Fans who see Walker Hayes performing his infectious upbeat hit songs, or watch him creating viral dance routines on TikTok, may not realize that he’s been coping with an unthinkable tragedy for nearly four years.
Hayes’ wife Laney was about to give birth to their seventh child in June of 2018 when she faced several complications from a rare and catastrophic rupture of her uterus that sent her into emergency surgery. A nurse broke the devastating news to Hayes that his wife had delivered their daughter, Oakleigh Klover, but that the baby girl had passed away. To make a bad situation worse, Laney’s life was also in danger.
“I really just hoped that this wasn’t going to be the worst day of my life, even though it kind of already was,” Hayes told PEOPLE. “Surgery just seemed to never end, and someone would continue to come to me and say things that I didn’t really understand, ‘we may have to use this much to replace this blood.’ That is when I began to worry for my wife’s life, and of course, I’m freaking out.”
The skilled medical staff was able to save Laney’s life and once she was stabilized in the intensive care unit, it was time for Hayes to deliver the horrific news of their daughter’s passing. He had to tell his wife multiple times, as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Once she was fully awake, the couple spent the day with their daughter’s body at the suggestion of an acquaintance who had also lost a newborn four years earlier.
“I didn’t know what was morbid, I didn’t know what was normal,” Hayes told PEOPLE. “But she began just walking me through the process. It is a miracle she was there.”
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Hayes has been open and candid about his family’s journey throughout their grieving process, and now, he’s using his music to help other people coping with similar tragedies.
“It’s called ‘Six On Earth, One In Heaven,’ and it’s about me meeting someone who had experienced the same thing, and it is really centered on the fact that when some tragedy occurs to you, you’re in a club,” Hayes recently told Music Mayhem. “You don’t want to be a member of that club, but you’re so grateful to meet someone else who is in that club, who has experienced that loss because you feel less alone,”
@musicmayhemmagazine @walkerhayesofficial will honor his late daughter, Oakleigh, in a new song called “Six On Earth, One In Heaven.” #WalkerHayes ♬ original sound – Music Mayhem
Fans heard a preview of the track when Hayes performed it during an Instagram live a few months ago.
“I don’t want the world to forget you / Oakleigh, I will always say seven / Six on earth and one in Heaven / well, I guess that’s all for today / brought you some fresh flowers / and here’s a plum, I guess for the ants to devour / I promise I will never keep you like a secret, even though we couldn’t keep you / Cause you just never know who might have an Oakleigh too / Even though I know you’re somewhere better / I don’t want the world to forget you / Oakleigh I will always say seven / six on Earth and one in Heaven,” the emotional artist tearfully sang.
When fans showed their support in the comments, Hayes said, “I appreciate y’all listening to my stuff and just letting me dump it all out. The reason I wanted to vent that is that I was just touched by y’all responses by my just short caption that hinted at something my wife [Laney] and I went through, and you just don’t know what it means when you open back up.”
Although there’s no official word on when the song will come out, Hayes told Music Mayhem that he would like to release the sentimental track on one of Oakleigh’s birthdays. “June 6 is when we lost her, and she would be four coming up. I have thought about it with my team, perhaps just dropping that. But, dropping that would merely just be to help someone out there, and that’s a beautiful thing. They would have allowed me to do that before ‘Fancy Like’… that’s just kind of how my label rolls,” he concluded.
Walker Hayes just released Country Stuff The Album on January 21, which features 13 songs including the smash hit “Fancy Like.”
His headlining Fancy Like Tour, including support from MacKenzie Porter, kicked off on January 27 in Grand Rapids, MI and will run through April 30 in Louisville, KY.