It doesn’t take long to see why Outsider’s Marty Smith speaks so highly of the man that is Clay Walker. Beyond his country music stardom, Walker’s perseverance, authenticity, humility, and workmanlike approach mirrors our own Outsider values. Whether in the spotlight on tour, or in a one-on-one conversation, Walker’s character doesn’t waver. He’s as genuine as they come, just like we want our country music heroes to be.
From his early ’90s success topping the charts, to battling multiple sclerosis (MS), to writing new material in a changing country music landscape, Walker continues to learn and press forward regardless of the twists and turns on his path. No matter the obstacles he’s faced in his personal life, or within the music industry, Clay Walker is forever evolving. He doesn’t just sing the words from his hit song “Live Until I Die,” he lives them out on a daily basis.
During Episode 4 of Outsider’s “The Road You Leave Behind with Marty Smith,” Walker shares some incredible stories. He recounts some of his unbelievable experiences with country music legends, including icons George Jones and Merle Haggard. In addition, he speaks candidly about living with multiple sclerosis and how that’s impacted his life and career.
The Texas native recently released a new single, and is working on more new music as well. “Need a Bar Sometimes” is an immediate classic country drinking song. The track will likely resonate with many at a time when gathering together isn’t always an option. Smith’s conversation with Walker digs deep into the country star’s music, his process, and much more.
Clay Walker’s Early Days in Texas and How They Shaped His Music
There is no separating Texas from Clay Walker’s music. It’s a constant that is always there, whether obvious or not. Growing up in the blue collar town of Beaumont, TX, where the likes of George Jones and Tex Ritter hail from, made an imprint on a young Walker.
Live country music was more than just prominent in the area, it was part of the culture. For decades, live country music has been a huge deal around the Beaumont area. For an up-and-coming country singer like Walker, there were numerous bars that gave young performers a platform to hone their craft. According to Walker, it was a great test for artists to see if they could keep the attention of a crowd.
“There was one rule. If you were going to work at any bar, you better keep people dancing. Because if they were dancing, they were hot and buying beer,” Walker explained with a laugh. “That’s what the club owners wanted.”
“It shaped me. It shaped my musical taste, it shaped me as an entertainer,” he adds.
‘What’s It to You’ Becomes First of Many No. 1 Hits
In 1993, Clay Walker took the country music world by storm with the release of “What’s It to You.” It shot up the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks to No. 1, becoming the singer’s first hit song off his debut album.
Following the success of “What’s It to You,” his second single “Live Until I Die” also earned No. 1 status on the country chart. At only 25 years old, Walker already had two No. 1 singles under his belt. Yet that was just the beginning to his amazing career.
Walker went on to release 31 singles that landed on Billboard‘s country music charts. Of the 31 singles, 11 of his songs reached the top spot at No. 1, including other classics like “If I Could Make a Living,” “This Woman and This Man,” and “Rumor Has It.” Four of his 11 studio albums have earned platinum status, while two more albums went gold. Walker has toured all over, selling out shows to thousands of fans during his 28-year career.
He’s been an outspoken and vocal leader in bringing awareness to the disease that is multiple sclerosis. Following his own diagnosis early in his career in 1996, Walker founded a non-profit charity called Band Against MS. In 2008, the country artist’s work and efforts in relation to MS earned him a Humanitarian Award.
In 2015, his incredible music career and undying support of his home state was honored when he was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.