Walker Hayes and Craig Cooper Open Up About Their Unlikely Friendship

Walker Hayes doesn’t know where he would be without his friend, Craig Cooper. The two met when Hayes was feeling down and despondent, and in the throes of battling alcoholism, a battle he ultimately conquered. It was Cooper who saw something in Hayes — something Hayes couldn’t quite yet see in himself — and began what became a lifelong, if not slightly unlikely, friendship.

Hayes and Cooper detail their relationship in their new book, Glad You’re Here, out on May 3.

“I met Craig at a church called Redeeming Grace,” Hayes reveals in a video shared on the book’s website, WalkerandCraig.com. “Honestly, I wasn’t wanting to be at the church.”

“I just remember when Walker walked in,” adds Cooper. “He didn’t want to be there, and I thought, ‘This is an answer to prayer.'”

Hayes had one very good reason, at least to him, of why he didn’t want to set foot in the church, because they met on a Saturday, the day Hayes usually reserved for heavy imbibing.

“That was a great day of drinking for me,” Hayes says. “I reeked of alcohol. I wasn’t in a great headspace, walking into Redeeming Grace.”

By the time Hayes entered the church, he had already seen many of his dreams not come to fruition, a pain that ran deep inside of him.

“I got a publishing deal pretty fast,” Hayes says. “I got a record deal. And that’s when I began to see that that’s just the beginning. That doesn’t solidify your career forever. I slowly but surely was dropped from a few places like that. My stuff didn’t really explode on the radio, and my dream was shattered, yet I continued to write.”

While Hayes knew the taste of bitter disappointment about his then-fading music career, Cooper also understood that pain all too well.

“After I became a Christian, I shot right into pastoral ministry, and two-and-a-half years later, I was burned out, and ended up being let go from that church because of my lack of experience,” Cooper recounts. “It broke my heart. But God just began to use my background, the brokenness, all of that, to the point where, when Walker’s telling me about his dreams, his desire, and ways that they had been shattered and yet he continued, I just thought, ‘Alright, I can relate to that, and I just want to hang with that guy.'”

Cooper began investing in the singer and his family so much so that Hayes ultimately chose to live right next door to Cooper.

“I’m not a community person, actually,” Hayes admits. “I literally was like, ‘Let’s just buy the house next door, because I wanted to be that near to someone.’ That’s a huge transition. To me, only the Lord could do that.”

Hayes wrote a song, “Craig,” inspired by Cooper, and his love for Hayes and his family, which included giving them a minivan when they were broke. “Craig” originally appeared as the final track on Hayes’ 2017 Boom album, before releasing it again as a new version on his latest Country Stuff the Album record, this time with MercyMe. At the time when Hayes wrote “Craig,” he was noticing something in Cooper that he wanted to emulate, but wasn’t quite ready to become a person of faith.

“I thought I was super clever,’ Hayes tells Everything Nash. “I didn’t put Jesus’ name in the song because look, I respected Craig, and his love for us was otherworldly, and unconditional beyond any love we had ever received from humans. And it made me curious, like the song says. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know. Maybe he does know Jesus.’ And then I met the Lord; I met Jesus myself. And now I see that that was the light of Christ shining through Craig.”

Pre-order for Glad You’re Here is available here.

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