boom. Walker Hayes uses the word often. “It just felt right,” the breakout country singer says of the title for his highly-anticipated new album. It’s a celebratory sort of thing, he’ll tell you. A new radio station adds his buzzing single, “You Broke Up With Me.” boom. He links up for a national tour with Thomas Rhett. boom. That rowdy performance at CMA Fest –the one that had the crowd singing every word of his music back to him? boom. It wasn’t always this way. Not by a long shot. Lately, though, Hayes has had occasion to bust out the word often. And he’s not complaining.
A confessional, no-nonsense singer-songwriter, and one whose voice and perspective brims with relatability, Hayes is a tried-and-true Nashville standout. He’s an original in a town all too often rife with mimicry and compromise. And, now, he has audiences flocking to him in a major way. Conversational, honest and real in song, Hayes’ forthcoming debut album is the voice of a grinder laying it bare. It’s the stories of a man who realized the songs he couldn’t help but
write — about family, struggle, vices and the sacrifices we make for a dream — were his and his alone. “It startles some people. Like, ‘Wow, he’s really putting it out there,’” Hayes says of the raw songwriting that characterizes boom. and last year’s two break-out 8 Tracks releases. “But, that’s what my heroes did,” he says referencing the Willie’s and Waylon’s and Merle’s of the world. “I can only write something if I truly feel it.”
And if the Mobile, Alabama native has learned anything over more than a decade spent in Nashville, it’s that he can only be himself. His music — from the unflinching and honest “Beer in the Fridge,” to the spare and tender love song “Beautiful,” to “Craig,” boom.’s gripping album closer that documents a friend who came to his family’s aid in a time of need — is entirely Hayes’ own, even if it’s not always pretty. Nothing thrills him more than having no rules and no restriction on his creativity. “As an artist that was so freeing,” he says of the flexibility from his label, the recently revamped Monument Records, to be his own man. “That was like somebody telling you to write for no other reason than to just write.”
This father of six, who moved to Nashville on a hunch 12 years ago and for years and struggled to make it work, relishes his current moment. He’d been dropped from multiple record labels and admits there was a time he wondered how he’d feed his growing family. Not until he began peeling back the layers to his own life and subsequently documenting it in song did everything fall into place. In due time, he linked up with RareSpark Media Group and ace songwriter and GRAMMY award-winning producer Shane McAnally, who signed Hayes to his SMACKSongs publishing company in a co-venture with RareSpark and soon released two volumes of Hayes’ music for free online — 8 Tracks, Vol. 1: Good Shit and 8 Tracks, Vol. 2: Break the Internet. As if without warning, the music quickly attracted a massive swell of popularity.
“It’s when you almost lose that you really realize that maybe you were born to do this no matter what,” Hayes says. “It’s not about success or anything — it’s where you belong.”
And now, with boom., Hayes is ready to pull back the curtain entirely and give all of himself to his music, his fans, his family –everyone who has stuck with him on this long and sometimes painful journey. Says the singer of the road ahead: “I’m just going to continue finding out who exactly I am.”