Walker Hayes, Photo Courtesy of New Year's Rockin' Eve; Shane McAnally; Photo Courtesy of Songland/NBC
Walker Hayes, Photo Courtesy of New Year's Rockin' Eve; Shane McAnally; Photo Courtesy of Songland/NBC

Walker Hayes Says His Friendship With Famed Nashville Songwriter Shane McAnally Goes Far Beyond Music

Throughout the years, viral hitmaker Walker Hayes has learned to utilize his weakness as a strength. After conquering his fight against alcoholism, Hayes channeled his energy into helping three-time Grammy winner and famed Nashville songwriter, Shane McAnally who was striving to reach sobriety.

Together they have experienced the difficult road to recovery, and now they are vocalizing their journey to help aid others who might be stuck in the dark place they know all too well. Off the heels of the sensational hit, “Fancy Like,” Hayes and McAnally joined forces to release “AA,” a moving melody that touches upon sobriety.

“At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can,” says the hitmaker in a statement. “And what I really mean to say with this song is just that I’m trying to stay the course. I’ve struggled with alcohol abuse, and sometimes I wish I didn’t need AA, but I do. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I’m just trying to be the best dad and husband I can be. It’s not easy all the time, but my wife smiles a lot, and my kids are growing up with more than I had, and that’s a really good thing.”

Writing the transparent track was not the only help Hayes received from McAnally, as their friendship goes far beyond music. “I truly think the music in this business that we share is far as secondary towards the relationship Shane and I have been able to have while making music and working together,” revealed Hayes during an exclusive interview with Music Mayhem.

Hayes continued to mention that he recognized McAnally’s friendship as a blessing in disguise when the song smith offered his condolences and financial support while struggling with the loss of his daughter, Oakleigh Klover.

“I feel like the Lord put us together because we share common weakness, tendencies, and brokenness,” he told Music Mayhem in confidence. “Shane has been there for my family more than anyone. Honestly, Shane paid for my seventh child’s tombstone and grave site,” Hayes added with a knot in his throat.

The way McAnally simply placed his pen to paper to sign a check for the burial spoke volumes about their close-knit friendship and the type of person McAnally is at his very core. “To me, that’s just a great example of what he means to be beyond even the music that we make,” says the multi-platinum singer about the kind gesture.

After laying his late daughter to rest with McAnally by his side, the Alabama native shared that an AA meeting saved his life. “I love ‘AA.’ Not to get too deep and dark, but this is what I live for, is talking about those moments in my life. The day we buried our daughter, Oakleigh, who was our seventh [child], I sat in an AA meeting that night,” the GRAMMY-nomination singer told Apple Music. “I could still see the dirt on my shoe from her grave that we had filled in. And man, an AA meeting just saved my life.” 

While feeling hopeless and alone, Hayes set out to ruin his sobriety – until he looked outwards and noticed the support system behind him. “That night, I actually drove to a bar, and I wanted just to get hammered and get in a fight, and I didn’t have my wallet. When I went home, I just broke down. When I walked in, I saw my wife on the couch all by herself, and I was like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ You know, I left her alone to just go self-destruct. And she helped me. She found an AA meeting in Williamson County,” he adds.

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@walkerhayesofficial will honor his late daughter, Oakleigh, in a new song called “Six On Earth, One In Heaven.” #WalkerHayes

♬ original sound – Music Mayhem

Hayes’ extraordinary friendship with McAnally was not just a one-way street, as Hayes reached out to McAnally with a helping hand when he saw him faced with an internal conflict. “I would hope he would say I’ve been able to offer assistance and support for him and his journey to sobriety,” Walker wholeheartedly confessed. “I hope he could say the same as I would say about him. He has been vital to my journey for sure,” he concluded.

Although the mastermind behind several chart-topping hits has not officially spoken out about Hayes’ guidance throughout the healing process – he has taken advantage of his powerful platform to update his followers about massive personal milestones.

On Tuesday, January 11, the famed Nashville songwriter and CEO of SmackSongs took to Instagram to celebrate that he has been “clean and sober for a year.” Within the short social media clip, McAnally opened up about his testing challenge to put down the bottle and priority to focus on his well-being.

“I’ve been trying to get sober for a long time. I don’t want to preach about this or go overboard. I just wanted to say that it’s doable and that I finally am trying to get my outsides to match my insides, which means that I present a really amazing life on Instagram and social media,” claimed the writer-producer. “I have an amazing life, but I haven’t been able to appreciate it and haven’t actually been living up to the man that I show you or even the people that are in my life until now.”

Similar to Hayes, McAnally’s primary goal is to be the reliable father and husband he portrays on the internet. “I’m trying to be the dad I pretended to be, and I’m trying to be the husband that I’ve pretended to be, and I’m getting closer, but mostly I felt like I needed to be really honest,” he adds while showing his true colors.

While McAnally and Hayes continue to keep each other accountable, they have also sparked a necessary conversation within the country music space – that often gets pushed under the rug. More hard-hitting topics and relatable stories are told throughout Walker’s recent released 13-track collection, Country Stuff The Album.

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