Country Singer Walker Hayes Gets Candid About Alcoholism

By David Konow 02/27/18

“Nashville kind of chewed me up, spit me out. The shame was painful, and then I would drink. Then the shame of being a drunk made me drink even more.”

Walker Hayes

Country artist Walker Hayes has been trying to break through as a singer/songwriter for over a decade, even working at Costco to support his family when times got tough. Now, the 38-year-old musician is finding success with his recently released albumboom, which tackles his alcoholism.

Released last December, the album features several candid songs about addiction. "Beer in the Fridge" is about the last surviving beer of a 12-pack after a bender. On another track called "Wish I Could Drink," Hayes describes the isolation of being on the road and wanting to use alcohol to cope.

Hayes spoke to Pop Culture about the song, “It’s about that kind of hotel loneliness, and then the dreams that you have if you’re a recovering alcoholic. Kind of forgiving yourself for the past, and moving on and focusing on now. Trying not to be selfish. It’s just a healing process. It is a tough business.” 

Hayes says, “I’m only two years sober. I still fight it all the time. If you take a look around, there’s a lot of people leaning on alcohol these days, or substances in general. Life sucks and it’s heavy. Alcohol is an immediate courage giver. It’s an immediate relief, a band-aid.”

Hayes says he turned to drinking after his first record deal came apart and he was having a hard time keeping his family afloat. “I leaned on it heavily,” he says. “Nashville kind of chewed me up, spit me out. The shame was painful, and then I would drink. Then the shame of being a drunk made me drink even more.”

Alcoholism runs in Hayes’s family; his brothers had their own struggles as well. “I always said I’d never be like them, and then I kind of looked at myself at some point and said, ‘Wow, I’m just like them, if not worse.’”

Being on the road can be hard for Hayes; he knows he can’t be around others who drink. “I don’t expect [my band] to all be recovering alcoholics, but we run a tight ship when it comes to that type of stuff. It’s a big part of my life, sobriety, right now.”

Readjusting to performing without alcohol has been tough for Hayes. “It took me a while to get used to just playing in front of people sober,” he said.

Staying away from alcohol on the road is “constantly a fight,” but he’s encouraged when talking to people who’ve been sober for decades. “They encourage me. They tell me that it gets better over time.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.