Country singer Walker Hayes has had many highs and lows since moving from his native Mobile, Ala. to Nashville in 2005 to find success in country music. The 35-year-old was initially signed to Capitol Records soon after moving to Music City, ultimately losing that deal without the label releasing a hit single.
Now signed to Monument Records, with his debut single, "You Broke Up With Me," from his freshman boom. album in the Top 10, and an opening slot on Kelsea Ballerini's upcoming Unapologetically Tour, the married father of six (with another one on the way) barely remembers the young man who moved from Alabama 13 years ago.
"My wife and I have changed drastically since we were married and moved here to Nashville," Hayes tells PopCulture.com. "We were two spoiled rotten kids, and on a whim came to Nashville to chase a dream. A lot of things came easy to me at first – my first couple of record deals were basically handed to me on the spot. You could say I had zero appreciation for what that meant to have a massive machine behind me. Then, we did a 180. I mean, life got hard."
After struggling for years, including working the morning shift at Costco just to make ends meet, in hindsight, Hayes is as grateful for the tough times as the happy ones.
"It tested us to see how bad we wanted it," says Hayes. "It tested our marriage, our faith. It sharpened us, I guess you could say. We just look at the world totally different, I guess, after our experience in Nashville. We have gone from content, financially OK, to scary, and financially not OK. We've learned to appreciate so little, which is great. Also, it's changed my why I wake up every day. I wake up to be a better father, a better husband first and foremost. And be honest in my music."
The difficult times, although painful, made Hayes better in every way, including in his songwriting.
"I no longer sit down and try to write bumper stickers that I think are cute," he admits. "I see my time here on this earth is very precious, and I want to do some amazing stuff with it. I want to be an example for my kids, and I want to love on my wife, and maybe leave some music that outlives me. What has changed the most is that I am grateful for each second that I get to do this."
Photo Credit: Instagram/WalkerHayes