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By Courtney E. Smith

Between Jay and Bey’s on-stage honeymoon and the Mackledonna marriage, rising country star Hunter Hayes had a big GRAMMY moment tonight. Nominated this year for Best Country Song, Hayes got to do something very few artists have ever done: debut a brand new song on the telecast. The performance of “Invisible,” a new piano ballad off his forthcoming second album, was accompanied by visuals of quotes of affirmation from the likes of  John Lennon, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga.

Related: Radio.com’s Complete GRAMMYs Coverage

Radio.com sat down with Hayes in L.A. at the GRAMMY Museum during GRAMMY weekend to discuss the song’s touching inspiration and how he came to debut it in such a prestigious setting.

“‘Invisible’ is a totally new concept for me,” Hayes explained. “I always write about something pretty personal, [but] this sets a new standard for me. I didn’t go in to write this song necessarily, I went in to write something else. [Songwriters] Bonnie Baker, Katrina Elam and I ended up writing about how we all, in different ways, can relate to the message of being an outcast, being misunderstood, being… essentially bullied. I say that very carefully because I know there’s a lot of people who go through that on a much larger scale. In whatever way I can relate to it, the song is about that. It’s about disappearing among the crowd, not having a place to fit in, being different you know? Being a music geek in high school, middle school, [and] now, I’ve just now gotten comfortable with the fact that I can call myself a geek and be proud of it.”

Related: Hunter Hayes to Debut New Song ‘Invisible’ During GRAMMY Awards

On a GRAMMY night heavy with messages of acceptance — including Kacey Musgrave’s performance of pro-LGBT single “Follow Your Arrow” and the marriage equality performance of “Same Love” from Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Madonna and Queen Latifah – ”Invisible” sits nicely into a theme the GRAMMYs support: social change achieved through music.

“The GRAMMYs actually heard the song and they stepped up right beside me, saying, ‘Hey, we hear you. We get it. We’re with you — we are right here with you on this message. And we’d love for you to introduce that on our stage,’” Hayes said.

The single is a preview of his next album, but Hayes says he’s still tinkering with those recordings and will take about another month and a half to finish. But he is already ready to take the songs out for a test drive.

“I am so ready to get back on the road. I’m not ready to get out of the studio but I’m ready to get back on the road — which I know makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but welcome to my life.” Hayes laughs. “It’s time to take this music and play it. Play it and introduce it and put on a new show. I’ve got so many ideas I’ve been sitting on and waiting to do for whatever comes next, for this next chapter. It’s time to build that stage, time to play this music.”

Tonight Hayes announced he will head out on tour starting March 20 for the We’re Not InvisibleTour, with special guests Danielle Bradbery from and new country duo Dan + Shay, presented in part by Child Hunger Ends Here. (Full itinerary below; on-sales start February 1.)

Related: Behind the Song: Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy”

“The road and stage and everything that comes along with it is where my heart is,” Hayes said. “That moment when all the stuff you’ve been working on in a vacuum in the studio, where nobody’s heard it for two months, all of the sudden the fans are digging it or they’re singing along to it or they’re talking about it? That’s what it’s all about. That’s when it really makes sense.”

Hunter Hayes’ We’re Not Invisible Tour Dates:
March 20 Pikeville, KY
March 21 Huntington, WV
March 22 Youngstown, OH
March 27 Peoria, IL
March 28 Toledo, OH
April 10 Memphis, TN
April 11 Cape Girardeau, MO
April 12 Springfield, MO
April 17 Huntsville, AL
April 18 Roanoke, VA
April 19 Asheville, NC
April 23 Colorado Springs, CO
April 24 Salt Lake City, UT
May 1 Bangor, ME
May 2 Boston, MA
May 3 Uncasville, CT
May 29 Augusta, GA
May 30 Pensacola, FL
May 31 Estero, FL


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