At his home outside Nashville, it doesn't take long for country music artist Walker Hayes to state the obvious: "There ain't nothing fancy about my studio." And yet, in this room not even big enough for a bed, he laid down one of the biggest hits of the year.
"Yeah, we fancy like Applebee's on a date night
Got that Bourbon Street Steak with the Oreo Shake
Get some whipped cream on the top, too
Two straws, one check, girl, I got you…"
"Fancy Like" put Hayes at the top of the Country charts … and put Applebee's on the tip of almost everyone's tongue.
Hayes told correspondent Lee Cowan, "I think we all thought, this is either going to end your career or just explode it, you know? But we didn't know."
It wasn't just the hook; it was the infectious dance that Walker's daughter invented to go along with it.
Hayes said it took him a long time to get the moves down. His daughter, Lela, confirmed: "Dad could not do this thing – just cross, middle, up!"
After he posted it on TikTok, the song – and the dance – blew up. People everywhere started doing it. And Applebee's was quick to catch the viral wave:
The Oreo Shake was actually off the menu when the song hit big – but Applebee's has now been forced to put it back on.
Hayes said, "I can't wait to have grandkids and bring them here, and I'm just going to brag the whole time and be like, 'This is good, right? You know why it lives here? Because I brought it back!'"
"Fancy Like" wasn't written to be a jingle – it's more like a journal entry. Hayes is an Applebee's regular, and when you have six mouths to feed, fancy is relative. He doesn't live in a mansion in Nashville, but a sensible home in a sensible neighborhood out in the country. He and his wife, Laney, moved here from Alabama 17 years ago, and Walker got a record deal almost immediately.
"What's so hard about this town? Like, it's no big deal. I got a record deal. You know, they're dressing me in nice clothes, taking photos. And then, I got dropped," he said.
And then, he got dropped again.
"Every label in town had passed on me several times. To numb myself, I drank a ton, you know, while I was writing, while I was playing shows."
He eventually found himself working the 4 a.m. shift as Costco, just to feed his family.
Cowan said, "But you never gave up writing, did you?"
"Well, I wanted to. I began to feel like I was being a worse father by continuing to chase this dream. Like, am I being a good dad, or is it time for me to grow up?"
He got sober, stopped worrying about radio play, and began writing about what mattered to him.
"There was kind of a reckless abandon to the things that I would write," he said. "They were just true. They were emotional."
"And really personal?"
"Oh, so personal."
His 2017 single "You Broke Up With Me" climbed higher on the charts than anything he'd written before:
He was riding high, but then tragedy stuck. What would have been the couple's seventh child, Oakleigh, died at birth.
"I was two years sober," said Hayes, "and I drove to a bar, and I just wanted to get in the fight. I just wanted to get hammered and get in a fight. But, the Lord had other plans. I didn't have my wallet."
He went to an AA meeting instead.
Ever since, Hayes has been writing about what he fears, and what he loves.
His family may not be "fancy," but they sure know how to celebrate a Dad who after all these years finally had his fancy dream come true: "Fancy Like" has gone Double Platinum.
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Story produced by Dustin Stephens. Editor: Steven Tyler.
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