Hunter Hayes Gets Candid About Personal Struggles While Discussing Mental Health (Exclusive)

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Hunter Hayes is opening up about why being an official ambassador for One Mind, the leading brain health nonprofit organization, is so important to him.

As One Mind's first Champion, he will share his own lived experiences around mental health to reduce stigma, raise awareness and empower others to share their own stories. The 29-year-old country singer spoke with ET's Cassie DiLaura and said that much like others during the coronavirus pandemic, he had to take a closer look at his mental health over the past year.

"I've heard it from a lot of different walks of life, a lot of different stories, and a lot of different sort of histories, and definitely felt it myself," he says. "I mean, I know for me what the past sort of year was, not just exclusively because of the pandemic, but also just because of big life changes. And, I think it invited me to share more of my story, share more of the things I worked through. And it also felt safe, because I think before, I may have been a little hesitant to share as much of my story as I do now. Because you're always worried -- I was always worried that -- I didn't want people to have a negative attachment to the conversation about mental health."
 
"The conversation can go in a lot of different directions, but there's a lot of positive, there's a lot of good things to learn, there's a lot of greatness that comes from learning truths about yourself, and truths about the world around you," he continues. "And, I just thought, I was really, really passionate about being a part of these conversations ... and opening up the floor, destigmatizing the whole conversation."

Hayes says his personal struggles have had to do with putting limits on himself.

"My personal journey has been a lot about understanding my own truths, and things that I've been made to believe or allowed myself to believe about myself, which is funny, limiting very limiting beliefs," he says. "And it's amazing what's happened when I've just sort of, had just enough insight, just enough courage, just enough strength to push past that first boundary, I realized that there are no more boundaries, really, that one's going to keep in my head. Those limiting beliefs have been something I've really had to work through and work on. But then, I've realized that they're just beliefs, they're not true."

When looking at his own career, Hayes says his biggest regrets have occurred when he didn't listen to his own instincts.

"My biggest challenges, the things I regret the most, are the times that I wasn't true to my own instincts or my gut, and what I felt like was the right thing to do," he says. "Because, I'm doing this because I love it, I'm doing this because I thoroughly enjoy what I do, I'm not just doing this as a job. And, I think I owe it to a lot of people, most importantly myself, to trust my gut and my true north. And I think the only times that I've really struggled is when I listen to someone else to figure out where my true north should be, versus where it actually is."

As for his new music, Hayes says it's very personal.

"I love how much of a story it tells," he says. "I love how it's organized, because it has chapters that are very identifiable, and very, 'Oh, I see, I see what's going on.' Musically, I love how much of the things that I love are in this record. ... I do believe every song has a personality and has a story to tell, it needs to be a different scene. And you have to pay tribute to what the song needs and what the song wants. So, this album is just full of the storytelling elements, and full of new scenery for me."

"I like how long it's taken me to work on this album, because I got to get through a lot of things I thought I would really love and really wanted to do," he adds. "And then I did it, and I heard it back, and it didn't feel genuine, it was very forced. And I'm very grateful that I got through that. I'm very grateful that I did all those things, and that there are so many songs that I sort of, like, shoved out the door for the album. Because it got me to this sort of list of things that I'm literally looking out on this side of the screen that I feel really, really steady about these parts of the story, the way that we're telling it. And musically, just with the studio space we're exploring now, is really fun. I'm excited for the world to hear it."

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