The man behind TikTok’s latest dance craze, Walker Hayes, has taken over Country radio with his single “Fancy Like,” from his latest EP, Country Stuff.
Even though Hayes has a successful music career and is used to being in the limelight most days, the singer has just as much in common with the fans that listen to his music on the radio. And that is exactly what led Hayes to writing the viral, upbeat single.
“Josh Jenkins had the title with fancy in it. I was telling him how I think a lot of people watch me on Instagram and when they see me just doing normal stuff, which is all COVID has been, it’s almost like they’re surprised,” Hayes explained. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I drive an Altima too.’ Or, ‘Oh, I have those same rocking chairs on my porch?’”
“And my response is always like, ‘Dude, it’s not like I eat at [a fancy restaurant] every night, I don’t drive a Rolls Royce. I’m just a normal dude.’ And so that was the spirit of that song. I just told the truth about what our family does,” the Alabama native added.
Hayes also gave some insight into his busy life, and explained the importance of including his family within his career and always making the time for them, no matter the circumstance. After finding out that his kids were into TikTok, Hayes knew he wanted to get involved too, as a way to connect with their interests. His daughter Lela was actually the choreographer behind the epic “Fancy Like” dance that has taken TikTok by storm. After learning it from her, the two of them got to incorporate the rest of their family members and also gave fans the chance to do the same with their own loved ones.
“It’s just super fun to think this memory is documented in such a large way,” Hayes said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. I imagine I’ll be 70 years old one day and she’ll be in her 30s or something and I’ll be like, ‘You remember that?’ And we’ll have [that moment].”
The viral dance has created the discussion to put the Oreo milkshake back on the menu at Applebee’s, which Hayes said “I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up if this isn’t true, but I believe the Oreo shake will be coming back to the menu, which is pretty tight. So I was actually laughing the other day, I was like, “One day my grandkids are going to be eating an Oreo shake and I’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’m the reason that exists.’” I’ll be like, “I brought it back.”
In addition to collaborating with his daughter Lela on the dance, Hayes also found himself working with Country music superstars such as Jake Owen, Carly Pearce, Lori McKenna, on his Country Stuff EP as well as writing music with Tigirlily, Levi Hummon, Alana Springsteen and more.
Music Mayhem caught up with Hayes to find out more about his latest EP, finding inspiration within his family, his recent success on TikTok and so much more.
Read on to find out what Walker Hayes has been up to in this exclusive Q&A!
How have you been keeping busy lately?
Dude, we got back into the show thing the last few weeks, so that’s been crazy. But, man, just writing and working with some other artists and playing shows, man. We hit the road tonight and we go on a three show run and then we finished with a fourth show on Monday in Nashville. But between that and the kids, dude, I never stop.
For sure. So let’s talk about your EP, Country Stuff. It was released a few weeks ago and I just love how much the project really puts you on full display. You seem to have poured your heart and soul into this record and it captures everything from your emotional side to your more energy-filled fun, upbeat side. Can you take us on a little quick recap of the project and the creative process?
Yeah, dude. So honestly the idea for this project began over COVID. I just noticed that my team were just enjoying some things I was writing and one thing they were appreciating was just the vast difference between each song, just the diversity of the material I was turning in. And we started talking about how in this business you find that temptation to just stick with one dimension that’s working. I was like, “Well, what if the album showcases all of the personalities a writer can be. Why does the whole album have to be all just “Country Stuff” or “Fancy Like?” Why can’t we put some of the “Briefcase” on there? Just put it all together?”
It felt like a risk because we didn’t want to confuse anybody. And people are just inundated with music and I do think there’s a point where it can become too complicated and people are like, “Well, who are you?” But man, we just took a chance and put a little bit of all my split personalities on one project. And we had no idea how people were about to react. Honestly, it blows us away every day. This EP has really grabbed people and brought them to my music.
You definitely have a very unique signature sound that is solely you, and it’s just amazing to see. But on this EP, you have several features with some crazy talented artists like Jake Owen, Carly Pearce, Lori McKenna. Can you tell us a little bit how those came to be and the story behind those?
Man, Lori and I, we just wrote Briefcase together and to tell you quite frankly, she’s just a hero of mine. I’m just a huge fan of her writing and her voice. And after we finished such a special song to me, it just made sense to ask her like, “Hey, would you mind throwing some background vocals on here?” And she’s so kind and said, “Of course.” So that’s how that one came to be. I feel like we have a friendship now and that’s a special moment for me, having her on the record.
