20 Questions With Clay Walker (Part 1 of 2)

A huge hit maker throughout the 1990s, Clay Walker has returned to the Top 10 with the ballad, “A Few Questions.” Now he’s answering a few questions from curious CMT.com readers. From five-day beards to the bars in Beaumont, Texas, and from first dates to fight songs, here’s what Walker had to say.

1. Who is your all-time favorite country artist and why?

Merle Haggard, because I think his voice has the most character to it, the most diverse as far as style goes.

2. What has been your most gratifying moment in your career up till now?

(long pause) I would have to say … man, that’s tough. (laughs) That’s a tough one. Probably, the show that we just did in my hometown, in Houston, at The Woodlands. That was probably the most gratifying because it was everything to me. I had my family there. My little girl MaClay sang with me onstage for the first time. That was probably the most special moment for me, being on stage.

3. Like you, my wife also has multiple sclerosis. A few months ago, we saw an article about you and Band Against MS that we were moved by. How long have you been involved in this project, and what can we do to help the effort to find a cure?

We started the project this year. It has gone very well with a lot of support from fans and a lot of support from people that have been diagnosed with MS. This project was designed to find a cure and also to give hope to people who have been living with MS. If they want to help, they can go to bandagainstms.org and see what we are doing.

4. Lately, you have been unshaven more. Are we going to see you with a beard any time soon, or do you like having facial hair?

I don’t like more than a five-day growth of beard. In the winter, it is kind of fun to play around with it and have a little bit of beard. I’d probably rather be clean-shaven just because it feels better, and beards are kind of itchy. But sometimes it’s fun just to bum around and let the beard grow out for about five days. I’ve never had a goatee. I don’t know if I’d do that or not, but I might try that at some point.

5. Do you get excited when you hear yourself on the radio?

Yes, I always do. It’s a big thrill to hear yourself on the radio. What’s even better is whenever they play it where a fan has called in and requested it. That gets me going pretty good.

6. I understand you and Chely Wright co-wrote the song “I Can’t Sleep” on your current album. I actually saw you perform with her at the Wildhorse Saloon during Fan Fair. Do you ever plan on doing a duet with her or anyone else?

I would like to do a duet with someone. I don’t know who it will be, but I am sure that in the future, maybe on the next album, there will be a duet. As a matter of fact, it is a goal of mine to do a duet with somebody. I would like to do one with either Martina [McBride] or Celine Dion. Those are two voices that I really like the most. I think that they would match up against my voice good. I kind of have a raspy, rugged voice, and those two have silky voices, so I think they would go good against mine. … Listening to Celine Dion’s voice, I think she would be great on a country song because she is a very bluesy singer, and blues is the root of country music anyway.

7. Recently I went to a Clay Walker show and he sang “Amazing Grace,” and it gave me chills. I have heard that song a hundred times but never like that. Have you ever considered putting that on an album or doing a gospel album?

Absolutely. I think that the more a singer can show his roots and where he came from, I think that it gives the audience a better look at him, and certainly I’m a spiritual person and I feel like all the talent that I have comes from God. Any time that I can glorify Him, the better.

8. I love the new songs you wrote, “Jesus Was a Country Boy” and “I Can’t Sleep.” I think you are a gifted songwriter. Where do you get the inspiration for your songs? Is it from personal experience or do different subjects just come to you?

Mainly personal experiences. “Jesus Was a Country Boy” was meant to be twofold — tongue-in-cheek for one, but there is a pretty deep meaning to it. The song is written in a more light-hearted way. I feel like people get so confused and wrapped up in religious doctrine that sometimes a person can lose what the meaning is — if that makes any sense. We get so wrapped up in the doctrine of laws that we lose what the true meaning is, and that is to love your neighbor as yourself. That is kind of what this song is really about. It is more a Sermon-on-the-Mount song.

9. I would like to know how you came up with the first name of your first daughter, MaClay? Is it a combination of yours and your wife’s name?

It is a combination. Obviously the “Clay” part comes from me, then the “Ma” comes from Mama. Her middle name is DaLayne, which is part of Lori’s middle name, and the “Da” on it comes from Daddy.

10. My brother has cerebral palsy and is such a downer about it. I know you handle your MS very well. Are there any words I can tell him that might encourage him?

I believe that the gift of prayer is just that. It’s a gift, and we can use that the way that we want to. I believe that we are all connected — all of us. Our spirits are. We should help each other and pray for each other whenever somebody is ill or someone is sick, and I believe in the power of prayer. So I would say learn all you can through the illness, and pray about how you can help that person and how that person having it can help you.