(KGET) — The usual practice for Clay Walker when he is traveling on his tour bus is to sleep until arriving at the next venue. The one exception he makes is when traveling to Bakersfield.
“It’s been too long since we have been to Bakersfield. Too long since I have been down the Grapevine. That’s the only spot where I like being awake in daylight hours on the bus. I love coming down that stretch of the highway and seeing those beautiful hills,” Walker says.
He’ll get to check out the local typography again as Walker and Justin Moore will perform Aug. 12 at the Mechanics Bank Arena. This will be the first concert in 17 months at the facility and is one of the first stops for Moore and Walker after the long break from being on the road due to the pandemic.
It’s not just the view that makes Walker happy to be back in this area. He knows performing in Bakersfield is going to be different because of all the rich country music heritage here.
“I grew up knowing who Buck Owens was. Loving him. Loving Merle Haggard,” Walker says. “There are so many more artists who are from there that are just fantastic.
“There is always a certain level of expectation. Bakersfield is one of the few places in the world where you can go and know these are real country music fans who are not going to be fooled by a poser.”
Walker compares performing before a Bakersfield crowd to stepping on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. He knows that the audience will be full of people who not only know his music but understand the history of country music.
When it comes to his own knowledge of country music, Haggard has always been Walker’s favorite singer. He feels a connection because Walker says he stood on the shoulders of George Strait to get to where he is and Strait stood on Haggard’s shoulders.
Walker is creating the next shoulders where budding artists can stand. He is one of the top artists performing today with 11 number one singles to his credit including “What’s It To You” and “Live Until I Die.” He’s seen 31 songs hit the Billboard charts from his four RIAA Platinum albums and two certified Gold albums.
He’s looking to add to those impressive numbers with his latest album – “Texas to Tennessee” – that was released at the end of July. Walker wrote and recorded “Texas to Tennessee” – and all of the songs on the album – during his time at home during the pandemic.
“The song is a symbol of my life and career,” Walker says. “I was born in Texas and I’ll die a Texan. But, we have a home in Tennessee. We have strong ties to both states and both states have been strong dominations in my life.”
In “Texas to Tennessee,” Walker signs about how he feels blessed. Success is measured in many ways. The singer/songwriter has earned the admiration of fans and critics both for his music and the way he has dealt with being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was 26.
He is always moved when someone tells him how much his music has touched them. It is even more touching for him when someone talks about how his way of dealing with his MS has inspired them.
“For me, all music comes from the heart,” Walker says. “But, if you are not alive, you can’t enjoy it. I have had Multiple Sclerosis since the beginning of my career and the prognosis was grim.
“There was a lot of prayer for me and my family and the disease arrested. It just stopped. Even doctors who are atheists call it a miracle. There is no explanation of what happened to me with it arresting and not progressing.”
The one thing Walker has wanted to do was be a beacon for those dealing with MS. And, it has been more than just talk. Walker worked the majority of his career to promote charities that help people living with MS live better. Walker founded the Band Against MS (BAMS) charity and hosts the annual Clay Walker Charity Classic at Pebble Beach.
The pandemic was tough on Walker but he did love the opportunity it gave him to be with his wife, Jessica Craig, and children. He calls being a father the most important thing in his life.
As wonderful as the time with his family was, Walker is happy to be back on the road again.
“The shows that we have been doing are phenomenal,” Walker says. “We are seeing the excitement in the fans and obviously safety is the most important thing. But, we do need to get back to some form of normalcy as soon as possible.”
Tickets are still available for the concert that will be limited to a crowd of only 5,000. That size means that no special COVID protocols will have to be observed.