Walker Hayes shares his battle with addiction in new album

Country singer Walker Hayes is opening up about his past battles with alcoholism that almost cost him his music career with his latest album, “Sober Thoughts.”

Three years ago, Hayes burst onto the music scene with “Fancy Like,” a song that became a sensation and established his presence in the country music world. Today, he returns with a collection of songs that delve deeper into his life experiences, including his struggles with addiction and the heartbreak of losing a child.

In the early days of his career, he and his high school sweetheart, Laney, moved to Nashville to chase his dream of becoming a songwriter. However, the path was plagued with challenges. 

“Life’s kicked us around and we’ve also made it through some really tough stuff,” he said,

After a decade, Hayes’ music career was stalling. He was working the swing shift at Costco to support his growing family. He turned to alcohol, saying he was drinking “all day, every day.”

“I mean, it had, it had come to an embarrassing point but I had a handle of vodka in my Honda Accord at all times. And it went in every beverage,” he said.

Hayes’ struggle persisted until he eventually acknowledged he was an alcoholic.

“I woke up, and physically, I’ve never felt like this before,” Hayes said. “It wasn’t even a hangover. It just felt like if I start again today and do this, I might die.”

After this realization, Hayes pursued sobriety, and his life began to improve. 

However, as his career was gaining momentum in 2018, he and his wife faced an unimaginable tragedy.

Laney almost died while delivering their seventh child, Oakleigh, who was stillborn at full-term. After Oakleigh’s funeral — and three years sober — Hayes drove to a bar. 

“Got down there and my wallet wasn’t in my door,” he said. So I drove back home. First thing I see when I walk back into my house is Laney in the dark living room, just sitting in the dark, staring into the wall, by herself. And my grief and anger immediately turned to shame. My favorite person on Earth is all by herself.”

That’s when he says his priorities quickly shifted, and in clinging to his family, Hayes’ career finally took off.

“I was self-absorbed and I wanted power. I wanted success. And so the lens changed when we lost Oakleigh and I began to cling to the things that matter, and one thing that really matters to me is my kids,” said Hayes. 

Hayes’ career witnessed a resurgence in 2021, when a TikTok dance created by his daughter Lela to “Fancy Like” went viral, reintroducing his music to a wider audience. 

“I was like, oh, we got 6,000, you know, 6,000 people like it,” Hayes recalled. “And my daughter goes, ‘Dad, that’s 600,000.'”

This newfound success was a beacon of light for Hayes and his family, showing how personal expression through music could foster connection and healing.

Now, with “Sober Thoughts,” Hayes is more candid than ever about his life’s complexities.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “And the fact that life, it ends. And if we all really got to see that from, from the front row, it would change our daily lives. We would see clearly what matters.”

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