by Lindsay Miller
photos by Preston Leatherman
Walker Hayes wears his emotions on his sleeves. In case you haven’t heard his popular lyrics from songs like “You Broke Up with Me,” and his latest hit, “90’s Country,” he’s an open book on more topics than music. His honesty and determination are genuine and refreshing in a sometimes brutal industry laid in the heart of Music City.
Growing up, Walker excelled as a runner but also participated in school sports like track and field, cross country, soccer, basketball, and says he dabbled in football and baseball. He remembers working out and running as something he routinely did, however, he admits as the years went by, it became less and less of a priority. He had fallen off the routine of fitness and it was then that alcohol became more routine than anything else.
Today, he admittedly says he traded his addiction for a much healthier one. And as a father to six children with his wife Laney, his prouder moments lean more towards the choices and actions he is passing down to his family. He often shares his time at the gym with his daughter these days, but for no reason other than the fact that fitness makes us feel better. His message is simple but profound – when your body feels good, you should whole-heartedly enjoy it.
Q. How long as you lived in Nashville?
A. I’ve been living in Franklin for 15 years now.
Q. Usual place to workout?
A. Planet Fitness
Q. What prompted you to become sober?
A. A few years ago, I was working at Costco the majority of the day, writing as much as I could and then I’d play shows in the evenings. I was able to admit I had a problem, but I was afraid of not being able to function sober like I did when I was drunk. Physically, my body had never been more tired. One day in October 2015 I just woke up on a Saturday, went to work and I thought, ‘If I do this one more day, my body is going to just turn off. It couldn’t take it anymore.’ I was drinking half a case or more a day. After not drinking for only one day, my body immediately felt better. One day turned into two and then a week and that sober high disappeared and I clearly could see who I was and who I had been and I didn’t want to go backwards. I realized how much time I had spent in the bars, so I channeled it into time at the gym instead.
Q. How did sobriety lead you to fitness?
A. It was a natural transition. Fitness is like a church to me. I am a different human when I have those endorphins. I’m sensitive to whatever that provides me. I quickly became addicted to it. Looking back, early on, whatever it was that working out created in me, was addictive, but it was a healthy addiction. That time alone to think is something I enjoy and something I need.
Q. What’s your go-to workout song?
A. Honestly, I don’t listen to music much at the gym. Maybe it’s a runner’s mentality but without distractions, I can see clearly and acknowledge the journey. I like to focus on testing my body to the limit.
Q. Any embarrassing moments in the gym?
A. I always crack my shins on the benches and try to act like no one saw it. I’ve also set off the “lunk alarm” before at Planet Fitness because I dropped the weights.
Q. Any embarrassing moments on stage?
A. Yes! I sang half a show with my zipper down once. The girls on the front row kept pointing and laughing and I thought they were loving the show and just having a good time until my drummer was like, “Naw, it’s your fly.” Another time I was opening for Eli Young Band and a little girl was sitting on the front row with her arms crossed. I really thought, ‘I’m on fire tonight,’ and I thought I’d try and make this little girl’s day. So through the microphone, I said something about the little girl being “the prettiest little girl in the room” and the mom went stone cold. She said, “He’s a boy!” Then I kept trying to comfort the kid and make him feel better by saying I had long hair when I was young too, but there was no coming back from that. I finally had to back away and just play the next song.
Q. Favorite restaurant in Nashville?
A. Sushi is one of my favorite foods, for sure! Miso in Franklin is our regular spot.
Q. Favorite home-cooked meal?
A. We usually have Banana or Pumpkin Bread in the house.
Q. Any tour snacks?
A. Cereal is my after-show snack, but I also like these Complete Cookies. We’ll go to Waffle House while we’re on the road, but if I want something healthier we like to look for local smoothie or juice bars.
Q. Favorite type of workout?
A. Surprisingly, I rarely run these days. I really like upper-body workouts.
Q. Do you use any supplements?
A. I’ll drink Fairlife products (ultra-filtered, lactose-free protein shake). If I’m being good and have the midnight hunger I’ll have a TERA’s Whey shake. They are delicious.
Q. Best workout gear?
A. I own zero cold weather items. Not even gloves. I really love Jogger Sweats and these shoes that are velcro cross trainers called Lebron James Soldiers.
Q. Salt or sugar cravings?
A. I always dip Wendy’s fries in a frosty. One makes me want the other! So I guess that means both.
Q. Boxers or briefs?
A. Boxer-briefs guy. Both again!
Q. Favorite sports teams?
A. Oh, I’m an Alabama fan! But I also like the UNC Tarheels.
Q. Cowboy hat or Ballcap?
Q. Would you rather run in the cold or in the heat?
A. The heat! I’d rather run a mile and sweat than burn my lungs in the cold air.