During Walker Hayes’ recent sold-out show in Cedar Rapids, he celebrated being seven years sober. In honor of reaching this milestone, he performed an unreleased song titled, “Same Drunk.”
“I wrote this song; I want to share it with y’all. It’s called ‘Same Drunk,’ it’s not out yet, but I love testing new stuff out,” he said in the video captured by a fan in attendance, before encouraging the crowd to try and sing along.
The upbeat track talks about having an addiction to something other than alcohol, like toxic relationships, looking younger and having freshly cut grass, as he sings in the opening verse.
“Same Drunk” is not Hayes’ first song written about drinking. He also covers the topic in lighthearted ways through tracks like “Drinking Songs,” and “AA.” Despite this common theme in his music, Hayes has not had a drink since 2015.
Drinking used to be a coping mechanism for the father of six, especially during his failed record deal and struggling financially, not knowing where his career was going. Although he doesn’t turn to alcohol anymore to deal with his problems, it hasn’t been an easy feat to overcome.
Hayes recently appeared on Southern Living’s summer tour edition of Biscuits & Jam, where opened up about struggles with success and battling alcoholism.
Through all the bad that happened in his life, Hayes’ wife Laney was always by his side to pull him out of the dark moments. The couple met in high school and got married in 2004.
When they made the move to Nashville in pursuit of Hayes’ musical dreams, the newlyweds were hopeful, but unfortunately, Music City didn’t turn out to be what they expected. It ended up taking a decade for Hayes to get established.
“I had been rejected four or five times a year at a major public level,” Hayes recalled while speaking to Southern Living Magazine editor-in-chief Sid Evans. “I was working at Costco, looking other music business people in the face every day. You know they shop in my produce section, and we had to face each other and go, ‘yeah it’s come to this?’ And I felt I had to act like I’m good when I wasn’t.”
With the lack of support he received from both the music industry and his family back home in Alabama, he began to turn to the bottle to fill that gap.
“Our families had become quiet. It’s almost like we couldn’t be around any family members without them dry heaving the words, ‘how much longer are you gonna do this?’ or ‘when are you coming home?’” Hayes said. “And if they didn’t say it, you could read it on their faces. So sadly, Laney and I were just getting more and more on that island of isolation.”
Then, things got worse before they got better. Hayes and Laney already had six kids when they were planning to add a seventh child to their family. Unfortunately, they lost their daughter, Oakleigh, at birth. At the time, Hayes had a handle on his addiction, but the pain of losing their baby proved to be incredibly difficult for him to handle.
“Just holding a lifeless child. It’s indescribable. I can’t imagine a worse pain,” Hayes explained. “I’d been sober for three years when we lost Oakleigh. I was ready to not be. As soon as that happened, I was like, ‘this is why you drink.’”
During this experience, the thought of turning back to alcohol crossed his mind, but instead of having a drink, he turned to his faith.
At the time, he considered himself to be an atheist, but that changed after he met Laura and Craig Allen Cooper through one of their kids’ basketball games.
“Craig’s a preacher, but outside of church, I never heard him preach,” Hayes shared. “By the grace of God, somebody recommended a book to Laney called Secrets of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield… This woman’s testimony, it’s exactly like mine, except I hadn’t surrendered yet… I wolfed this book down. I finished it by the time the sun came up.”
“I know for some reason losing Oakleigh led me to Christ. I would not know Jesus if I had not known the loss of my daughter. That’s what it took for me,” he added. “Losing Oakleigh granted me the knowledge of how much control I do not have. It gave me the freedom to just love my kids and kind of get down on their level and quit trying to imagine what I think the perfect future would look like.”
That revolution was the beginning of a much brighter future for Hayes. In 2021, he rapidly garnered a fanbase when he went viral on TikTok for his song, “Fancy Like.” His name spread like wildfire throughout the country music industry and now, he’s winning awards, creating more fan-favorite hits and perhaps his best accomplishment so far, remaining sober.
Walker Hayes is currently on the road for his headlining Glad You’re Here Tour with special guest Parmalee. The trek kicked off on Sept. 29 and his next stop will be on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Bakersfield, CA.