Walker Hayes Has Started a Song About His Late Daughter, and It’s Devastating
Walker Hayes says he released his song "90s Country" because the playful burst of country nostalgia is what he needs in his life right now. The singer and his wife lost their newborn daughter, Oakleigh, during childbirth in June. A song about that experience is coming, but it's not coming quickly.
"I think it needs to happen," Hayes tells Taste of Country at his publisher's office in Nashville. The "You Broke Up With Me" singer adds that he has sat down to write it several times, and he frequently shares with Laney what comes of those moments. Returning to the stage and songwriting have helped him heal, but this song is different.
"When I do sit down and start hashing it, it still feels dumb," Hayes says. "It's like, 'Why?'"
Oakleigh Klover Hayes died after Laney's uterus ruptured, resulting in internal hemorrhaging. The mom of six's life was also in danger, but she has since recovered.
"It’s not the easiest thing to write about, but I feel like I would waste a lot of what I can share with people by not tackling that," he says.
Great pain often makes great art, and this would not be the first time Hayes funneled his vulnerabilities into his music. His second single from the Boom album is called "Craig" and it was inspired by a man who gifted his family a car at a time when they were really struggling financially. "Beer in the Fridge" is a astonishingly honest ballad about his struggles with alcohol. Naturally fans expect he'll open up about Oakleigh — perhaps even by name like he did with a song called "Beckett" (his son).
“That is the first thing that I address," Hayes says, now rattling off lyrics from a draft he's been working on recently: "People keep asking me if I’ve written a song about you / I just say maybe one day, but really I don’t know how to / Cause it’s just picking out your spot at the cemetery / There’s nowhere beautiful enough to bury my little girl."
"Tragedy levels the playing field," Hayes says as the end of our interview. It's hard to think of anything more true.
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