Walker Hayes: How Viral Success of 'Fancy Like' Was a 'Game Changer' for His Family Dynamic (Exclusive)
By Sophie Schillaci
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It's good to be "Fancy Like" Walker Hayes. The country singer is reflecting on the viral success of his hit single one year after its release while looking ahead to his next moves.
"I've paid a lot of bills," he jokes of the chart-topping song's explosive success, adding with a laugh: "I'm not in debt anymore, so that's great. I've been given a platform to continue to release music, which is just such a blessing. That's all I ever wanted, was to just take care of my family."
Hayes, speaking exclusively with ET's Cassie DiLaura at his Nashville home, says the entire experience has been a "game changer" in that it's afforded him to bring his wife and six children along on tour. He has his eldest daughter -- Lela, 16 -- to thank, at least in part, for turning "Fancy Like" into a TikTok phenomenon. Unlike so many curated and fabricated social media moments, "Fancy Like" came together organically as a father simply trying to connect with his daughter.
"I wish everybody could understand how pure that video was," he says. "I didn't really have a TikTok following when we did that, and my daughter and I really bonded."
Hayes says he's always looking for new ways to meet his kids where they're at, diving into something that's of interest to each of them individually. For Lela, it was creating a TikTok dance while mom Laney -- Hayes' high school sweetheart -- lent a helping hand on the camera.
"We just did two two quick takes of this dance that Lela and I threw together and there was no, you know, my team didn't ask me to do it," he explains.
"Not gonna lie," he jokes, "Lela, sometimes I'm like, 'Hey, keep it clean, like easy on the pelvic thrusts!' You know, like, 'This is for kids and their families!'"
For his new single, "Y'all Life," Hayes' whole family gets in on the action with cameo appearances in his music video. "They would have been upset if I'd have been like, 'Nah, you know, y'all can't be in it,'" he says. "There was a place for all of them, it wasn't forced -- and I love including them!"
The Hayes family brings a whole new vibe to tour life, as well. They'll hit the road for Hayes' Glad You're Here Arena Tour, kicking off Sept. 29.
"They bring this this fun light, bright energy to the road and I've heard venues tell me that, 'Man, it was so nice just having the dogs and kids around,'" he says. "It's a beautiful, light distraction from just the heaviness of the work and all of us being away from family, so I love it. But when we get back, it is a lot of laundry."
Hayes is hardly a country music newcomer, but his commercial success in the last year has provided a bit of a full-circle moment for, in particular, his wife and three oldest children, who remember a time when the family could barely afford to buy bagels.
"My big three -- Lela, Chapel, Baylor -- they had it tough. They had a tough life financially, that's it," he recalls. [My wife] Laney and I loved 'em the same and we just live for our children."
"We laugh [now], bagels were a luxury item," he says of their early years. "We'd be like, 'You can't get bagels. They not enough bang for your buck.' They knew that lifestyle and so, this new lifestyle, they're very appreciative of it and they're kind of in awe. They're like, 'What? We get free tickets to the fair?!' They don't take it for granted."
His latest album, Country Stuff, was released in January and includes collaborations with Carly Pearce, Jake Owen and Lori McKenna. Meanwhile, his "Fancy Like" TikTok scored duets with superstars across all platforms, including Amy Adams, Shaquille O'Neal, Ciara and Kesha, who eventually lent her voice to an official remix of the song.
"When 'Fancy Like' popped off the first two months, it was so sudden," he says. "We loved the song, but we had no idea what was to come and we're still processing what has happened. My life has completely changed but, you know, I have a job. I'm so grateful for the work."