Nearly all Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® Presidents begin their Festival careers in a particular Festival area. For current Festival President, Mike Stanfield, a life-long fan of country music, that area was the Festival’s Country Music Party. As such, it is with a great deal of satisfaction that Mike announces that one of Country Music’s fastest-rising young talents: singer/songwriter, Walker Hayes, will headline the 2018 Country Music Party, presented by, and in conjunction with, Shenandoah Country Q102, an iHeart Media station.
The lead paragraph on Hayes’ web site describes his current situation very effectively: boom. Walker Hayes uses the word often. “It just felt right,” the breakout country singer says of the title for his highly-anticipated new album. It’s a celebratory sort of thing, he’ll tell you. A new radio station adds his buzzing single, “You Broke Up with Me.” boom. He heads out on a big national tour. boom. A rowdy performance at CMA Fest has the crowd singing every word of his music back to him. boom. It wasn’t always this way, though. Not by a long shot.
Walker Hayes was born in Mobile in 1979. In 2005, Hayes and his wife, Laney, moved to Nashville hoping to get into the country music business. A creative guy, he landed a job writing songs for a Nashville publishing company; and, ended up signing a contract with Capitol Records Nashville. In 2010, he released his first single, “Pants,” which, along with a second single, “Why Wait for Summer,” appeared on an album titled Reason to Rhyme. Making it in Nashville is never easy, though; and, during lulls in his own career, Hayes co-wrote songs and sang guest vocals for Colt Ford and Rodney Atkins. After losing his contract with Capitol Records, Hayes worked for a time at a Costco to support himself and his family. In 2016, Hayes linked up with ace songwriter and Grammy Award-winning producer, Shane McAnally, who signed him to his SMACKSongs publishing company and soon released two EPs of Hayes’ music for free online: 8 Tracks, Vol. 1: Good Sh*t and 8 Tracks, Vol. 2: Break the Internet. The music quickly created a groundswell of interest. “It’s when you almost lose that you really realize that maybe you were born to do this no matter what,” Hayes says.
And, now, with his breakout album, boom., and its chart-climbing single, “You Broke Up with Me,” Hayes is ready to pull back the curtain entirely and give all of himself to his music and his fans. Just like his songs, Hayes’ live show is completely inimitable. Having long played showcases in the round, in a “Storytellers” format, he now enlivens his shows with looping, and beatboxing, and a backing band of musicians. “The show is growing on a weekly basis,” Hayes says. “When a crowd is so electric that you can feed off of their energy you feel kind of invincible up there. It is amazing!” Speaking of his current success with boom., Hayes says: “I started just trusting what felt right and what moved me and a lot of special songs came out.” And, speaking of the road ahead and his constantly brightening future: “I’m just going to continue finding out exactly who I am.”
Rising young star, Sam Grow, opens for Walker Hayes. Sam Grow has earned his success in life through hard work, through an entrepreneurial attitude, and through an easy-going, charismatic spirit that promotes his soulful and genuine voice. Sam has released two projects independently, selling more than 30,000 copies, with the most recent record charting in the top 20 on iTunes. He has also cultivated a devoted “cult” following across the country by putting himself relentlessly out on the road for more than 250 shows a year.
As has been previously announced for the 2018 Festival, the Country Music Party, along with many other large and exciting Festival events, will be moving to the Festival’s Tolley Dental Zone, located at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center on the campus of Shenandoah University. Tickets for the event are all General Admission and cost $25.00. They may be purchased at Festival Headquarters at 135 North Cameron Street; at 540-662-3863; or, at the Online Store.