Good morning country fans, and happy Friday!
This Friday we’re featuring a mainstream country newcomer who is finally receiving the recognition he deserves for his work, plus, he may or may not be linked to our most recent #MondayHero (s/o Kenny!). That’s right — we’ve been saving up for this one.
Hailing from the gulf town of Mobile, AL and presently situated in Nashville for about the past decade or so, this pensive yet comedic singer-songwriter (and father of six!) is finally reaping the rewards for his hard work, determination, and dedication to pursuing of his dreams. Celebrating the release of his December 2017 record boom., today’s #FridayFind is currently touring with superstar country rookie Kelsea Ballerini and is slated to play a few major music festivals throughout the summer as well. With more than 50 million Spotify plays on his recent Gold-certified single “You Broke Up With Me”, today’s Rhythm & Boots NYC #FridayFind is none other than Mr. Walker Hayes.
Off the bat, the story of Hayes’ professional career is inspiring and universally replicable. After tiring from working a day job and longing to play music day in and day out, Hayes’ father eventually convinced him to gig some local shows and test out his act. The spotlight caught him right, and he quickly knew that a stage-propped barstool was the place he needed to be, both for passion and for profession. Putting his inhibitions aside, he picked up his belongings (with his growing family included!) and headed for Music City; for Walker, it was finally time to make the dream into a reality.
Like most country come-ups, after originally beginning his now-tenured music career as a songwriter, he scored his first record deal with Capitol Records Nashville for his 2011 release Reason to Rhyme. Despite visibly showcasing his honesty, comedy, and storytelling prowess in the studio, the record fell short of expectations. Viewing the record as a gateway to entry instead of a block in the road, however, Hayes continued to write and perform music throughout Nashville in order to live out and pursue his dream, even while working at Costco and continuing to grow his family in the interim. Putting money troubles and growing uncertainty aside, Hayes’ steadfast belief in himself led him to keep writing and continue hoping, enough so to eventually convince the city that broke up with him a few years earlier to give him one more chance.
Enter the mid-2010s, and Hayes is given another opportunity to make a record, this time with Nashville esteemed songwriter/producer (and Monument Records co-president) Shane McAnally; the product was the now largely effectual 2016 releases, 8Tracks, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. With more freedom on the record and a newly developed confidence in his unique ability to avoid conforming to country cliches, Hayes worked with McAnally to create a sharpened library more so aligned with the new radio-friendly mixtures of country rap and country pop, working in contrast to his more generic-sounding debut record. With many of these tracks eventually gaining online traction and even ending up on his latest major release (also under Monument), Hayes constructed boom., an individualistic and foundational podium from which he can continue to preach faith, family, and tangible feeling in the near and distant future.
Currently making his way around the country opening for the crowd-drawing Kelsea Ballerini, the artist- and fan-praised Hayes is debuting a lot of his new music on stage for audiences of all ages. From incorporating his children into his performance (his 4-year-old son, Beckett, is the namesake for the boom. track of that name, and the little guy drops a pretty special message on the audience at the beginning of the live performance) and seamlessly sing-rap speaking throughout his setlist, Hayes’ live shows are convincing country fans across the nation why he should be considered among Nashville’s most creative songwriters and performers. As a touring musician now with multiple Top 10 hits, he is without a doubt a few steps closer to achieving his end goal. As to how far he’ll rise? The sky’s the limit for a talent as authentically innovative as Walker Hayes.
Follow Walker on his social media and Spotify pages below, and listen to the customized Walker Hayes R&B NYC playlist on Spotify. (And check out the rest of the #FridayFinds below-article!)
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Walker Hayes #FeaturedFour:
- “Craig” (2017) – First and foremost, we’ll start with the last but not least. As the closing track to his boom. record, this track feels like the mic drop on Walker’s earlier music career. As the solo writer of this song, Hayes puts his entire being on the line, pulling all the levers to unleash his internal emotions and secrets to the public. With lines like “When you lose a record deal, yeah the perks fade fast / Dealership said ‘We’re going to need to get that minivan back,’” and “No he can’t walk on water / or turn the Napa Valley red / but he just might be tight, with a man that did,” Walker gives us a first-hand look into the life of a struggling musician and how faith in friends and hope for the future is more important than any bag of bills or gold-plated record.
- “Halloween” (2016) – Another track doused in the Macklemore-esque style of melody-backed, laid-back country rap, this 8Tracks addition (and would-be boom. single) is a descriptive, questioningly analytical thought piece adorned with the glorious vocal support of fellow Nashville hit singer-songwriter Nicolle Galyon. A track perfectly balanced among lyrics, rhythm, and melody, this boom. feature is a country anthem in the making, and with glowing orange floodlights illuminating the stage during his live set, Hayes convinces the audience to sway back and forth with him, bringing the entire crowd into his world of relatability.
- “You Broke Up With Me” (2017) – As his first major radio hit, this iconic song has been featured on tons of playlists across the internet, and has even peaked at the #9 and #10 spots on the Hot Country and Country Airplay charts, respectively. For an artist that has been struggling for recognition for a decade-plus up until now, this track is an incredibly huge milestone for Walker. Detailing his occasionally not-so-loving relationship with the town he has called his home since the mid-2000s, the song uses rhythmic timing and fast-spoken slow-grooves to create a complicated atmosphere that ends up underlining the simple fact that “hey, [it] broke up with [him].”
- “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon #Thisisfriggenawesome” (2013) – Being a New York City publication, we had little choice but to throw this song up on the #FeaturedFour. This musical showcase portrays the comedic nature behind a lot of Walker’s music, and puts his songwriting ability at the forefront of the conversation around him as a truly unique artist. A song that sounds more like an actual Tonight Show skit than a music project, this song will have you laughing out loud, and is an absolute must-listen if you’re fan of basically anything at all.
Check out some footage from Walker’s concert last night at The PlayStation Theater in Times Square, NYC, and show him some love on his social pages!
Until next week,
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