Walker Hayes recently guest-starred on Southern Living’s podcast Biscuits & Jam, where he opened up about his relationship with his late father. The country music singer’s dad, Charles Edgar Hayes, passed away in March of 2021. And, while Hayes and his dad shared a special bond, it wasn’t always that way. It took a long time for the two to become close.
“My dad, growing up, was always working late. He loved his job; he was a workaholic. I spent a lot of time with my mom….,” Hayes said of his father, a successful realtor. “I retreated to my friends as early as I could growing up. My dad worked a whole lot. I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time with him. I’ve been pretty vocal about that. I resented my dad as a child because he worked so much.”
Hayes says he craved his dad’s attention growing up but didn’t receive it due to his father’s workload. However, he was luckily able to mend their father/son relationship before his dad passed away. The two formed a bond after Hayes had kids of his own. It was then that Hayes – a dad of six – began to understand what it was like to be a parent.
“I was like, now I get it, dad,” Hayes explained. “….. Father/son stuff. I could talk about it all day. It’s the weirdest relationship. The influence he had on me will influence my kids. It’s so wild.”
One thing Hayes and his dad did have in common was their love of music. And, that passion they shared for music is what Hayes attributes to his success.
“We’d be standing in line at Cracker Barrel, and he would start singing,” Hayes said of his dad, who would belt out songs ‘to an embarrassing level.’ “I would be like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this right now?’ Everybody in the restaurant was looking at us. But he was just that kind of guy. He had blinders on. His whole life that I knew him, he was always laser-focused at whatever he was doing.”
Despite the elder Hayes’ demanding schedule, he did manage to carve out some time to book his son his first gig – all before country music fans ever heard “Fancy Like.”
“My first gig was at the yacht club on Mobile Bay,” Hayes said of his first-ever gig. “The only reason I played that show is because [my dad] called me and said he booked it. He said, ‘You’re already signed up to play.’ He didn’t ask me, didn’t ask if I wanted to, or say, ‘Hey, practice.’ He said you’re playing this Friday.”
“I was so mad, but he laughed,” Hayes continued. “… I played that gig, and it truly changed my life. He is the reason. I never would have, in my life, picked up that guitar in the corner and said, ‘Hey. You know what I think I’ll do this Friday? I think I’ll play some songs at this bar.’ Nobody else in my life was saying, ‘Hey. You need to go do this.’”
And, while Hayes’ road to success in music took more than a decade, there’s one lesson his father taught him that made him understand that everything would be okay.
“One thing he taught me is that failure isn’t that bad,” Hayes shared. “I meet many people in my life, and they tell me about their dreams. Failure to them, it’s the end of the world. And, I can see that in my kids because they are young and navigating life.”
“He died right before this hit the rocket ship,” Hayes said of his father. “It’s been perplexing to me this year. Honestly, I still text him. I texted his number from the Grammys. I said, ‘I’m nominated for a Grammy. You wouldn’t believe it.’ That’s so weird to me that the guy who heard me one day, and said, ‘You need to just do that.’”
Another song that Hayes co-wrote that digs into his life a little bit more on the personal side is his song “Briefcase.” The song, which appears on his current album, Country Stuff the Album, is an ode to his dad, and he wrote it with lauded songwriter, Lori McKenna.
“I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, my dad told me so many things without ever saying things to me. Within those memories, there’s a lesson upon lesson about grace and mercy, forgiveness, and loving a kid. There’s never an adequate amount of gratitude… my dad loved me and I never gave him anything in return as a kid,” Hayes shared. “I played the song ‘Briefcase’ for him. He didn’t know who I was. It was a sad moment. That song for me was trying to repair a lot of things. It’s easier for me to say it in a song than to sit in a truck with my dad and say it… before he died, there was a lot of forgiveness, and that goes into the song too, just me saying, ‘We’re all kids.’ He’s a son too.”
Additionally, Hayes is currently in the midst of his headlining Glad You’re Here Tour. The arena trek kicked off on Sept. 29 and runs through Nov. 12 with direct support from Parmalee. (Tickets are available HERE).
The 2022 CMT Artists Of The Year ceremony will premiere on Friday, October 14 at 9/8c via CMT.