Clay Walker Biography
Last updated: 07/25/2014 06:25:00 PM
Born: August 19, 1969, Beaumont, TX
"Before, I was walking along a fence," says Clay Walker. "Now I feel like I've jumped into the tall grass and I'm the hunter. I've always loved what I do, but now I'm back in love with the music. It's passionate again." Call it the seventh-album itch as Say No More, produced by Byron Gallimore (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw), Blake Mevis, Brent Mason and Walker, follows four platinum and two gold albums, and 11 #1 singles, from one of contemporary country's most successful artists.
"I haven't ever put this much time or as much heart and soul into an album, not even the first one," continues Texan Walker. "I let it all hang out, gave everything I have to this. There have always been one or two great songs on previous albums but I always seemed to stop short of going all the way for every song. This album was difficult to make because I didn't hide the emotions I went through on every song. It's why I love singing, because I'm actually living the songs while I'm singing them."I'm actually living the songs while I'm singing them."
That, he says, is what sets Say No More apart. "This album is more about real situations, it's more where people live, less dreamy, nothing slick. There's emotion in every single cut, and that's the most important thing about a record--the vocal has to speak to people."
From the first single, "Say No More," with its edgy chord progression, to Walker's stunning Spanish-language cover of "La Bamba," from the Texas swing of "Texas Swing" to the can't-get-it-out-of-your-head melody of "If You Ever Feel Like Lovin' Me Again," from the honky tonk of "Rough Around The Edges" to the pure country of "She's Easy To Hold," Say No More puts Walker's voice and emotion front and center--and he makes it seem simple.
"Being simple is complicated," explains the straightforward singer-songwriter. "It's when we run on emotion, when we know enough to be simple, is where we find happiness, where we touch on what's most important.
That's why I don't try to figure out success. That's the worst thing that can happen to an artist because then you start second guessing your emotion and end up doing more of what you think got you there rather than trusting your heart."
His rendition of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" is but one example on Say No More of Walker's willingness to trust himself and step ahead of the pack. With his large fan base in the Southwest, Walker insisted on recording the 1958 hit in its original Spanish, his first recording in the language.
Even his personal list of the three greatest singing voices stretches the envelope for a country star: yes, Merle Haggard first, but Celine Dion second and Bing Crosby third. "I've heard people say Texans are pretty independent by nature and there aren't a lot of apologies for the way we are. We're friendly and comfortable being who we are--and I guess I fit in that mold." Walker grew up in Beaumont, Texas in a musical family, and began playing guitar at age 9. By the time he was a teen, he was already playing honky tonks. At age 16, he got his first taste of radio airplay when he took a tape of a song he had written to local radio station KAYD. "I had just gotten my driver's license, and I drove to the station at 2 a.m. and handed the DJ my tape. Unfortunately, it wasn't formatted to fit their equipment.
I was heart-broken, but what I didn't realize is that they were just trying to blow me off!" he laughs. But Walker didn't give up, coming back a week later with the tape properly formatted. "They took it, but they told me they might never play it, and I was crushed. But as I was driving away, they played it. I couldn't believe it! I had to pull my truck over."
After building a following in bars in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, he signed to Giant in 1993, and released his debut album that year. The platinum Clay Walker spawned the #1s "What's It To You," "Live Until I Die" and "Dreaming With My Eyes Open." The title track from his platinum 1994 album If I Could Make A Living went #1, as did "This Woman And This Man."
From 1995's platinum Hypnotize The Moon, "Who Needs You Baby" and the title track topped the charts. 1997's platinum Rumor Has It boasted #1s in the title song and "Then What." "You're Beginning To Get To Me" on 1998's gold Greatest Hits was #1 too. His sixth album, the gold Live, Laugh, Love, debuted in the Top 5 in 1999 and "The Chain Of Love" became his most recent #1.
Not only has Walker sold more than eight million albums but for five straight years Billboard included one of his songs on its year-end Top 10 country list, a record unmatched in the same period by any other artist. For several years as well, he's been acknowledged as one of country's Top 10 box office touring acts.
In 2000, for the second consecutive year, Walker was the grand finale performer at the prestigious Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome. Performers earlier in the event included Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on opening night, the Judds' in their reunion performance, Latin heartthrob Enrique Iglesias and Motown's Smokey Robinson. So why was Walker again the closing act? Perhaps it's his romantic but fun-loving charm (he's been known to do the hula on stage between two inflatable palm trees for "Then What"). Perhaps, wrote the Houston Chronicle: "As he strode into the arena on a tall, chestnut horse with his black hat tipped to the crowd, there was some indication...the type of high-decibel female yowls normally reserved for movie stars."
A modest Walker can't explain the frenzy. "I'm a romantic, so I like love songs. I guess there are a lot of people out there that are in love or want to be in love," he says with a sheepish grin. His own greatest loves are his wife Lori and their two daughters, MaClay and Skylor. Walker's relationship with them and others was transformed dramatically in 1996 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Though the disease is in remission, symptoms such as his right leg suddenly becoming very tired, do recur on occasion. "I'm very blessed," he says surprisingly. "More than ever I realize I'm in someone else's hands. It's great to not think you control things. We can't. It's like when we love someone; you can't control that. In my relationship and friendships and with my children, this learning experience has helped in every way. I've gained a lot of wisdom, and that's the only thing I've ever prayed for."
A blessing for music fans is that Walker has been that rare country artist acclaimed in both traditional and contemporary circles.
"If you go into a bar in Texas, you'll see people dancing to George Strait, but you'll see the same cowboys dancing to 'old time rock and roll,'" he says. "When I was playing those bars, I lived from paycheck to paycheck, and I knew that if those people weren't dancing, I wasn't going to get paid. My roots are about as deep as you can go in country, but at the same time I like to let my hair down a little."
Back in those days, he was searching for success and achievement. Both arrived. Now Clay Walker is the hunter once more. "If you sit still too long, something comes by and eats you," he says. "I'm hunting again, with a genuine passion for the music, and I really like that feeling."