I won’t lie, based on his song titles and social presence alone, I was a little skeptical about Wheeler Walker Jr., but definitely intrigued. With songs like “Fuck You Bitch” and “Sit On My Face,” I figured this guy has to either be the biggest asshole, or the coolest country guy out there.
Had I not taken the time to actually listen to his music, and get to know him as an artist, I may have assumed the first option when I walked into a crowd of mostly men, all chanting “Pussy King” at his sold-out show in Nashville on Friday night.
But after seeing his live show, and getting the chance to sit down and chat with him, I must confess that it’s definitely the latter. Wheeler Walker Jr., you have officially won me over.
For people who don’t know who you are, how would you describe yourself?
The last living country singer in Nashville. I’m a country artist who likes real country music and doesn’t sensor what he says.
You are definitely one of a kind.
Yeah, If you want to listen to music like mine, there’s no where else you can listen to it.
What inspired you to pursue this type of music specifically?
I’d just been knocking around and doing so many different things…I think I’d had enough doing things other people’s way. Or trying things I thought other people would like… The key was making an album, which sounds so simple, but making an album that I’d want to listen to. When you’re throwing an album around, even my new record, I was asking “what do you think, what do you think” but I know it’s good, it doesn’t matter what they think. Before I would be doing that stuff and not knowing. I’ve actually been doing some songwriting sessions around town, some non-Wheeler sessions, people call me up and say “I need some of that Wheeler sound” and after I leave there people call me up and ask “Was it a good song?” and I’m like “I don’t know.” These are people who probably want hits, and I’m just so lost in today’s mainstream country world. If you played me 50 new country songs, and you said 49 were #1 songs, I couldn’t tell you which one was the dud, it all sounds like the fucking same shit to me.
What’s going to make this new album the #1 country album?
The last album was my first experiment trying to do something raw and uncensored and this one is like “I really do have something to say” and wouldn’t it be ironic if I my songs said something more, or dirtier, filthier, more vulgar, and yet more meaningful than the rest of the dog shit out there? That was my goal. What if I could have a unplayable filthy song that was more emotional than a clean song? Not to say that there’s not an element of fun in it, one thing that separates these two is that the first I was getting to know Cobb and the band and now they’re all friends of mine, and we had a blast making both records but the first one still feels a little stiff to me. I think you could hear us having fun on this one.
What do you think the response is going to be from the Nashville community?
Same as always, get the fuck out of here. It’s an interesting question about the response here because there’s a lot of people who fucking hate it, I’ve pissed off a lot of agents and record execs, but there’s a huge community of artists that readers would be shocked to know are fans of mine. I’m pissed I can’t name their names, but whenever I get calls that so-and-so is a fan of yours I’m like tell them to fucking tweet it or wear a t-shirt or something. I wish they had the balls to just say they were fans.
Your tour just kicked-off with a sold-out show in Nashville so that should say something. What are you most looking forward to about the rest of this tour?
I’m interested to see if and how it’s grown at all. One of the main differences now, is while I’m still talking as much shit and acting like as much of an asshole as before, I want a number one record, I want to sit next to fucking Sam Hunt at the Grammy’s, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. But I want this to be mainstream country, I don’t see why it can’t be. I know what they say, it’s all radio driven these days, which is true, but it ain’t for me. I don’t even turn on the radio. For the most part, we’re living in a world where I have every album ever made on my fucking phone. I think the people who are still drawn to country radio, those people are dying off, so every new day is a new day of less and less people being driven by mainstream country radio, which I think is a good thing. I ran into Jon Pardi a few weeks ago, and to me it’s cool when someone like Pardi can breakthrough and have a hit, because he’s playing what I consider to be real country music. But it pisses me off that that’s the exception to the rule. Sturgill’s [Simpson] second album is probably the best example of that, taking this kind of country music form and singing about mushrooms and crazy shit, and he’s the best right now I think of taking country music and finding something new to do with it. [Jason] Isbell, probably the same thing.
So what’s your opinion on the “That’s Not Country” debate?
