5 Things We Learned When Shane McAnally Interviewed Wheeler Walker Jr.
When it comes to anything Wheeler Walker Jr. says, lines between truth and fiction are blurry. But a well-known, highly regarded songwriter like Shane McAnally can get to the core of this controversial new artist, right?
The two wrote one song on Walker Jr.'s new Ol' Wheeler album (June 2) and are friends. Stories of what inspired their cowrite, how much McAnally relates to Walker's music and especially the circumstances under which they met are nearly too good to be true. They're also very unsuitable for a professional or more conservative environment. Take the warning at the beginning of this video very seriously.
Ol' Wheeler is Walker Jr.'s second studio album, and the second to pair X-rated lyrics with traditional country chords and arrangements. Chris Stapleton producer Dave Cobb returns, that's a verified fact. As for who was originally supposed to be paired with him on "F--kin' Around"? It's debatable. Something seems a little fishy about the story the native Kentuckian tells, but who are we to call the man a liar?
Songwriter McAnally (Kacey Musgraves, Kenny Chesney, Sam Hunt) agreed to interview Walker Jr. for Taste of Country. Knowing McAnally is openly gay is important in order to understand the context of everything they talk about — as is the fact that Walker Jr. is really comedian Ben Hoffman (Comedy Central's The Ben Show). But as someone close to him once said, the difference between the two is only a couple of Bud Lights, so again the lines of truth become foggy. Here's five things we learned as one songwriter spoke to another as professionals. Kind of.
5. Waffle House played an important role.
Walker Jr. says Sturgill Simpson recommended Dave Cobb to him, long before Cobb had finished Stapleton's first solo album. The singer met with him but decided if the producer tried to take him to fancy Nashville restaurant, he'd walk out.
"I get worried that these people are gonna be too big time," Walker Jr. admits. "We played some songs and talked and he dug the demos and he goes 'By the way, you wanna grab lunch? There's a Waffle House around the corner.' I was like, 'This is the guy.'"
4. The process is sound.
The "Puss in Boots" singer says he does extensive demos before sharing with Cobb. From there it's a collaboration until they decide to essentially record the album live. They overdubbed some keyboards and pedal steel, but other than that they recorded live to tape.
3. Kacey Walker went AWOL.
Walker Jr. says he recorded "F--kin' Around" as a duet with his ex wife, and in an outtake he expands on why the whole thing went south. "We were kind of back together for a little bit and about to put out the record and got in another fight," he says. "She actually just signed to Sony and she had her lawyers call Sony and take my voice off my record. I'm like we can't take your name off, it's already been printed. I ain't got money to re-do the artwork."
There is no Kacey Walker on Sony, of course. Perhaps this story is also just a couple Bud Lights away from the truth. Nikki Lane is the voice you hear, and if you're not offended by the content, their mix is quite charming.
2. Radio's response to the single has been ... tepid.
"Summers in Kentucky" is the song Walker Jr. chose to release to radio, perhaps wisely selecting the song with the most PG-rated title. In fact it's very radio-friendly ... until the chorus.
"It's a real serious song to me," he says. "I go back to Kentucky and I see him and they've had a few kids, a couple ex-husbands, whatever." Listen to the song before you call your local radio station and demand airplay.
Now Watch Wheeler Walker Jr. Read Radio Liners
1. Walker Jr. found McAnally on Grindr!
The two men tell the story in more detail than a modest woman would like. Grindr is a dating app geared toward gay men. If true, it's an indication that Walker Jr's interests are a bit more dynamic than one would expect from the self-described "P---y King."