Country People Exclusive

Hunter Hayes on His New Song: 'This Is the Year to Be Brave'

08/06/2015 AT 08:00 AM EDT

For Hunter Hayes, his new song is as much about stepping out of his comfort zone as it is about celebrating life.

The tune – called "21" – is a first for Hayes; it's the first single he's put out that he didn't write. "This is the year to be brave and I wanted to step out and try something new," Hayes tells PEOPLE. "Everything about the song seemed fascinating to me and it also seemed like a great fit for the summer shows."

And even though Hayes, 23, says the song is "not specifically about a birthday or an age," but more of a "getaway that we all need once in a while," it did evoke memories of his own 21st birthday – which was not as quite as cut loose as the lyrics in the song.

"I was in New Orleans for my first headline theater show on Friday," recalls Hayes. "My birthday was Sunday and I was invited to sing the National Anthem for the Saints game on Sunday morning, so I had dinner with my family on Saturday evening, went out to do the 'midnight celebration' thing with a few friends and team members, had one glass of wine and I turned in early to be ready for the national anthem the next day."



It seems a laid-back gathering is actually the perfect kind of party for the singer. Asked how he does cut loose, Hayes replies: "I love just chillin' out and catching up with family and friends. Good quality chill time is so good for the soul."

Check out Hayes' exclusive Live From the Blackbird performance of "21" above, and see the full episode on the Country Now channel on YouTube.

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