At his home outside Nashville, it doesn’t take long for country music artist Walker Hayes to say the obvious: “There is nothing fancy in my studio.” And yet, in this room that wasn’t even big enough for a bed, he placed one of the biggest hits of the year.
“Yeah we like that Applebee is on a date night
Got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake
Put some whipped cream on top too
Two straws, a check, girl, I got you … “
“Fancy Like” put Hayes at the top of the country charts … and put Applebee on the tip of almost everyone’s tongue.
Hayes told correspondent Lee Cowan, “I think we all think, this is going to end your career or just blow it up, you know? But we didn’t know.”
It wasn’t just the hook; it was the contagious dance that Walker’s daughter invented to accompany him.
Hayes said it took him a long time to master the movements. His daughter, Lela, confirmed: “Dad couldn’t do this, just cross, middle, up!”
After posting it on TikTok, the song and dance blew up. People everywhere started doing it. And Applebee’s was quick to catch the viral wave:
The Oreo Shake was off the menu when the song was a huge hit, but Applebee’s has now been forced to put it back.
Hayes said, “I can’t wait to have grandchildren and bring them here, and I’m going to brag all the time and say, ‘This is good, right? You know why he lives here? Because I brought him back!'”
“Fancy Like” wasn’t written to be a jingle, it’s more like a journal entry. Hayes is a regular Applebee’s, and when you have six mouths to feed, the fantasy is relative. He doesn’t live in a mansion in Nashville, but in a no-nonsense house in a no-nonsense neighborhood in the country. He and his wife, Laney, moved here from Alabama 17 years ago, and Walker landed a record deal almost immediately.
“What is difficult about this city? Like it’s no big deal. I got a record deal. You know they’re dressing me up in pretty clothes, taking pictures. And then they dropped me, “he said.
And then they dropped it again.
“All the stamps in the city had passed me multiple times. To lull myself, I drank a ton, you know, while writing, while playing shows.”
Eventually he found himself working the 4 a.m. shift as Costco, just to feed his family.
Cowan said, “But you never stopped writing, did you?”
“Well, I wanted to. I started to feel like I was being a worse parent by continuing to pursue this dream. Like, am I being a good parent or is it time for me to grow up?”
He sobered up, stopped worrying about the radio, and started writing about what mattered to him.
“There was a kind of reckless abandonment of the things that I would write,” he said. “They were just true. They were emotional.”
“And really personal?”
“Oh so personal.”
His 2017 single “You Broke Up With Me” rose higher on the charts than anything he had ever written before:
I was going high, but then the tragedy stalled. The one who would have been the seventh child of the couple, Oakleigh, died at birth.
“I was two years sober,” Hayes said, “and I drove to a bar, and I just wanted to get into the fight. I just wanted to get hit and fight. But, the Lord had other plans. I didn’t have my wallet.”
Instead, he went to an AA meeting.
Since then, Hayes has been writing about what he fears and what he loves.
Your family may not be “fancy,” but they sure know how to celebrate a father who, after all these years, finally made his dream come true: “Fancy Like” has gone double platinum.
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Story produced by Dustin Stephens. Publisher: Steven Tyler.