Country star Walker Hayes on what brought his family back together after tragedy

Country star Walker Hayes on what brought his family back together after tragedy

Country singer Walker Hayes reflected on how his family was brought back together in the wake of tragedy.

In 2018, the now-44-year-old country star and his wife, Laney, suffered a devastating loss after their daughter, Oakleigh Klover, died shortly after birth due to a uterine rupture that nearly ended Laney's life as well.

During an interview with Fox News Digital, Hayes, who recently partnered with JCPenney for a new clothing collection, explained how channeling his emotions through his music improved his relationship with his wife and children and helped them overcome challenging times.

"One thing that I'm grateful for is there was some point in my life where I began to write songs and that began this communicative side of me where I felt the need to say it all," he said.

The "Good With Me" hitmaker continued, "Let's throw it all on the table, and you can do what you want with it. But selfishly, it's not inside me anymore."


"And I will say that that has been a gift, and I'm forever grateful," he added. "It's improved my relationship with my kids, with my wife. Brutal honesty and communication, highway wide open."

"I do think that that's a large reason why I'm unafraid to expose my family for the good and the bad and just say, 'Hey, we're still a family.'"

The songwriter married Laney, who was his high school sweetheart, in 2004. The couple share daughters Lela, 18, Loxley, 10, and Everly, 7, and sons Chapel, 16, Baylor, 14, and Beckett, 12.

Hayes, who has amassed a large social media following, often showcases his children and family life in his posts. In 2021, Hayes' career skyrocketed after a TikTok video of himself and Lela dancing to his song "Fancy Like" went viral. 

After 11 years in the music industry, Hayes scored a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Country chart with "Fancy Like," which also reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song's success also launched Hayes to a new level of fame. 

WATCH: Country singer Walker Hayes shares how his family was brought together after tragedy

Hayes has been open both on social media and in the press about the ups and downs that he has experienced throughout his life. During his interview with Fox News Digital, he recalled how he was able to overcome hardships through the "grace of God and God alone."

The country singer, who battled alcoholism, previously shared with Fox News Digital that the pain of losing Oakleigh challenged his ability to stay sober and tested the strength of his relationship with Laney.

"Laney and I have been through things," he said. 

Hayes said the pain of losing Oakleigh, who he noted would have been 6 years old this June, could have ended their marriage.

"That's the kind of stuff that destroys marriages," he said. "I mean, obliterates them like a bomb, you know?"

"And Lainey and I grieved in completely different ways," Hayes continued. "I was angry, she was sad for, like, two years."

"And honestly, I have no answer," he added. "I can't tell you why we're on this side. And we're still hanging in there."

In addition to the improved communication that he shares with his family, Hayes said that collaborating with his children on social media content, such as the "Fancy Like" video and sharing their lives with their following, has helped bring them together.

"I think when most people in Nashville think country musicians, and they come across my name, [it] is not just me that they think of," Hayes said. "They think of my daughter, the OG dance, you know, the first dance we did. They probably think of Laney. They probably know our story with our children."

"They probably know my testimony," he continued. "They probably know a lot about my life and family."

Hayes told Fox News Digital that focusing on his family instead of himself on his social media helps remind him of his priorities. 

"If you dive into my socials, you really don't see much of me," he said.

The musician pointed to his children's popular trick-shot videos in which they attempt stunts such as seemingly impossible golf shots, pancake flips and basketball throws.

WATCH: Country singer Walker Hayes on how focusing on his family keeps him grounded

"You see my kids doing trick shots, and, you know, whatever they do," Hayes said with a laugh. "I wouldn't have it any other way. "

He continued, "That keeps me grounded. It reminds me to focus on them. Honestly, when I wake up, that's what matters most to me is, ‘How do I be a better husband? How do I be a better dad?’ OK. Because I want to take care of Laney. And I want my kids to be set up for life because life's going to throw a lot at them."

"And I just want them to know that their dad loves them," he added.

Hayes noted how his priorities have shifted to center around his family life and his goal is to "just focus on the things that I think the world sees me now trying to focus on."

"I'm not a perfect husband. I'm not a perfect believer. I'm not a perfect dad at all," he said.

"I mean, I fail miserably. Yesterday, I threw a plastic chair and my kids made fun of me all day for it. And I love that they did. We were doing a trick shot, and I couldn't get it," Hayes said with a smile. 

"I threw a plastic chair against a tree and just destroyed it," he added. "And it made me feel better. But listen, I hope people see me now at least just trying and feeling inspired to try. Let's just try together."

Hayes and his children's hit social media videos have led to brand partnerships, including a commercial for Applebee's and a back-to-school campaign with Great Clips. The singer's social media presence also caught the attention of JCPenney, which enlisted him for a limited clothing collection.

During his interview with Fox News Digital, Hayes recalled that he was initially unsure if he was the right person to launch a clothing line.


"Honestly, when it comes to fashion? When they called me, I'm not sure I was that confident as far as, like, ‘Am I equipped to make fashion decisions?’" he said.

Hayes continued, "But as they included me and honestly just dove into my personal story, they gave me more and more confidence, and they allowed me to really, really help create this line."

"A lot of these items are personal that we did together. There's a jacket of my father's that we basically recreated, that I wear every day. And he's gone now, but now there's a jacket out there that other people will hand down, and it'll be a part of their life."

WATCH: Country singer Walker Hayes on his new collaboration with JCPenney


"There's T-shirts with textures and colors that I feel confident putting on and wearing [on] all occasions," he added. "Honestly, it's my life in clothing form. You know, in 25 items. It's what I do. And so, I give JCPenney so much credit for trusting me, and honestly, just setting me up for success with this line again."

Hayes recalled that he never really chose his own clothing in the past. The Grammy Award-nominee said his mother would pick out clothes for him and his brother and that JCPenney was one of their go-to shops. After he married Laney, Hayes said he often relied on her to choose his apparel.

"I feel like that's actually a genius way to create a men's line – to use a real dude who probably shops and wears clothes like your normal JCPenney person," he said. "And so I just happened to have a cool job that goes along with it."

"It's been a magical relationship, so organic and something that I would easily continue in a heartbeat. It's been a blast. I can't wait to see it on people. You know, out in the world."

The Walker Hayes for JCPenney collection is available to shop online May 4 and then in select stores on May 16.


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