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Country Music Star Walker Hayes on Being a “Craig” (ep. 146)

Walker Hayes

John O’Leary welcomes country music singer-songwriter Walker Hayes to share his unlikely path to the top of the music charts on the Live Inspired Podcast.

Singer-songwriter Walker Hayes shares his unlikely path to the top of the Country Music Billboard charts. You’ll hear the stories behind the songs on his latest album, boom., like platinum-hit You Broke Up with Me about losing a record deal and Craig, which is a tribute to a life-changing friendship.

More exceptional than hearing “behind the scenes” stories of big Nashville country music are the raw conversations Walker and I have in between – about life, loss, love, sobriety, failing and trying again.

Many say Walker broke into the mainstream by sounding different than anyone else; our conversation is a reminder that to live inspired, we must be ourselves. If you could use a reminder that the path to “success” isn’t always easy, but is always worth it – this episode is for you.

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  • “It hasn’t always made sense. I’ve had a lot of arguments with my dreams.”
  • The song Craig was Walker’s personal “thank you” note to a dear friend who selflessly gave and inspired him to do things like that for others.
    • While attending church, Walker met Craig and immediately felt accepted.
    • After losing a record deal, Craig lent Walker their minivan to safely transport his six children, teaching Walker the important lesson of accepting help.
  • Walker wrote platinum hit You Broke Up With Me, which can be interpreted many ways, about losing a record deal.
  • One of Walker’s big breaks was when Bobby Bones Show, a nationally syndicated radio show, played his song Beer in the Fridge, a song Walker wrote as a pep talk to himself sober.
  • On his wife Laney, Walker says her steady is as rock solid as his whimsical. How she loved him through his alcoholism helped him address his fear of facing his struggles sober.
  • The morning of the CMT Awards, his first performance on an award show on public television, Laney went into labor with their seventh child. Oakleigh Klover Hayes died after Laney’s uterus ruptured, resulting in internal hemorrhaging
  • Finding beauty in the pain: Tragedy strengthened Walker and Laney’s relationship as they learned to communicate how they grieve differently.
  • Oakleigh inspires Walker’s purpose of making a difference for others.
  • Get Walker Hayes’ latest album boom. here.
  • Walker Hayes wrote Joy Like Judy for the mother of past Live Inspired Podcast guest Amy Brown from ep. 37. Amy is the co-host of The Bobby Bones Show and a shining example of finding blessings in all of life’s experiences. Listen to ep. 37 here.
  • During the Live Inspired 7, Walker shares he’d love to sit on a bench, overlooking the ocean with his dad. On Live Inspired Podcast’s Monday Moments ep. 129 a listener shared how applied the Live Inspired 7 to his own life.

If you like this podcast, you will love Live Inspired IN STUDIO. It’s my membership community where like-minded friends join me via live webcast to live inspired together. Registration opens soon! Join the waitlist.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? I was a little more carefree growing up. Age + responsibilities have tapered that. I need to remind myself that you live on this earth once, leave it different + better. We can do that by taking ourselves less seriously.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? I picked up a piece of scrap metal from my first date with Laney, bending it into a ring. She still has that ring. She wore it all through college.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? There is still time but my dad. I’d put aside all the fear, pride and messing around to just talk to him for a little while.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? My father told me, “the way the actually judge a man is how he helps someone that cannot help him in return.” That’s who Craig and Laney have been for me.

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? One, don’t drink. Two, I would tell my 20-year-old self the same thing I’d tell my 38-year-old self… It’s going to be okay. I’d hug him and tell him you’re going to be alright.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? He loved her. He loved. I have the desire to leave every person I talk to feeling better, better than I found them.


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