Walker Hayes has had a rough ride to the top that’s involved record deals falling through and facing his own personal demons. In 2017 he started to truly gain momentum with the release of his hit single You Broke Up With Me, a song that swiftly stuck two fingers up to all the people that didn’t believe him in but were now coming crawling back at the first sniff of success. Hayes released his album boom. in December and since then he’s become one of the most buzzed-about stars in Country music.
Yesterday he performed his first C2C: Country to Country 2018 set on the BBC Radio 2 Stage at Indigo. I was intrigued to see what people were going to make of Hayes as his music pushes boundaries with some fans of the genre dismissing it as Country. Personally I think he’s incredibly innovative and one of the most exciting artists in music right now.
Hayes opened his set with Dollar Store, a sweet and funny song about taking his kids (he’s got six and a seventh on the way) to buy presents on their birthdays. The song is a perfect showcase for who Hayes is. He doesn’t tow the line and he’s got his own style that makes him stand out. Using a loop pedal and armed with his guitar, he was fascinating to watch and the audience responded really well to him. He moved on to Beautiful, one of the standouts on boom. and he got the crowd singing along, which put a huge smile on his face. In between tracks Hayes spoke honestly and openly with the crowd, often making us laugh with his banter and commentary.
The next two tracks he performed were perhaps lesser known to the audience but they were received very well. Your Girlfriend Does was a hilarious response to an Internet hater who trolled Hayes online while Lela’s Stars was a lump-in-the-throat moment about how Hayes’ daughter Lela gave her thumb tacks (drawing pins to us Brits) to him to pin down the roof of his rapidly falling apart car.
You Broke Up With Me got the biggest reaction of the set, unsurprisingly, and it sounded superb live. It’s such a catchy song and Hayes sings it with such conviction, you can’t help but cheer him on. It’s nice to see him having a turnaround in fortunes as he definitely hasn’t had the easiest path to success.
The set came to a close with Shut Up Kenny, a humorous song about Kenny Chesney. Hayes explained that he loves Chesney but that his music soundtracked a fight with his girlfriend (now wife) and when he tried to change the channel on the radio, the same song was on another station. It’s a loving homage to the Country superstar and it’s a damn fine song.
Hayes’ set may have been short but he certainly made an impact. He’s the ultimate underdog and he’s now on top, which is thrilling to see. Regardless of the debate around the genre he fits in, Hayes is a fantastic and unique talent that deserves every single bit of the success he’s having right now. The exciting thing is, I think he’s only just scratching the surface of what he can do.
Set list: 1. Dollar Store 2. Beautiful 3. Your Girlfriend Does 4. Lela’s Stars 5. You Broke Up With Me 6. Shut Up Kenny Performance date: 10th March 2018