Back at the start of September’s Country Music Week in London which kicked off with the Introducing Nashville show at Cadogan Hall we caught up with Walker Hayes before the show who is someone that is becoming a regular visitor to these shores and quickly rising to be a firm favourite amongst the UK audiences. The acoustic showcase also featured Danielle Bradbery, Rachel Wammack and Travis Denning also provided fans in the United Kingdom with next years C2C; Country 2 Country lineup announcement. London was the final show of this in the round storytelling show which also included stops in Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle.
Walker Hayes on what he has been up to in the 2 years since the release of his sophomore record ‘Boom’:
Just raising my kids, being a dad and being a husband. We’ve had incredible success with tours in the US, spring and fall then we finished up fair and festival season. I do these projects called 8Tracks where basically I just produce them and beat box on them and stuff so there’s a new one coming out in December and I’ve been compiling stuff for that.
Walker Hayes on current single ‘Don’t Let Her’:
That chorus, I wrote that in Glasgow! I was 2 weeks in on a tour with Old Dominion and I was missing Laney desperately. I was thinking about her quirks, her nuances and just the details about Laney that I have fallen in love with for so many years then I began to list them. It took the shape of I wasn’t talking to her, I was speaking to someone else and I was thinking what if I wrote a song for if something happened to me for that person that would be so fortunate to have love with Laney. That’s what it ended up being, then I finished it in the States with Shane (McAnally) and Andrew (DeRoberts) but honestly I had no idea it was going to be a single because it’s so specific. I was like can everybody relate to this but it really inspired an emotion amongst my team.
and how people listening understand songs more that are so specific to the writer or performer:
That’s the magic, what I tell any aspiring writers or artists. Someone told me a while back that specific is relatable! So when you say the colour of your car or you say the sock that you had on or the hat and stuff, people envision it and somehow they attach their life to that artefact.
Walker Hayes on the lyric ‘Don’t ever watch “The Office” without her’ from the song and which version of the show he prefers:
We actually watch both, I say the American version but I think it’s whichever one you saw first. I truly do, I’ve heard 2 versions of a song and I know they’re both great but you kind of become comfortable with them but I love the original version, it cracks me up too!
Then more importantly ‘Her favorite season is football’ which obviously for anyone from Alabama will lead to “Roll Tide” but where his allegiance lies in the professional game:
I’ve enjoyed watching players go from Alabama to the pro’s so I love the Falcons having Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones who both graduated from Alabama. I have a love for the Titans just from being in Nashville but they’re struggling and they Derrick Henry so I’m watching him but we actually are Patriots fans. My wife and I love the star quarterbacks! We appreciate Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and obviously Tom Brady. We love to see athletes excel, we are not exactly nailed on as the thing about growing up in Alabama we have no pro team and college is the end all, be all! We didn’t care about pro, college was just the best.
and where college football fits in the Alabama hierarchy alongside sweet tea and Jesus:
Well for me personally Jesus is at the top. Sweet tea would probably be below War Eagle or Roll Tide depending on if you’re an Auburn or Bama fan but it’s second and there’s Mama too. It’s funny. I’m proud of my state and the one thing we have is college football, that is kind of our claim to fame.
then whether we could see a Hayes junior as a future part of the Crimson Tide:
I have 3 sons Chapel, Baylor and Beckett. Baylor is an outstanding baseball player, he’s young for his team because his age fell in that gap where you can play up or down, he’s always played up but honestly I don’t care. Living in Tennessee we have become removed from that striving for your son, which is kind of nice because really I just want my kids to have fun and fallow their calling. Then not to stress about unless they want to and work so hard to play college sport. He is on the track though, as far as baseball is concerned he is well on his way. He could play college. Family is so important, my order is Jesus then family and that’s it!
Walker Hayes on the UK Tour as part of Introducing Nashville with Danielle Bradbery, Rachel Wammack and Travis Denning:
These guys are great! What’s fun is I knew none of them really at all. Rachel, we are label mates and she’s from Muscle Shoals in Alabama too but these were our first shows together. I’ve really just enjoyed hearing what they have to offer, you know musically and I’m humbled by their talents. Music I always equate it to magicians, if you and I both knew magic tricks we would probably show each other and leave with some inspiration. That’s kind of how music is when I sit around Travis for long enough and I hear him playing guitar, I think I want something like that on one of my songs. Then honestly I hear Danielle and Rachel thinking that would be nice to, you know I do a lot of songs where I don’t sing the chorus but feature someone else and their voices are incredible so it might be nice to wrap a little bit and let the girls take one.
on exploring new parts of the United Kingdom:
Never been to Newcastle before, I’m kinda becoming a resident in Glasgow and Manchester though. Brighton was new to me, love that city! I grew up on the coast in Mobile, Alabama and that felt like home if I turned towards the water. I took some pictures of some sail boats as my dad is a sailor and it’s such a beautiful town. I didn’t know that existed and it’s great.
and the best part of playing on this side of the Atlantic:
I love the people here. You know I’m a songwriter from the get go so honestly never knew or imagined I would be an artist so this is a bonus that comes with that but my appreciation for this audience, I can’t really express it. I just love audiences that listen, care about why you wrote a song and what is inside that song minus just the words and the tune. You can tell these audiences have this appreciation for music that’s different and being an artist that’s not very traditional, kind of outside of the lines it’s nice to sing to fans that don’t necessarily have to categorise music. They just love a good song, if it makes them feel something they appreciate it.
Walker Hayes on the creative process as a writer as the genre expands:
Any time country takes a step outside of the traditional lines that helps me out, especially with my delivery. I grew up in Mobile, I didn’t grow up up on a farm so I’m not like ‘Hey everybody will you come on down’ I don’t sing like that! I would be lying if I did, I mean I can sing like that but it’s not honest so anytime somebody takes a step out of those boundaries it always helps someone like me and maybe opens peoples minds a little bit to my delivery and my style.
moving on to how songs find a home, whether songs are written with an intended destination and collaborating with Lindsay Ell on ‘Champagne’ from her last record:
Lindsay and I wrote that together so I definitely had her in mind. Most of the time I’m writing for me and if my team thinks hey this is a great song but it doesn’t fit on your next project maybe look to outsource it. There’s a kid named Brandon Ratcliff and I have his next single, it’s so close to being a song that I would deliver night after night but we wrote it together and I honestly think it could be a really big breakout song for him, it’s called ‘Sometimes, Always Never’. Then there’s this new girl named Kylie Morgan that I have a song with her called ‘Cuss a Little’ but I used to aim and say I’m gonna write this for say Danielle Bradbery and try and get it to her but I don’t really do that anymore. I’ve noticed that most of my success has really come from just the random songs that came from the heart where either somebody wanted them or they ended up on my album.
Then finally what is next for Walker Hayes:
I have a song and I’m calling it right now! There’s a song called ‘Black Sheep’ and I’m telling all you guys, we’re gonna talk about this next time I’m here! You’ll be like remember you said about this song! I don’t play it live, it’s not really a songwriter song, it is a smash! It’s about growing up, the car I drove, it’s called ‘Black Sheep’ and I’m more excited to release this song than anything I ever have!