Then Jake and I, we go way back. Actually, when I was working at Costco, and he had one of my songs on hold about five years ago. And it ended up, he cut it, it was called “Song in your Pocket.” He cut it and it didn’t make the record. He didn’t owe me a phone call or an apology or anything, but he actually called me and said he was sorry it just didn’t make the record, and that meant so much to me. From then on I had always imagined us doing something together. And then with Shane being my producer, he reached out to Jake Owen when I finished “Country Stuff” and he was like, “Are you pitching this song to me? Or you want me to feature on it?” Because he said, “Either way I’m in.” So that was cool. So yeah, he made so much sense on that song, it does sound like something he would cut.
Then honestly just being completely vulnerable here, the Carly Pearce collaboration, I don’t really know her that well. She and I had, when I had “You Broke Up with Me,” she had just dropped “Every Little Thing.” And so we kind of bonded over that and asked, I was like, “I really want a female who when they sing, you know who it is.” And I feel like that is definitely true about Carly, she just sounds like a woman when she sings. You know? I don’t know, there’s just wisdom in her voice, if that makes any sense, and life. So yeah, I was really, really excited when she agreed to be the feature on that song, “What if We Did.”
So on the EP, you also have obviously your viral hit taking TikTok by storm, “Fancy Like,” how did that song come about? And when you were writing this song, did you ever expect the crazy amount of reactions that this would be getting now?
No, man, not at all. We actually, me and my co-writers, we spent that day, I’d say we were together about five hours. And three and a half of those hours we were just talking about Jesus. We were all just hanging and for some reason we got on the subject of testimonies. About three and a half late hours later, we were like, “So what y’all want to write?”We must have just been feeling free. Josh Jenkins had the title with fancy in it. I was telling him how I think a lot of people watch me on Instagram and when they see me just doing normal stuff, which is all COVID has been, it’s almost like they’re surprised. They’re like, “Oh, I drive an Altima too.” Or, “Oh, I have those same rocking chairs on my porch?”
And my response is always like, “Dude, it’s not like I eat at the POM every night, I don’t drive a Rolls Royce. I’m just normal dude.” And so that was the spirit of that song. I just told the truth about what our family does. When we’re on a road trip, fancy to us is going to Applebee’s, that’s a nice night for us, that’s a big night. We don’t go and drop that much money often. So we just put it all out there in that song. I knew it was my personal favorite, I loved how it felt. But I had no idea, I had no idea that it was going to do what it’s doing right now. I had no idea what it was about to be all genre number one for multiple… This is crazy dude.
It’s definitely a crazy experience to see. We have followed you guys since definitely the early days. It’s been just a crazy ride to the top at this point. And I think that you definitely finally have found another, well, I shouldn’t say finally found because “You Broke Up With Me” was definitely a huge hit. But I think that this one is even going to be bigger.
Yeah. No, “You Broke Up With Me” pales in comparison to what this has already done. Yeah, man, I think honestly over time I think my music just takes a minute. I’ve never really done anything super fast, I’m a slow writer. I think my vulnerability can be shocking at times. And I think the timing of this song could not have been more perfect. And that’s just a Lord thing, I had no idea, we really did not man. And when Leila and I did that TikTok, we were just doing what we’ve always done, that’s just how we have fun together, that’s how a dad can have fun with his 15 year old daughter.
So I think part of that is the magic of what’s making it work, is that it’s probably one of the least calculated songs we’ve ever put out. It’s just true. And with everybody coming back out into the world, maybe wanting to feel whatever that song feels like. So man, it’s a special moment. I truly, not because of anything I did, but I’m really just thrilled and honored to be a part of what I truly think is a historic song. I think this song will be around for years and years to come.
Now you need to get a remix of that song out with Reba, where you mix your “Fancy Like” with her “Fancy” and collab.
**laughs** Oh, dude, we’re working on remixes, that’s for sure. We’ve definitely changed up the music that we play around the set. We got Drake, Drake Fancy, are you fancy huh. And we’ve been diving in looking for all the songs with fancy. But, dude, it’s just a special moment, I’m grateful. I will say my favorite part is writing these things. Performing them and watching them succeed is great, but it’s definitely got me thinking of what’s next. And I’m just really grateful, my daughter and I can just have this, we’ll have this memory forever. And so it’s such a nice time, man, I’m really grateful. And I’m grateful for everybody that’s ever invested in me. I’ve got so many team members who just have stood by me even when I didn’t really look like stuff was the easiest to sell out there in our market and I’m glad they get to reap the benefits.
