Photo: David McClister

Walker Hayes Talks Touring with Kelsea Ballerini, His Platinum Single “You Broke Up With Me” and CMA Festival

Walker Hayes has been dominating the country charts with his massive, now platinum single “You Broke Up With Me” off of his highly successful second studio album, Boom. Currently out on the Unapologetically Tour with Kelsea Ballerini, giving fans an energetic performance they will not soon forget. His new single “Craig” currently impacting country radio around the world, touching fans with the emotional journey of Hayes life. His upcoming performance at the CMA Music Festival is one you do not want to miss, so make sure you you get to the Riverfront Stage on June 10th at 12:15pm.

You’re currently out on the Unapologetically Tour support Kelsea Ballerini, How has this tour been going for you so far and what would say is the biggest highlight of the tour so far?

Tour has been going amazing. Kelsea and her entire team and crew have been so kind to me and my guys. We’re learning so much from her and them. One, how to treat an opening act and two, just how to entertain and give your fans an incredible show. And the biggest highlight of the tour so far was probably meeting Joe Gatto from Impractical Jokers, because his wife is apparently a Kelsea Ballerini fan and he was at a show and so one night we walk into catering and there’s Joe. We were like “Hey we watch you all the time.” So me and the band got some great pics with Joe.

Have you had a chance to work with Kelsea at all on this tour at all? Maybe write some songs together for her new album or for your third studio album?

No, Kelsea and I mentioned it to each other but we really haven’t found time to get together. We’ve written previously and I know she’s a great writer and I’d love to collaborate on something with her for maybe my next project.

How did your single “You Broke Up With Me” come about? What is the meaning behind the song?

So “You Broke Up With Me” is kind of my reply or response to fair weather friends. About 6 years ago, I lost a record deal and a lot of people vanished ya know because I think they thought that this ship had sailed and that I probably wasn’t going to make it in the music biz. Then when Shane McAnally signed me, word got around on the street that we were working together and people came back. Ya know, I was really busy and I felt bad about not hanging out with them or writing with them but I was like “Hey, ya’ll broke up with me” so that’s where you broke up with me came from.

“You Broke Up With Me” just recently went platinum earlier this month, where were you and what went through your mind when you heard the news of this platinum certification?

I was in NY opening for Kelsea at the playstation theater. I will never forget it. My tour manager lied to me and told me I needed to come side stage and listen to a story about “Craig,” my next single. And then immediately I knew he was lying and he was pushing me on stage. Then I saw Rob and Katie across the stage and they were hiding a plaque and I knew what was about to happen right then. I was definitely surprised. It was amazing and I won’t forget it.

“You Broke Up With Me” is off your second studio album, Boom. which released in late 2017, Could you tell us what inspired the name of this album, and the concept behind the record?

Boom is basically just my diary put to music. I mean, that’s about it. It has a lot to do with where we were in our lives, my family and I, on the way to finishing this record and then kind of what was going on as we were putting the project together. They’re really just true stories from my life. Let’s see, boom is just my favorite word. I mean I overuse it. Me and Rob text it to each other all the time. Like, “Hey, our song just went top 20. Boom. Hey, did you check out that new Maren Morris single? Boom.” Ya know? We just use it all the time.

This album’s lyrical content is quite autobiographical, What inspires you to be able to be so open with your fans through your music?

I think just as we were making this record and I was turning in songs to Rob and to Shane and to my team at SMACK and Monument, really, that was the stuff they responded to. Any time i tried to write vicariously, it didn’t quite have the punch that the true stories did, and so that’s really what inspired me to continue to tell the truth about the things I was actually going through. The more fans respond to it, the more i’m encouraged to continue to do it.

Could you tell us what three songs off of Boom. is the most meaningful to you and explain why?

