Walker Hayes

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

There’s no shortage of deft writers and entertainers in Nashville.

What nudges Walker Hayes slightly ahead of the field is that his music makes him seem like somebody you’d like to know as much as listen to.

This is clear on his first EP, produced by Marshall Altman, with all four tracks slated for his upcoming debut album, Reason to Rhyme. Each performance creates an impression that this young artist greets life with a grin on his face and maybe a sly joke in his heart.

Some of that was evident even in Hayes’ childhood, when he had no qualms about conducting an imaginary orchestra for fun and no problem dividing his routine between macho sports and the arty school choir. He met his future wife Laney in high school when they starred in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Years later, a newcomer in Nashville, he took advantage of an opportunity to appear at a writers’ night at the Bluebird Café by playing two standards.

There was a reason for that last oddity: Despite gigging in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., and earning a general music degree with a piano emphasis at Birmingham-Southern College on his way to further study at the University of North Carolina, Hayes came to Music City with almost no songs in his writer catalog. But yard work and busking on Lower Broadway bought him time to sharpen his skills, land a residency at Puckett’s Grocery and finally earning a deal from Capitol Records Nashville by singing on some demos pitched to Keith Urban.

On his first single and video, the good-time, Dobro-sweetened “Pants,” and the dramatic/romantic ballad “Naked,” both written by Hayes, his humor emerges through clever wordplay. But on these tracks, as well as his second single “Why Wait for Summer,” which he wrote with Fred Wilhelm, there’s enough substance to suggest that Hayes will be teasing smiles from fans for years to come.

IN HIS OWN WORDS Q&A

SONG YOU’D LOVE TO COVER
“‘Mr. Tanner,’ by Harry Chapin.”

BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND
“A notebook, for ideas that come in the middle of the night.”

LUCKY CHARM
“The ones I eat in the morning.”

FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
“My Honda.”

DREAM DUET PARTNER
“My wife, but she’ll never do it. She has stage fright.”

On the Web: www.WalkerHayes.com

Walker Hayes Photo by Kristin Barlowe/Provided by Country Music Association

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