Bryan Hayes, a country music artist out of Memphis, is rolling into College Station on December 5 at the Sweet T Vintage Market at 1pm. Maroon Weekly got to talk with Bryan about his music, his military service, and his latest album. Come and check out his new album, “Farther Down the Line.”
MW: What got you interested in music?
BH: I’d always been a fan growing up, and in high school, I was really into Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. I started playing in college. I had a next-door neighbor who was a golfer at the University of Memphis. He was from Dallas and he introduced me to Guy Clark, Towns Vansandt, and Robert Earl Keen. As soon as I heard those guys, I went home and borrowed my dad’s acoustic and started learning some chords. Before too long I was playing badly out in some bars around Memphis, but as soon as I learned a few chords I started writing my own stuff.
MW: Why put aside your musical career to enlist in the National Guard?
BH: My wife and I are very strong in our faith and we felt like it was what we were being called to do. We felt a sense of being called to serve. I had actually looked at joining the military shortly after September 11, 2001. I have some metal in my leg, and the military was not interested in that at the time, and so I didn’t think anything else about it. But after several years of war on two fronts, they contacted me and asked if I would still be interested. By that time, I was 35 years old and not in the best of shape. I spent many late nights playing music, drinking beer, and eating Taco Bell. We still felt a calling, took a lot of time to talk and pray about it. We spent close to a year making that decision because we knew it would completely change our lives. After a year of getting back in shape, we still felt it was where God was leading us. We enlisted, went through basic training, I came home from that, spent a year in OCS, came home for a few weeks, spent 7 months down in Fort Benning, Georgia going through infantry school, came home for about a week, and then I spent about seven months in Iraq.
MW: What were some points of inspiration behind Farther Down the Line?
BH: There are about five or six songs that were written in full or in part while I was in Iraq, and that was definitely a life-changing experience. There was no shortage of inspiration. That first year I was back, I really didn’t play or tour that much. It was just me enjoying being home and I didn’t venture too far from the house that year. A reoccurring theme on the album is family, friends, being home, and small town West Tennessee. Those definitely permeated into the album.
MW: Who are some of your country music idols?
BH: I love most 70’s song writers, not so much outlaw, but really those 70’s guys. I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, those guys. Petty and Springsteen and Dillon, of course, those classic American songwriters. Big fans of those. Texas singer-songwriters, like Guy Clark and John Prine, a lot of those guys really affect my lyric writing. I love the way they go about it. On the music side, I’m a cross between maybe that Texas songwriter and that Tom Petty feel.
MW: What’s your favorite song on the album?
BH: That’s like having to choose your favorite kid! I think it depends on the audience that night. If it’s a big full band show, one that’s really electric, I look forward to “I Want to Run” the most. But if it’s more of a stripped down acoustic show, it’s either “The Other Side” or “Everything Will Be Okay” but the audience kind of determines what my favorite song of the night is.
MW: Why did you decide to come through College Station?
BH: Texas has become a second home for us—the music scene is amazing. We’ve played more shows in Texas than in Tennessee this year. We’re always trying to branch out. We know that the music scene is great and there has been no shortage of talent out of the Bryan/College Station area.
MW: Who have you opened for/where have you played?
BH: The big names that we’ve opened for behind the new record are James McMurtry, the Turnpike Troubadours, Billy Joe Shaver, and we also got to open for Randy Houser. Those are the biggest names we’ve opened for. Some of the coolest places we’ve gotten o play are at Grenada Hall, Gruene Hall, and we got to play GM Street Warehouse in San Marcos, and that was incredible because Kent Henry is such a songwriting legend in Texas. With the new record, we’ve gotten to go from coast to coast—we’ve done all the way from California and back and New York and back. We’ve added 15 or 16 new states to our tour. Whether it was a small coffee house or a big hall, it was a real privilege for us to do that.
MW: Any final thoughts?
BH: We do a Wounded Warrior project and we donate all the digital sales for our single “I Wanna Run” to Wounded Warrior. We also do, from time to time, a concert or fitness event for our Wounded Warriors. If it has to do with our military or our veterans, we want to hear about it and help.