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"This year, I got into two or three different bands because their records, which were not on country radio stations, had elements of the things I loved. They had bluegrass instruments, they had cool organic grooves and things that I was so excited to hear," the 21-year-old musician tells The Boot. "Because of that, I've heard so many things going on musically that inspire me, that kinda come back into what I do. I take things and sounds from all these different records and then bring it back into what I'm comfortable doing and what ends up being my sound."
However, Hunter is quick to point out that he's not trying to emulate any particular band or cater to one genre or another; he just makes music he loves.
"I don't find myself trying to create something just like something else ... It's important for me to take those things and bring them into what I do, and bring it into my genre, merge all those sounds into one and help me create mine."
So who made Hunter's top playlist for the past year? "Train had a really cool record this year, the new one with Ashley Monroe that I really love ('Bruises'). Mutemath had a cool record with a bunch of really old school sounds, and Coldplay's record that came out last year had a lot of really cool acoustic elements that triggered some thoughts in my brain. There was one song that sounds like he had a dobro on it, and to hear that on their record kind of caught my ear!"
The Louisiana native is up for one of Grammy's most prestigious awards next month, the Best New Artist trophy. He'll compete with artists including fun. and The Lumineers in the all-genre category, and if he wins it, he'll definitely make tourmate Carrie Underwood proud. She took home the same trophy back in 2007. The Grammys will air on CBS, Feb 10 at 8:00 PM ET.