I have to also ask, in the song, throughout the song, you name-dropped Applebee’s, Wendy’s, Victoria Secret, Tesla, major brands. Have any of these companies reached out to work with you for maybe using the song on their marketing materials or even maybe working with you directly on some branding?
I have talked to Applebee’s and our relationship just started, and they’re amazing people and they’re super sweet and grateful. I’m sure they’ll be using the song to some capacity and I’m sure we will be working together to kind of cross market because I love Applebee’s, obviously. I do believe, I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up if this isn’t true, but I believe the Oreo shake will be coming back to the menu, which is pretty tight. So I was actually laughing the other day, I was like, “One day my grandkids are going to be eating an Oreo shake and I’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’m the reason that exists.’” I’ll be like, “I brought it back.”
Yeah, for sure. The other day I drove past one in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and literally the “Fancy Like” song title was on the outside billboards of the Applebee’s in the parking lot.
Ah, that’s amazing. Well, see, I love that man. Not to sound cheesy but just being honest, growing up I remember my dad and mom getting mad at me. I would take my dad’s credit card and go eat at Applebee’s. They’d get so mad, but I ate so many meals at Applebee’s with my basketball team before and after games and stuff. And then also my family ate out a ton. My mom didn’t cook a lot and we would just go. Mobile was a strip mall town and, man, I ate so many bourbon street steaks and Oreo shakes, it’s ridiculous. So it’s a fond memory for me and I’m glad I can be useful to them. And it’s just a sweet time, man. It just feels really effortless. Which is fun because if you know any of my story, effortless is not a word that defines a lot of my career in this business. So I’m just really enjoying those kinds of relationships come naturally for us and for my family. I’m grateful Applebee’s likes the song, man, that’s pretty cool.
Well, on the topic of your family, we just love your family and enjoy all you guys TikTok’s together. Your wife, your kids and your daughter you’ve mentioned is the mastermind behind the dance. How are you ever going to be able to repay her for creating a dance that led to having a crazy viral success?
You can’t, man, honestly. And again, she and I we’ve been doing those the whole COVID. I’m not going to lie, when I started doing those, the sole purpose was… Look, I don’t want to sound like my relationship with my daughter is calculated, but have you ever seen the movie Hitched?
I feel like as I’ve noticed my kids becoming teenagers, I’ve got to dive into their interests, I’ve got to have a relationship with them, which means know things about them. And even if it’s hard to get it out of them, maybe I got to do a little research. I noticed quickly that, hey they’re into TikTok, my daughter loves those dances, “Hey, you can teach them to me. We can do them together.” And so over COVID that really led up to us on, it was a Sunday and we had gotten home from church. And Leila literally said, “’Fancy Like’ needs a dance.” We had just released it. I was like, “You’re dang right it does.” And man, we just did it that afternoon, had no idea, no idea what was about to happen. And actually went for a run and came back and it was near a million views.
So my daughter, man, I am, like I said earlier, just I’m so grateful. Like it’s just super fun to think this memory is documented in such a large way. I don’t even know how to describe it. I imagine I’ll be 70 years old one day and she’ll be in her 30s or something and I’ll be like, “You remember that?” And we’ll have it. She’ll probably show her kids one day like, “Look at what me and your granddad did one day.” It’s insane to think of that. And people, look, I don’t want to equate it to the Macarena but I’m like, “What if people still know the dance 20 years from now?” That’s crazy.
Yeah, that Would be pretty incredible. It could definitely happen though.
This is wild, man. And man, that’s the beautiful thing to me just about life and especially just our business. Is like you want to make an impact and you want to make an impact in a positive way. And sometimes you’re tempted to go directions just because it appeals to people. But every now and then there’s just a light that shines through. And man, honestly we sit around and get a little teary-eyed watching dads I don’t even know do this dance with their daughter and watching families do it together and just watching people who are, I don’t know, just stepping out of their shell a little bit and comfort zone and doing this dance, just try in this dance and watching the joy on their face. That is so gratifying to just be like, “Yeah, I was just having fun one day with my daughter and this is what came out of it.” That’s just crazy.
