Country singer/songwriter Wheeler Walker Jr. recounted over the phone about his time in Tennessee. “I’ve been down here, God I don’t know how long. I grew up in Kentucky, a lot of my family’s from here, so I came here a lot as a kid. I made the Nashville move when I was 20 or so.”
While comedian Ben Hoffman may be a funny guy, Wheeler Walker Jr. (Hoffman’s alter ego), takes matters pretty seriously. Walker Jr. has been shocking and delighting fans with his obscenely sharp wit, explicit language, salacious songs and musical talent for close to two decades. His R-rated content may raise a few eyebrows among listeners, but when it comes to real country music lovers, they’re more likely to raise a red solo cup to his songs than anything else.
“When I finally realized you could make music independently, I said f**k it. I’m going to say what I want to say,” Walker Jr. tells AXS. Naturally, as an independent artist and somewhat foe of the FCC, no record company would touch him and no radio station would play his music; which was what eventually made him say, “Why can’t I just make a whole album and put it out myself?” So, he created his own label and distributed it through Nashville’s Thirty Tigers.
There is a well-known adage that people who swear more are likely to have a higher intelligence and as Walker Jr. keeps proving, that theory seems to be true. After teaming up with GRAMMY award-winning producer Dave Cobb (thanks to friend Sturgill Simpson) his album, Redneck Sh*t, debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Country album charts. It also turned out to be the second best-selling comedy album of 2016, after debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Comedy charts. But, that wasn’t exactly the kind of acclaim the artist was hoping for. “My music is real f**king country. I would put all three words in there,” he added. “It’s country as f**k.”
If you’re just getting acquainted with his specific style, Walker Jr. recommends starting with the opening track on that album. “I think it’s the craziest song I ever recorded,” he says. It was actually his buddy/producer Cobb who pushed for it. “I really pride myself on being honest, not censoring myself and all that. ‘Redneck Sh*t’ was a little different than all my other songs.” Walker Jr. had some reservations as he thought the song was a bit too cliché. As it turned out, being a self-described redneck from the South and making a joke out of it, gave listeners a track he considers to be even rawer than his other material.
What followed was the record Ol’ Wheeler (also produced by Cobb), which has recently led to the country all-star’s third album (again, produced by Cobb). Walker Jr. tells AXS in an exclusive, that as of 48 hours prior to the interview, his latest work is now officially complete. While fans will surely be treated to the same raunchy authenticity we heard in songs such as “P**sy King” and “Drunk Sluts,” he admitted that his new content has evolved some.
“My life has changed a lot,” he pointed out. “I’ve kind of settled down, so I wanted to make an album about a wife and a kid and settling down.” Not to worry though, you can still expect him to stay true to who he is - language and all. Of course, what comes next is touring, and just like you would imagine, as usual, Walker Jr. is doubling down. The singer/songwriter kicks off The Dragon Energy Tour on Aug. 2 in Kansas City, Missouri and then will weave his way across the country also opening for Kid Rock on his Red Blooded Rock N’ Roll Redneck Extravaganza Tour, which also starts at the beginning of August.
This marks the first time Walker Jr. will be opening for another artist. For apparent reasons, he and Kid Rock seem like a pretty good match. “I think he likes to take chances and he’s a legitimate fan of the music. He listens to it a lot. I give him credit for taking me out. I was honored that he asked,” Walker Jr. said.
As for what you can expect to see on stage, the artist says you’re in store for just a good country show. “What I loved as a kid in Kentucky going to see country, is you got great players. That’s kind of disappeared these days with all this pop country sh*t, Florida Georgia Line, kind of like Backstreet Boys. If you like singing and dancing, go see that. But that’s not what you’re getting from me; you’re getting a real country show. No bullsh*t. I ain’t censored. You may put asterisks in your article but I ain’t putting them in my show,” he made clear.
As you listen to Walker Jr.’s three albums, you’ll notice that they are all different from each other. “When you buy the new album, make sure you have the first two,” the country star noted. “I’m trying to do what my idols did, which is over the course of their albums tell a story. You can’t see ‘Lord of the Rings 3’ without seeing the second. So, study up on the first two records before getting to the third. And, see me on tour,” he continued. “Sorry about the convenience fees. I ain’t got nothing to do with that.”