CountryNow, Hayes and his backing musicians do what the singer-guitarist calls “a very acoustic version of a not-so-acoustic song.”
With the idea of tackling an acoustic, full-band version of an unexpected cover song for the video series, Hayes strips away the multiple layers of the original Timberlake production. His performance instead focuses on a passionately delivered vocal laced with touches of R&B in his voice. Yet, because of the simple acoustic arrangement, he actually had another musical genre in mind when working up this version.
“This song stood so strongly as a lyric and melody that it could be re-arranged any way possible and still be so strong as a message,” Hayes tells Rolling Stone Country. “I thought it would be cool to transform it into a bluegrass record. . . of sorts. I love rearranging things into acoustic songs. I’ve spoken a million times on my obsession with bluegrass instrumentation and my dream to explore what we can do with these sounds in a modern soundscape. I love dreaming about what you can do with that beautiful, familiar sound to create something new and radical that still feels like home.”
A self-professed “huge JT fan,” the Louisiana-born Hayes says his fellow Southerner Timberlake put on one of his favorite shows he’s seen in the past several years. Born in Memphis, Timberlake, who was joined by Garth Brooks during a Nashville tour stop last year, recently bought a home in Music City and has expressed interest in making a country record. As for which of his own tunes he’d love to hear the former Mouseketeer cover, Hayes says, “Well, it’ll never happen but if I could beg him to sing one of my songs it would be ‘Still Fallin.’ His voice on that song would be so incredible.
“Did I just accidentally pitch a song to JT?” Hayes quips.
Hayes’ performance of “Mirrors” was captured at Nashville’s prestigious Blackbird Studios, where previous Hear & Now videos for the Country Now channel have been filmed, including segments featuring the John Butler Trio, LoCash and more. The clip was produced by Stokes Nielson from alt-country band the Lost Trailers.