With a beautiful family and recently inked record deal with a Grammy-winning songwriter, 37-year-old country music singer Walker Hayes’s star is on the rise. Based on that information alone, he leads a pretty charmed existence. But he’s recently revealed the darkness he had to struggle through on his path to success, namely in the form of alcohol.
Born in Mobile, Ala., Hayes married his high school sweetheart, Laney, and the couple eventually settled in Nashville so he could pursue a career in music. They now have six children, ranging in age from one to 11 years old, and he worked at a Costco store to make ends meet and put food on the table.
Hayes started hitting the bottle heavily after two singles flopped and a record deal fell through, despite its effects on his family and discussions with his wife to stop.
“I was ashamed of myself,” he said. “I was at that phase in life where I just had not achieved anything that I set out to do and, in the meantime, I had this beautiful family that I couldn’t take care of. As a man, that was so frustrating, so being drunk all the time made me forget that.”
The strain on his marriage was huge but he admits,“It was a continuous discussion. I was at the point where, [when Laney] would say, ‘You have a problem,’ my answer was, ‘Yes I do, but without this problem I can’t exist. I can’t function. I can’t do what I need to do to be a dad, or work.’ It was just all too heavy.”
Then one day he realized he decided he had had enough.
“I woke up, and it’s like my body said, ‘If you do this one more day, that’ll be it… And I just didn’t have a drink … It was kind of a miracle. And then one day turned into two and, honestly, I feel like I got kind of high on sobriety.”
He admits it wasn’t easy. Alcohol had taken the edge off his stage fright and made him more confident in social situations, so now he felt everything more strongly.
But he decided to share his story for a very good reason. Many alcoholics, “feel the need to be quiet about it … I’m not embarrassed. I know exactly why people drink. It provides an immediate relief from a life that’s pretty friggin’ heavy sometimes.”
And now sobriety, “has provided so much clarity as far as my career is concerned. I don’t sing any songs that I don’t believe in, and I think that has a lot to do with [the fact] that I wake up sober every day. I’m not trying so hard to be somebody I’m not, to fit a mold. I’m comfortable with who I am. I’m even comfortable in being uncomfortable with who I am, if that makes sense. Sobriety has treated me so well.
“A lot of my songs now have a lot to do with that relief from addiction, and a lot to do with Laney’s and my story through that. I hope that helps people.”
He co-wrote the fast-rising single “You Broke Up With Me,” which on its surface tells the tale of a woman who comes crawling back to her boyfriend after breaking his heart. But in fact, the lyrics are about Hayes’s experience in Nashville after he found success.
Watch his “You Broke Up With Me” video below, and share to spread inspiration to others!