I mean there are three, easily. “Beer in the Fridge” is very meaningful. “You Broke Up With Me” is obviously meaningful because of what it has done for my life and my career. Beer in the Fridge is important because it kinda discloses my battle with alcoholism. i’m on the road to recovery and i’m always writing about that and thinking about it. To put a song to tell people out there that may deal with that or love someone whose dealing with that that they’re not alone means a lot to me. And then “Craig” obviously, that’s about as personal as it gets. It says a lot about our story and a lot about me. It’s impacting people and that’s important to me.

You’re currently single “Craig” is a beautifully written song, with a great story behind the song. Could you tell us a bit about your single “Craig”?

Yeah, so Craig is just a guy that I wanted to thank. Honestly that’s the whole reason I wrote the song Craig. He meant so much to my family and I at a time when a lot of people could have looked at me and my life at that moment, when Craig met me, they could’ve judged us or frowned upon us but Craig didn’t. He just loved me and my family so much. And I just wanted to say thanks to him, and apparently it’s making a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. They’re reminded of people who have been Craigs to them and then it’s inspiring people to also help other people.

Will fans be getting a music video for your single “Craig” in the near future, showcasing the meaning behind the song within the music video and if so would you include yourself, your family, and Craig in the music video?

No, no family, definitely not really into putting my kids in stuff. I would put Laney in something, but I think we just kinda found a natural way of showcasing the song. I’m not going to put Craig in the video. If he wants to be in the public eye, I want to let that be his decision. But there is a music video for “Craig” coming up and i’m excited to share it with everybody.

You have had quite the journey on within your career of becoming a country music artist, Could you tell us some of the struggles you had to overcome and how you overcame them to get to the point you are at today?

Really, the biggest struggle I had to overcome on a daily basis was trying to decide whether I was being a great dad or husband on the way to where we are today. My dream kinda dragged my family and I through some tough financial time and you know obviously I had a battle with alcohol and I’m about 3 years sober, which is always a struggle and a battle. About 10 or 12 years into the dream with 6 kids, I was beginning to wonder if maybe it was time to maybe move on. That was the hardest battle for sure. Then obviously money problems were a big deal.

Your live performance has the feel of an Ed Sheeran show with the loop pedal and with your set having a bit more added energy into the set, and your music seems to be slightly influenced by Sam Hunt. Would you say these artist influenced your performances/sound and if they did or didn’t who else or who does influence your sound and live performances that you maybe idolize?

Ya know the loop was all my team at SMACK. That was their idea. I built all these tracks in a little shack where I beatboxed and basically played a few signature licks and snapped and whistled and stuff, and they were basically like “Hey, can you duplicate this live?” and I was like “No,” and then they were like “Well Ed Sheeran does this, and so and so does this, how about it? Can you give it a try?” I eventually learned how to use the loop. As far as Sam Hunt is concerned, I’m a huge fan of his music and I think a lot of people compare our stuff because in the country music genre he’s definitely the nearest to what I do. I’m influenced by everything  I listen to without a doubt.

Are you currently working on Album No. 3 and if so how far along are you and when can fans expect it?

I’m working on a new project and I don’t know when people can expect that. It depends a lot on how the next singles do and how fast they rise and fall when new material is expected.

You have an upcoming performance on CMA Fest, performing on the Riverfront Stage on June 10th, what are you most looking forward to at CMA Fest this year and what has been highlights for you at CMA Fest in the past?

CMA Fest is one of my favorite shows because it’s a great barometer of how much your fans have grown over the past year. It’s where fans come from all over the country and meet in one place. It’s always surprising, and has been, how many people show up and what they know, the music that they know. The beat cuts that they know the words to. That’s in reference to my last performance on the Chevy stage. Last year it was nuts. I kinda just showed up expecting that it would be like CMA fest years when people were just learning about me. When I showed up and played this 20 minute set on the loop, they knew everything. They knew all the deep cuts. That was the highlight, and was my favorite CMA Fest in the past.

Anything else you’d like to tell fans that we did not mention within this interview? And where can fans find you online?

I would just really like to thank my day one fans and welcome my newer fans too. Everyone can find my music on any streaming platform, iTunes, all that. Or follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook @walkerhayes

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