What could a recording artist who has sold millions of albums, performed for sellout crowds and racked up hit after hit possibly have left to prove? For Clay Walker, the answer is nothing. And everything.
Interesting, then, that a singer and songwriter who has been one of country's most consistent hit-makers over the last decade considers his latest release the most important release of his career. Could it be because the Texan finds himself working with a new record company after the abrupt closure of his previous label? Or is it the deepening maturity of a young man who has experienced enough of life to realize who he is...but how much he still doesn't understand?
Appropriately, the answers are found in the music. A Few Questions is Walker's seventh studio album, his first for RCA Records. The debut single was the title track which landed in the Top 20.
He continued to gain momentum with the second single, "I Can't Sleep," which soared into the Top 10. The video for the single was shot in Havana and while Walker found the city beautiful and the Cuban people very kind he did observe: "If anyone has any doubt as to what life would be like without the freedoms and liberties granted to us in America, I suggest they spend a little time in a Communist country like Cuba."
The third single, "Jesus Was A Country Boy," was penned by Walker and Rivers Rutherford.
Walker was supposed to have taken his remarkable career to even greater heights with his last release, the overlooked Say No More. "I was on Giant my whole career," Walker says. "The last record we did the label folded two weeks after it was released. That stung me. But I'm proud of the music we made and that's the only way I'll look back."
And why not when you're speaking of four platinum and two gold albums that sold more than eight million copies combined? Among Walker's 11 No. 1 singles are "Live Until I Die," "If I Could Make A Living, "This Woman And This Man," "Then What" and the most recent, "Chain Of Love."
Walker's accomplishments don't end there. He is one of only a few artists to have one of his songs included five years consecutively in Billboard's year-end Top 10 country list. He's also been one of country's top 10-grossing touring acts several times. Those achievements, however, are now pushed aside. Walker knows he must establish himself with his latest album, with a new support team around him, and with renewed focus as an artist. "I haven't had a new single at radio in a couple of years," he says, explaining the extended hiatus between single releases by rattling off the untimely demise of Giant, sorting through deal offers and recording a new album. "But now I'm on the best label in town. Whether I fumble or not is up to me."
Certainly sure-handed to this point in his career, Clay Walker has, if anything, tightened his artistic grip. He has become secure in himself-accepting of his strengths while mindful of his challenges. That sense of self has instructed his view of the world and continues to shape his musical journey.
"I'm a gardener," he explains. "One of the things about trees and shrubs is you need to get some cold weather on them. The cold hardens the wood and makes the tree stronger. Then when it grows like crazy, you have to prune it back to make it grow in the right direction. That's the way I've always looked at my career. There was a low point when Giant closed. You do some soul searching. I thought, 'Maybe this is it.' Then when we started looking at different labels it was a real eye-opener. There was a big gap between where I thought we'd be and where we actually were. That takes away all your ego. And I think that's healthy."
Walker has poured more of himself into this album than ever before and it is much more than a reaction to recent career upheaval. The accumulated experiences that have shaped his life and music trace all the way back to teenage years spent performing in and around his hometown of Beaumont, Texas. They include the devotion he has to his wife and two daughters, his ongoing fight with multiple sclerosis (currently in remission), and most importantly his abiding, life-long faith, which Walker continues to embrace and explore.
The centerpiece of A Few Questions is "Heaven Leave The Light On," a song about divine grace featuring one of the album's most impassioned vocal performances. "If I see the river," Walker sings, "I'm not afraid to die.'Cause I know I'll find the other side."
"That's my life, basically," Walker says of the song. "Heaven leave the light on for me, because I'm a sinner for sure. It isn't trying to sell you on a certain religion, but there's an honesty there-we all need help." The cut became a focal point long before the rest of the album was completed. "We played it for people who were pitching us songs," he explains. "It moved publishers to think differently and not pigeonhole me."
Clay Walker knows that with this new album he has been true to himself, and thus completely honest as a recording artist. "There's no safety net in this music. Everything that has happened to me over the last couple of years gave me a newfound courage. I'm dangerous right now because I feel I've got nothing to lose. I'm coming out swinging."
--- from the official Clay Walker website