Picture this: a family of 8 plus two dogs jam-packed into a tour bus.
This living condition is like a fantasy for country music star Walker Hayes. Following the success of the smash hits "Fancy Like" and "U Gurl," talks about a tour began to swirl. While the hitmaker knew a nationwide headlining trek was the next step in his career, he was secretly dreading the day he would have to kiss his family goodbye.
In a picture-perfect world, the country music sensation's dream was to bring his tight-knit unit out on the road, yet he knew it would be a financial stretch…until his management team made his dream become a reality.
Once the multi-platinum artist heard the unimaginable news, he ran to his wife Laney and six children. With their undivided attention, he told them to start packing their bags.
"We cried. We were so happy. It was better than a Grammy nomination," Hayes told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. He continued to share that his children, which range from six to 16, completely "lost their minds."
Just a day before Hayes took center stage in Grand Rapids, Michigan (January 27) – the family piled into their tour bus for the very first time and embarked on their fun-filled family adventure. Since leaving their Nashville-area home, Walker Hayes and his gang danced their way through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and topped their first journey off at the AFC Championship game in Kansas City before returning home for a four-day break.
"I never have to say goodbye to my wife and kids," the singer told the publication. "I literally hug them before I go on stage, and I hug them when I get off," he added before breaking down each child's job while he pleases a roaring crowd.
He mentioned that his son Baylor (12) has casually gravitated towards helping with the merchandise table, as his two youngest girls, Everly (6) and Loxley (8), take it upon themselves to scope out each venue for the family.
"I love to watch kids have a little freedom," the proud father declared. "And they love it – discovering where the bathroom is, where the green room is, And 'Here's the food, Dad, and I'm gonna get some food.' The little ones are so cute, lie little ones are."
While the children tend to go their separate ways during the show, they all come back together to perform the viral TikTok dance to "Fancy Like" for the finale. At a recent show in Milwaukee, the Grammy-nominated artist revealed that he got emotional when he witnessed his two somewhat-serious sons Beckett (10) and Chapel (14), proudly show off their moves.
"Laney and I get teary-eyes talking about it," says the singer. "I mean, both of them went on stage and did the dance, which is uncharacteristic of them. It was a cool moment to see your shy ones just having fun in front of all these people and cutting loose," he added.
While he was relieved to see his two introverted kids have the time of their lives, he had an underlining fear that he was stealing the teenage years away from his oldest daughter, Lela. Shortly before he broke the news about The Fancy Like Tour – his 16-year-old TikTok choreographer received her driver's license, and her social life was at an all-time high. However, Hayes' nerves were quickly put at ease when she reassured him that she was enjoying the once in a lifetime family experience.
"Lela's like, 'I can't believe this is our life, I can't believe we get to do this,'" Hayes recalled. "And I agree. I'm like, I can't believe it, either. I can't believe that this is work and that I get paid to do this. It's miraculous."
Tour has not been the only "pinch-me moment" Hayes recently experienced, as the good-vibe anthem "Fancy Like" scored him his very first Grammy nomination for best country song. Until country music fans find out if Hayes will walk away with the prestigious accolade on March 14, they could get in on the fun and attend the family affair. Walker Hayes will wrap up his tour on April 30 and join Kane Brown for a few dates on the Blessed & Free trek. Tickets are available for purchase here.