"I was just craving a place that felt calm, relaxing and healing," the singer tells PEOPLE of his decision to move away from Nashville and into the mountains

By Hannah Chubb
May 24, 2021 12:00 PM
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Hunter Hayes is still falling for his cabin-style home in the Santa Monica Mountains.  

The singer-songwriter, who shot to fame in 2011 with his self-titled album and songs like "Wanted" and "Storm Warning," recently took PEOPLE on an in-depth tour, above, of his Topanga Canyon, California, home — which also doubles as his recording studio!

"I was really lucky to have a place in Nashville that I worked in that I loved, but it was massive and it was kind of too big for me, if I'm being honest. And I decided to shift the way that I was living," the Louisiana-native explains of his decision to move away from Music City to somewhere a little more relaxed. 

"I decided to just take a trip out to California, and I really just wanted to work in an inspiring place," he continues. "We found this dope Airbnb, this gorgeous A-frame house, and I started looking for places in California where I could actually put a studio. And, then I found this incredible place."

Hunter Hayes Hollywood at Home
Credit: PeopleTV

The property, which he calls "LP Lodge, a.k.a. Little Pilot Lodge," sits high in the mountains, and has several small studios throughout where Hayes and his colleagues can make music — in fact, most of the (many!) instruments in the home are wired and mic'd up, so that they record instantly when they're being played. 

Hunter Hayes Hollywood at Home
Credit: PeopleTV

Showing off the stunning view of the mountains from one of the music rooms, his "drum room," Hayes says: "This was the room that really sold [the house] for me, because every time I came back to visit this place, I just felt at peace. I felt like I was being healed."

The star, who has been open about his mental health and vocal about destigmatizing conversations about it in the past few years, says the atmosphere of the home is as inspiring as it gets, which has been helpful for him in his creative process — especially amid the pandemic. His new album, Red Sky, is set to be released this fall.

Hunter Hayes Hollywood at Home
Credit: PeopleTV

"In the music industry, everything's very busy — in any industry everything's busy, but especially in our industry, it's kind of like nonstop all day," he says. "It's not really a nine-to-five thing, and so I was just craving a place that felt calm, relaxing and healing." 

He shares the home with his therapy dog, Cole, who Hayes jokes is his "roommate" and "the boss" of the house. "He's a retired racing Greyhound," Hayes says. "He's 11, but he's the youngest he's ever been, spiritually. They told me when I adopted him that racing greyhounds tend to get younger as they get older, that their puppy side comes out, and it has."

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To Hayes's delight, many of his friends and collaborators enjoy spending time at his house as well, so he's often got company over. 

"What I love about it is that we're not far from downtown Los Angeles ... all the places that I go for meetings or writing sessions and things like that, but not surprisingly a lot of people like to come here and work, which I love, because this is just so much more relaxing," he says. 

Hunter Hayes Hollywood at Home
Credit: PeopleTV

One of the main places where people spend time when they're over is in the sunroom, which Hayes converted into another studio of sorts. It's home to his multiple guitars — each of which he says are special for their own specific reason.

"It was so fun to imagine how I would use this sunroom," he says, demonstrating how it leads to a porch. "It used to be outdoors. It's now completely closed in, but we have access to the outside world, so that's one of the biggest blessings about spending time here is you can be indoors and outdoors most of the time, but I just love working in this space for obvious reasons."

Hunter Hayes Hollywood at Home
Credit: PeopleTV

Hayes used many items that are special to him to decorate the home, including keepsakes from throughout his career: a plaque from winning his Guinness World Record (for playing 10 shows in 24 hours in 10 different cities!); paintings from one of his favorite artists, Scott Hill, who has sketched out many of his album covers; and his People's Choice Award.

"The reason this is a big deal is because this was for a song called 'Wanted,' and 'Wanted' I didn't write for a hit. I wasn't looking for a single," he says of his People's Choice Award trophy.

"I wrote 'Wanted' as a letter to a girl that I was friend-zoned with at the time, and it didn't work, but I got my first number one out of it. So, I learned a lot about songwriting that day," he adds with a laugh.

Hunter Hayes
Credit: Robby Klein/Getty

Surrounded by all his favorite things — from mementos to the mountains — Hayes feels lucky to be inspired every day by the space he's in.

"I didn't want big, fancy places," he proclaims, looking around at his personal sanctuary. "I wanted this."