Exclusive Interview: Walker Hayes Chats About “90’s Country”
Walker Hayes has released his newest single “90’s Country” which marries his progressive and modern twist on the genre with twenty-two classic songs that have influenced the singer-songwriter and most country fans from an era of music that will never grow old. In a recent chat with New York Country Swag, Hayes lets us in on the decision to drop “90’s Country” as well as the writing process that took place with critically acclaimed songwriter and producer Shane McAnally and LYRX.
The most interesting part of the idea behind “90’s Country” is the duality of meaning it brings to the fans across the country and specifically here in New York. On one hand, fans of country music who grew up listening to Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Joe Diffie, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain and all of the other artists referenced in the track, there is a wave of nostalgia that runs over you. For New Yorkers and fans who live in New York, country music hasn’t always been accessible to us. For seventeen years the New York and the metro area did not have a radio station playing current country music, so in order to keep up with what was popular in the country music world, prior to streaming and Spotify, you had to go out and buy CDs. For many fans especially the younger generation of New York country fans, they are hearing these references for the very first time, possibly now choosing to seek out the generation of country music that is so revered everywhere else around America.
Piecing together songs of the past while still creating an entirely new song is no easy task and Hayes explains it was written over months of texts and arguments back and forth. On his debut album boom. each track was authentic to his story, sometimes dark and always personal so when it came to “90’s Country” he was experimenting with a new side of songwriting. “It was such a unique song for me because most of my stuff, actually, 100% of my stuff is personal experience, I just dredge for feelings and emotions and thoughts and details from the emotion that is inside of me and that is the vocabulary I am allowed to use, otherwise I feel like if I select stuff outside of my experience the song begins to become too written,” he explains. But after releasing “Craig” which although it is an inspiring, real story, it is heavy, he felt he wanted to give his fans something lighter, something different. “I told my team I just want to put out something fun, infectious and when it’s over you have to press rewind and something you want to learn the words too.”
It wasn’t until 2004 when Hayes decided to pursue a music career and to make it his full-time job, therefore, he was able to grow up with music, soak it all in without dealing with the politics and business that come along with making the career choice. “I was able to be a teenager and experience all of those firsts with music constantly in my life, but not yet a business or a dream, because those 90’s country songs influenced me so much without me even knowing,” he tells us. “Looking back now as someone who writes every day for a living to provide for my family, it’s incredible to look back and realize I was in 7th grade listening to and experiencing deep lyrics like Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl”, and I was just loving it, pressing repeat. Who knew 20 years down the road I would be hopefully writing songs that people would be doing the same thing to in the car.”
Although the process of writing this song took a long time he is thrilled with the finished product. “It maintains my musical perspective while at the same time, throwing it back to my favorite songs,” he explains. “I’ve been so happy with the reaction it was really tedious but also therapeutic, it was like we put a puzzle together. I feel like this was a good move for me, it sets up a new album and new music in general. We are really glad we spent all of the time we did on it.”
Hayes will join Old Dominion on their Happy Endings Fall Tour which heads overseas stopping in Dublin and the UK for several dates. “I am really looking forward to going back because they are such a unique listener over there, they are very attentive,” he tells us. “They listen to full-length albums they love the material, which is an artists dream.”
Hayes joined us for a Live Swag Session back in April. He returns to New York City this October and country fans can grab tickets to his headlining show at Mercury Lounge on October 9th before he heads overseas.
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