Walker Hayes: A hard-earned rise to the top


Kayla Wisneski, Staff Writer

Walker Hayes, Wikipedia

If you’ve listened to the radio at all over the past few months, chances are you’ve heard country artist Walker Hayes’ voice singing about Applebees and relaxed relationships—even if you didn’t know it.

Currently one of the biggest names in country music, Hayes continues to please fans with addictive beats and messages of simple living. 

Hayes’ songs range greatly in depth. Many songs, such as his recent hit “AA,” are meant to make listeners laugh and are filled with constant witty remarks. But others, like “Shut Up Kenny,” are full of emotion and meaning. 

“Shut up, Kenny / Leave me alone / Keep your songs to yourself / Why you gotta sound just like she felt?” he sings. 

The most consistent theme throughout his music is honesty. Hayes is not afraid to put his feelings out into the world, and he expresses them thoughtfully in his music. 

Hayes uses music in order to tell beautiful stories—all of them his own. 

All of the music Hayes produces is dedicated to his family. His wife and six children are recurring themes in his songs.

“Beckett” was written about Hayes’ now nine-year-old son. One of his more recent releases, “Don’t Let Her,” was written about and for his wife, after they suffered a miscarriage. 

“Don’t know if he’s rich or poor / Says it’s cool that the boy next door / Has two dads and three pets / When I grow up, when I grow up / I wanna be like Beckett,”  Hayes sings.

 As an avid country music fan, I really appreciate the authenticity of Hayes’s songs. There is no shortage of love and breakup songs in the world, but all of Hayes’s songs are anything but ordinary. Every one of his songs has a story behind them, and you can feel that when you listen. 

Orchids, that’s her favorite flower / Don’t ever watch “The Office” without her  /After church, she gonna talk / Her favorite season is football,” he sings in “Don’t Let Her.”

Born and raised in Alabama, Hayes’s rise to stardom has been anything but normal. His debut single “Pants” was released in 2010 and quickly broke the Top 60 Country Songs chart. His debut album “Reason To Rhyme,” however, did not chart. Because of this, Hayes was dropped by Capitol Records. 

After losing his record deal, Hayes struggled to find any work, as well as support a family of eight. 

In his song “Lela’s Stars” (Lela is his oldest daughter), he recounts his time working at Costco in order to support his family. Once again, Hayes is extremely transparent in his music, expressing his innermost thoughts during the hard time.  

“Do my kids need their dad to grow up / Or keep chasing the dream / It ain’t making no sense, no dollars / Am I a failure, or a father?” 

Another notable track of Hayes’ is “Craig.” 

It tells the story of Hayes attending church with his family and meeting a man named Craig. At the time, Hayes and his family were still struggling financially. The family of eight was down to one car with only five seats. 

“When you lose a record deal, yeah all the perks fade fast / Dealership said, / “We’re going to need to get that mini-van back” / So we were down to one car,” he sings.

“And broke as I felt / My wife and six kids and only five seat belts / I needed help but couldn’t admit I was struggling / Said, “Craig, it’s all good” / But he knew it all wasn’t.”

Later in the song, it is revealed that Craig ended up giving the Hayes family a minivan that would allow the whole family to fit.  

The song is extremely emotional and rightfully bolstered Hayes’ reputation as a songwriter. 

Craig is my favorite of Walker Hayes’s songs. 

The first time I heard it, I was left in complete tears. The whole story is incredibly moving. It’s not often that celebrities admit to having trouble with money in their music, but Hayes is extremely open. 

This vulnerability is something that I greatly appreciate in a singer. I find it much easier to relate to an artist when they aren’t afraid to be honest. 

“My pride was way too ashamed to be adequately grateful at the moment / But I signed the dotted line, and I drove the kids home / And when the cop pulled up beside us / At the light, they didn’t have to duck / Because thanks to Craig / They were all buckled up.” 

In late 2017, Walker Hayes made his grand return to the music world. He released his hit single “You Broke Up With Me” after signing with Monument Records. 

While most listeners would assume that the song is about a romantic relationship, it’s actually about the country music industry. 

The song ended up going Double Platinum and charted #37 on the Billboard Top 200 Songs. 

This song marked the beginning of Hayes’s rise in popularity. 

I know it’s difficult to see me on a roll / But hey, you broke up with me / Yeah, what can I say babe, you broke up with me,” he sings.


Hayes’s most recent hit, “Fancy Like,” has been skyrocketing in popularity since it’s release in August of 2021. 

It quickly became the country anthem of the summer, and its success hasn’t wavered yet.

Recently, it won “Favorite Viral Song” at the Country Now Awards. The song peaked at third on the Billboard Hot 100, and is still sitting atop the Billboard Country charts, where is has been for 17 weeks. 

This song is one of the fastest to ever go Double Platinum. It even spawned an ad for Applebees, after it’s explicit praise of the restaurant chain: 

Yeah, we fancy like Applebee’s on a date night / Got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake.”

Walker Hayes has more than proved that he belongs at the top of the country charts.

He has been one of my top artists for some time now. His wide range of music is perfect for any occasion and can be enjoyed by listeners of every age.  

Hayes has plans for an album to be released in 2022 and will most likely be back on top of the charts again. 

“Hey y’all at the end of the day y’all / I’m just another John Deere guy/Up on a tractor.”