On the topic of your family, I know that they play a huge role within your music. And not only are they a big inspiration for your music, you’ve written songs about some of your children, TikTok dances with them and just so much more. Can you tell us what it means to you to include your family within your career and maybe have that full circle moment with not only your kids and wife, but just overall?
Oh yeah, man. I am not a guy who succeeds by himself. I truly believe the Lord uses my family to display his work through me somehow. I love reminding everybody without my family, without my wife, without my parents, I’m just a dude in a basement, I’m not, I’m not really that ambitious of a guy. Now, the Lord has blessed me with a passion for music and songwriting that I can’t shake, it just covers me up and I cannot wash it off of me. But it would be a very selfish and lousy endeavor without my family. Just ask anybody on my team, if you want to see Walker perform to the best of his abilities, make sure he’s near his family. You know what I mean?
And that’s not something that I woke up and decided to feel or again, that’s just another thing, another passion that the Lord gave me. My favorite thing in life is being a dad and being Laney’s companion. So I’m so grateful that they allow me to write about them because oftentimes I’m like I have to run it by them. I’m like, “Hey, I feel sorry for you because I feel like I’m telling your story. And tell me if I’m telling it wrong.” I don’t want to lie to the world about Laney with songs like “Don’t Let Her.” And even with “Briefcase,” I was like, “I want to make sure Laney, this is my childhood, right?”
So I’m just grateful they’re my house, they’re where I’m most comfortable, they’re who I’m most comfortable with. Again, I did not really grow up like that with my siblings and my family. And I don’t know, maybe we overcorrected, I don’t know what the heck happened. But I cannot describe how good it feels that we’re doing this together and it’s not just me out on a ball field by myself, it’s my family, it’s just me. It’s almost like you could just do a TV show about us. I wouldn’t want to do that because I think it would actually mess with the dynamic and I think fame can be dangerous in many ways. But, man, I truly love that right now I just go home and we’re us. And the Lord and the family has given me, that’s the source of my inspiration right now. And that’s really, really cool, man.
Yeah, it is definitely an awesome thing to see. So aside from releasing your own music, I know that you’ve worked with quite a few artists over the last few months. So I know you have a song well, not you, but Alana Springsteen has a song coming out called “Zero Trucks,” that you co-wrote. And after hearing some of the teasers she shared, it’s definitely going to be a jam. You could definitely hear your play on words and that signature sound that you bring to the table within the track. Can you tell us maybe how that song came to be with her?
Yeah. So with all this time at home, I’ve been.. not demanding, but just asked my publishing company, I would love to get in with other artists and be of any service that I could be. And sometimes I write for me with other artists. But Alana and I met via Zoom, I love her, I loved her voice, I loved what she’s about. I saved what I did for her because I was like, “I know if a girl could pull this off, it is Alana.” So we wrote “Zero Trucks” via Zoom and then did a little home tape at home and then her team got onboard. But, man, I’ve gotten to write with her.
Levi Hummon “Paying For It,” which he features me on, and dude, that’s a jam.
The pictures of that too are pretty legit.
Dude, it’s amazing. That was all his idea, the lemonade stand, it’s incredible. He’s a genius. And that song was his idea and I’m so glad he featured it on me. Man, I got to tell you too, if he hadn’t cut that song, that would probably be one of my next releases for sure. But I had so much fun working with him. There was a group called Tigirlily, I actually wrote a song with them called “My Thang,” but they have one coming out tomorrow called “Everybody’s On Something,” and it’s just unbelievable. I can’t even describe how many things that song makes me feel, and it’s very honest. It’s a shift for them, for sure. So, man, a lot of those things, a guy named Canaan Cox, me and him and Emily Falvey wrote a song, he’s about to release as a single.
I was telling somebody a few months ago, I just love how right now with my job every day is different and I’m meeting so many new people and new voices and just so much talent and it’s nice, man. It’s a healthy place for me career wise. And obviously you want to keep it going. But at the same time, I’m just enjoying it and it’s a great feeling to turn on a song that I wrote but I’m not singing and just enjoy it. That’s a different kind of gratification that I don’t really get a lot. A lot of times my writing takes it out of somebody’s wheelhouse or it’s a little too quirky. So I’m really excited about those artists who cut my songs.
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Well, I want to say thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today and chat about everything you’ve been up to lately. And safe travels on the road coming up. And we look forward to hearing more music from you and all these songs that you are on.