The Truths of Walker Hayes’ Ups and Downs

New Song Is His “How Do You Like Me Now?”

“Most of the time in Nashville, you’re so replaceable. Anybody can get another nice-looking guy to sing a country song.”

That’s what Walker Hayes told Billboard Country Update.

The story chronicles Hayes’ first attempts at country music fame, with singles that failed to chart back in 2010-2011, and his more recent attempt on a new record label, which is doing so much better.

“It’s honestly about Nashville,” said Hayes of “You Broke Up With Me,” the current single he wrote with Thomas Archer and Kylie Sackley. With lyrics like, “You made your bed and didn’t want me in it and I know it’s difficult to see me on a roll/But, hey, you broke up with me,” the sentiment feels a lot like Toby Keith’s No. 1 song from 1999, “How Do You Like Me Now?”

Keith was switching labels himself at the time of that song, and on his website he describes the message he was trying to get across.

“A lot of people become successful after they’ve been told they won’t ever be, so people can relate to this,” Keith said. “It can be about an old flame or a boss or a teacher — whatever it means to each individual.”

Now that Hayes has settled nicely into his second chance, he looks back on his initial music industry struggles as motivation for his current success. The father of six says simply, “This has to work.”

After his first record deal, Hayes had to take a job at Costco working the 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. shift to support his family and still get to songwriting appointments during the day. And it sounds like he doesn’t want to put that kind of plan on repeat.

“I don’t have another choice, because if this doesn’t work, I go home,” he said. “That’s it. I’m not going to drag my family any longer through those Costco days.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.