Walker Hayes Is Much Cooler Than He Thinks He Is
Walker Hayes says he's not cool, he's just honest. He's half-right.
The "You Broke Up With Me" singer is a newcomer to many, but most aren't aware of his first pass through the music business. A single that flopped in 2010 and a lost record deal left with Hayes with a phone full of contacts who suddenly wouldn't return his calls. The most humbling moment came after playing a show at a Franklin, Tenn., restaurant called Puckett's Boat House. An adoring fan came up asking about his music.
"He mentioned he worked at Costco and the whole time that he was talking to me I was like, ‘Man, I wonder if Costco is hiring,'" Hayes tells Taste of Country. "And it was so embarrassing to ask him that … like someone wigging out on Sam Hunt and him being like, ‘Hey, is that restaurant you’re working at hiring, because my music career is not going so great.’”
He'll laugh about it now, especially because his hit single is about a city that, in effect, broke up with him.
“When this project got some fire all those people came out of the woodwork again and it was weird," he says. "It kind of hurts your feelings when people show up again because it reminds you that they left. My thought was, ‘Hey, you broke up with me, remember.’”
But it's cool. Hayes gets it, or he doesn't have time to be bitter about it because a wife and six kids at home (yes, six kids!) need him. The 37-year-old is often compared to Hunt and on his next studio album Boom (Dec. 8) he shares some of the same co-writers. The pop-friendly, hooky melodies came as he started to rely on what he wanted to say instead of what he thought might do well on the radio. The result is two EPs (8Tracks Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) that barnstormed streaming services like Spotify and landed him spots on Artist to Watch lists.
"I don’t ever really aim," he says. "I just go in and say, ‘What do I need to say? What would be therapeutic to write about?’”
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Hayes has swagger — how many men with six kids with the same woman can you say that about? — but part of the secret to his success is timing. His sound is relevant and suddenly everything '90s is cool again. So when he references "Scrubs" (the song, not the TV show), "Funky Cold Medina" and says "my swag's more ninja than the turtles" ("Break the Internet"), the younger generation digs in to learn more. It doesn't hurt that like Hunt, he's easy to look at.
Hayes worked at Costco for a long time before his music started to take off once again. He admits he came close to quitting and even confesses if his next single flops, he may go back to the other thing he's really good at: making babies.
“I’m just going to confess a couple things, one is we frequently forget ‘em," he says, casually starting a string of OMG-funny dad-truths. "We only leave them in safe places. We only leave them at IHOPs where we know the waitresses."
“I only know like two of their birthdays,” he adds. “I probably only know five middle names.”
“I don’t think I’ve called the fifth one her real name since she was like one, and she’s three now.”
Expect a baby boom if Hayes becomes a superstar, but be careful. Not everyone makes it all look so easy, or so cool.
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