Wednesday September 22 1:27 PM ET
By JIM PATTERSON Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Clay Walker seldom allows himself to wallow in misery, country music style. Upbeat smashes like "Live Until I Die" have made him one of Nashville's most consistent hitmakers of the 1990s.
But on his new album "Live, Laugh, Love," Walker tells a story about being trapped in a marriage on a remake of the 1983 Earl Thomas Conley hit "Holding Her and Loving You."
Listeners should know that Conley's song doesn't relate to Walker's personal life.
"There are very few songs that fit my voice so well - not my life, but my voice," he said. "I'm lucky and I'm fortunate that I get to hold the woman I love. I don't have to live out this song. But I did feel that after all the live performances we had done and sang this song that certainly the song deserved the chance to be heard again."
Critics have called Walker a one-dimensional "hat act," meaning he is hard to distinguish from other young singers sporting cowboy hats who were launched at about the same time. But that doesn't get him down. Walker, 30, is working hard to stretch himself and savor the moment.
Walker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993, but has had no debilitating symptoms.
"I don't see me having MS as something to use to get attention," said Walker, who is from Beaumont, Texas. "I certainly never have wanted that and I'm not generally the first person to bring it up in an interview. Strictly because it's a disease that we're managing pretty well right now, and I've been very blessed."
1. You sound more confident on the "Live, Laugh, Love" album and downright powerful on "This Time Love.'' How come?
Walker: In the (recording) studio, the thing that's intimidating is not so much the technology or the electronics. ... It's the fact of knowing that the same musicians that are playing on your album have played on albums by George Strait, probably Garth Brooks, and a whole lot of different other singers. And I'm standing there thinking, 'What do they think about me? They played with all these great guys and now I'm in here. What's going to make me different? Am I going to add up to that?'
In concert I have a lot of confidence. My new producer Doug Johnson came to a few shows, and he told me he didn't feel like what we do live had ever been captured on tape and said that was the challenge for the album. ... With Doug, I felt like I belonged in there. He said, 'Just sing, just have fun.' I went with it.
2. "Holding Her and Loving You" is a real departure for a guy whose known for sunny, positive songs. What motivated you to record a song about a man who feels duty-bound to stay with his wife when he's in love with another woman?
Walker: 'Holding Her and Loving You' is probably the most controversial song that I've ever recorded. It's controversial for me because I don't believe in remaking a song that's great. That's probably the toughest thing I had with cutting this song. Earl Thomas Conley did this song. I certainly couldn't do it any better. ... His version will always be the best version of it.
3. Has having MS changed your life significantly?
Walker: I certainly don't need people to pity me. I hope that people don't ever think that I would want that, because I'm just so happy I'm alive. I just really do live for the day. ... Remember when you were a kid at Christmas and you rushed and ripped all the wrapping paper off the toys without reading the card? I don't do that anymore. I take a whole lot more time opening a present these days, and I read the card. That applies to my whole life.
4. You've been consistently popular for more than five years, sold a lot of albums and had lots of hits. Yet critics don't seem to care for you very much. What gives?
Walker: I don't pay much attention to that. I've heard about reviews that have angered people who are close to me. ... I think that there are a lot of people that feel small up beside fame or popularity. I, for one, have never felt small standing beside someone with more stature than me, or more fame than me, or more money. I've never felt small. I think that some of the critics who write these kind of reviews are trying to find a way to bring this person down because they feel small in their presence.
5. You've also never gotten much in the way of industry awards or nominations. What do you make of that?
Walker: It would be selfish to be bitter about
not being nominated. I think that it bothered me the first couple of years
I was out. We had a lot of hit records and sold a lot of albums. It was
tough to swallow the fact that I didn't even have a nomination. I have
to believe that it will happen, that I will be nominated at some point.
And I will be happy when I am. And if I'm not, I certainly don't hold a
grudge against anybody who did not vote for me. ... The opinions that mean
the most to me are the fans and the radio people. Not too many other people's
opinions affect the way that I record or perform.