The crossroads of Clay Walker’s 12th album Texas to Tennessee are evident. A narrative set in the country star’s native East Texas and musical home of Tennessee—the album was recorded between Walker’s current homes of Galveston, Texas, and Nashville. Co-written with Jennifer Hanson (Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts) and Mark Nesler (Tim McGraw’s “Just To See You Smile”), also raised in East Texas, Walker enters the nostalgic— a nearly 30-year career, his present, and his two worlds—within Texas to Tennessee.
A follow-up to Walker’s 2019 release Long Live the Cowboy, Texas to Tennessee traverses deeper reflections on where he came from and where he stands now. Produced by Michael Knox and Jaron Boyer (Dierks Bentley’s “Somewhere On A Beach”), the 10 tracks ruminate in different lights, from sentimental “Need A Bar Sometimes” and “Catching Up with an Ol’ Memory” desires of I just want a little moment between me and the good ol’ days, to its center point, “Texas to Tennessee,” a more personal track for Walker.
“I wanted to write a song like this, and I knew that I had to have someone like Martin Nesler and Jennifer Hanson to make it all that it could be,” shares Walker, who recently performed songs from the album at the Grand Ole Opry.
“I’m amazed at how much the song means to me,” he adds. “There’s a lot of things in between the lines. My wife Jessica and I love each other deeply, and there are a lot of lines in the song that mean so much to us individually, and I suspect that there’ll be a lot of people who listen to this, and feel like it connects on a personal level with their personal memories.”
On Texas to Tennessee, Walker also wanted to capture specific storytelling, one from a cowboy’s point of view.
“Music has changed so much,” says Walker. “We all know that it’s changed sonically and lyrically, and I really just wanted to capture something that has been a part of my life, which is ‘90s country, from a more of a cowboy perspective and the way that we look at things. I think there’s a lot of values there that still do exist for our country music audience.”
All of the songs on Texas to Tennessee were also more contemplative for Walker. “These songs are all about introspective, and I’ve never done that before, except on my first album [Clay Walker, 1993],” shares Walker. “All the songs I wrote on my first album were all introspective, and then there were other songs written by other writers, but on this one, I co-wrote every song, and every one of these songs has a personal element of experience that I’ve had.”
Remembering country writing in the ’90s and 2000s, the difference says Walker, was that writers back then wrote around the hook and started with a chorus, whereas now they don’t approach a song so pragmatically.
“These new writers, they’re gunslingers,” laughs Walker. “They’ll start from the first line of the song and take off, and that’s just so different than anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Working throughout the pandemic on Texas to Tennessee, and recording everything by Thanksgiving 2020, Walker says producer Knox, who has worked with Jason Aldean and Trace Adkins, was enlightening. “He had a direction he wanted to go, but he let the songs grow inside the studio, and I was fascinated by his leadership,” says Walker. “The way that he leads is inclusive, not dictatorial. The whole process for me was the easiest and most fun I’ve ever had recording a record.”
Walker adds, “The writers also brought their A-game, and I was able to be a big part of the writing everything. It’s like riding a bike. You start getting in there and sharpening each other, and then it all comes back to you.”