116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Not everyone reaches the top of the country mountain as a youngster.
After slugging it out on the Nashville circuit as a singer/songwriter since 2005, Walker Hayes finally hit pay dirt.
The infectious single “Fancy Like” reached the apex of the country charts at the end of 2021. The ubiquitous tune has propelled his latest, “Country Stuff: The Album,” into a hit, and Walker is headlining arenas and amphitheaters. He’s bringing his “Glad You’re Here” tour to the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday night, Oct. 21, 2022.
“It’s been amazing,” Hayes said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve been at this for a while, and it’s just great to have this kind of success.”
What: Walker Hayes“ Glad You’re Here” tour, with Parmalee opening
Where: Alliant Energy PowerHouse, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, 2022
Tickets: $35 to $55 reserved seating, $139 standing-room-only in the pit; creventslive.com/events/veue/powerhouse
Artist’s website: walkerhayes.com/
Hayes, 42, and his wife left their native Mobile, Ala., for Nashville in 2005. He landed a gig as a songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, and shortly thereafter, signed a deal with Mercury. His initial single, “Pants,” charted in 2010. The adventurous Hayes found some success with his style of country, which includes elements of R&B, hip-hop and rock.
However, it didn’t all come together until the loose and playful “Country Stuff” dropped.
“It all worked out for ‘Country Stuff’ because of COVID,” he said. “I had a break, and I wrote when I wanted to. In Nashville everything is by appointment. You’re scheduled to write and you bring an idea in (to a songwriting session). The great thing about (the lockdown) is that I wrote when I was inspired. If it weren't for (that), there might not be a ‘Fancy Like.’ I sat down and laid down a vocal to guitar and a drum beat at home. If you isolate the vocal, you can probably hear my dogs barking in the background and my wife turning the sink on and off.”
The human element with “Fancy Like” is refreshing in this age of sonic perfection.
“I feel the same way,” Hayes said. “I listen to a lot of classical music and I’ll listen to someone playing the cello, and you can hear them lean in when they play. You'll hear a chair creak or you’ll hear them take a breath or they let out a deep one. It’s so cool when it’s not robotic.”
His producer, Joe Thibodeux, is down with sonic flaws.
“Joe is fine with that,” Hayes said. “He’s on the same page. The last thing he wants to do is clean something up that already sounds good. If it works for us, we leave it. What we have to do is keep the record button on at all times. You never know what you’ll end up with. Sometimes you can’t duplicate what you just did.”
Hayes, who will perform Friday night at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse in downtown Cedar Rapids, has no problem taking risks in the studio, onstage or in life.
“I grew up in a generation of safety and security,” he said. “No one ever told me that I would be miserable if I ventured down that path. I know the people who have the safe, secure jobs that they’ll have forever, that are boring. Those people are like they’re already dead. What shocks me is that these people actually teach their children to do the same thing. They encourage their kids to jump on that terrible hamster wheel. That’s awful.”
That’s not so for Hayes, who is the married father of six children ranging in age from 6 to 17.
“I get so much joy from my children,” he said. “I enjoy everything about family life, and because of them, life in general. I never have a shortage of ideas. My manager told me the other day that it’s amazing that I never get writer’s block. That’s a huge blessing for me. There’s just not enough paper in the world for me. I’m always in writer mode.”
Hayes already is working on material for his next album.
“It’s very different,” he said. “It’s a very diverse album. It’ll be different than your average country record, which is packaged and boxed up. I’m excited about what I’m writing, since I’m trying to take it to another level. I refuse to believe that it’s all been written.”