I try not to worry about genres too much, but my main issue is that when I turn on country radio, I’ve never heard so many bad songs in my life. I turned on country radio the other day and there’s a song called “Fix A Drink”, and I’ve never heard such a terrible song in my life. Like if that’s mainstream country, you guys can have it. I’m trying to put an alternative out there. I’m also not dumb, I understand the day Merle Haggard died, Bobby Bones didn’t do a 4-hour Merle tribute on his station, no one is going to tune in. People want to hear “Fix A Drink,” but if that’s what they want to listen to, we’re talking about two different genres of music… I don’t even want to blame the stations, I’ll use Bobby Bones as an example, if Bobby played Willie Nelson’s new tune, people would be changing the station, advertisers would pull out, it’s money driven. I don’t know a kinder way to say it, maybe the majority of people just have shitty taste. It’s driven by the audience… I think that the music industry has decided that country music is the minor leagues. You know, there’s no country stars that are at the Adele, Taylor Swift level. Taylor Swift is an example of someone who did their time in country and now she’s a pop star. It’s almost like you have to get called up from the minors. Like Sam Hunt, you’re not Macklemore or whatever his name is yet, give it a few years and we’ll move you up to the big leagues.
“It kind of explains what I do, because even if you take out the bad words from my record, the reason I keep it in is because if I took it out it’s not going to get played, there’s no room for what I do on radio either way, so I may as well just fucking go for it.”
How do ladies typically respond to your music ?
It goes all different ways. We have a song called “Drop ‘Em Out” which women have started ripping their shirts off for. I’m not going to lie, there’s certainly a section for the audience that are dragged by their boyfriends or husbands just like “what is this filth?” That’s why I made sure there was duet on the new record. It’s with Nikki Lane, whose one of my favorite artists and I was really happy that she did it. She’s such a strong personality and I needed a strong female voice to do that. I love that idea of a character, me coming home and telling my wife I’ve been cheating around on her, and she’s been cheating on me too, which is kind of a classic country story…like a 2017 version of Conway and Loretta. I feel like more females are coming around to what I’m doing now and having more fun with it. I feel like when it first comes out the first reaction is “this is fucking misogynistic, some guy who just thinks women are pieces of meat.” But that had nothing to with what I was talking about. To me it was a favor to women, like here’s a peek into how guys really talk. Even then, the stuff people thought was so offensive, like “Fuck You Bitch” was never like “women are bitches”, I’ve never touched that kind of stuff. It was always very personal songs, talking about specific people.
I feel like looking at the song titles out of context could be what causes an initial negative reaction from people.
Yeah that’s happened too, we saw a huge spike in sales, and it turned out that someone posted the track listings on Reddit, and just the picture of the song titles themselves went viral, and that’s what kind of spiked the interest. In some ways I think people might be disappointed that the songs aren’t that malicious. I’m angry I’m not going to lie about that. I think people like you kind of surprised that I’m kind of cool and collected, probably because I get it out through the music. I’m angry and pissed, but there’s no maliciousness. It’s like everyone has a boss they hate, or a girl who fucked them over, or a guy that fucked them over, so to me that’s all common ground.
The boys sent over some questions for me to ask you….
Who’s the best looking guy out there that makes the worst music?
It’s a bigger answer to the question, as far as I can tell, the better looking you are, the worse your music is. I talked to Luke Combs today as kind of truce, our albums both come out and we’ve been kind of going after each other on social media and I don’t think people knew that people knew we knew each other and we were just kind of having fun with it. He made this self-deprecating joke about himself, about the red carpets like “I’m not the best looking guy” and I was like yeah, what is this fucking bullshit? I mean the old country guys were the ugliest motherfuckers I’ve seen. Nowadays you’ve gotta be a model. These guys are all fucking ripped, like why don’t you practice your instruments instead of going to the gym. It’s almost like that movie the Revenge of the Nerds, it’s like revenge of the jocks, it used to be the losers making the music, now it’s the cool dudes, the high school quarterbacks and I hate that, because they had their time to shine and now it’s my time.
Who is the #1 wingman for poon hunting?
People underestimate the wing-woman, having a girl with you. It’s almost like you’re verified by somebody, this girl is willing to hangout with this guy he must be okay. So I would recommend for your poon-hunting needs, try a female sometimes, see if it helps.
How many boobs have you signed the past year?
I lost count, but I will say more than I ever thought I would. It’s one of those things that weird like if you told when I was 11 that I’d get to sign a boob when I grew up I’d be so excited, but after about the fourth pair it gets old. Boobs weren’t made for writing on, there’s my next song.
Can we be on your podcast one day, and you be on ours – please?
Sounds like a deal.
Is there anything else you want to say to your fans?
Buy my record, buy one, gift one. I’m banned from Walmart, banned from Target, banned from Best Buy. So buy one on iTunes, and gift one to every person you know.