Athens, Alabama native Bradley Walker never let anything deter him from his desire to pursue music. The vocalist, who was born with Muscular Dystrophy and has spent his life in a wheelchair, earned the IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year award for his first album, Highway of Dreams, in 2008. It was that same album that caught the attention of Joey and Rory Feek who Walker met over MySpace, forming an immediate and lasting friendship. On September 23rd, Walker released his new album co-produced by Feek, Call Me Old Fashioned, a collection of faith-based country songs that inspire and uplift. During a break from his busy schedule, Walker called to talk about the album, his friendship with the Feeks and more.
When you were ten years old you had the opportunity to sing with Oak Ridge Boys on “Nashville Now;” was music something you have been pursuing your entire life?
I have been singing from the time I was very young and continued all through high school and after. About ten years ago I recorded my first solo project [Highway of Dreams], which was a Bluegrass album, but whether it was Bluegrass or acoustic, my style always had a country flavor.
The new record, Call Me Old Fashioned, has that country flavor blended with hymns, classic songs, and new material. How did you decide which songs to choose for the project?
When we knew we were going to have the chance to make this album, we reached out to a lot of our songwriter friends in Nashville. Rory and I listened to a lot of material and when we heard what we liked, we saw that the record was starting to take a direction. Being it is a project with the Gaithers, I wanted to include a couple of hymns as well as songs that were familiar to people, but we also heard so much incredible new material that we knew we wanted to include as much of that as we could too.
Is there any particular significance in titling the album Call Me Old Fashioned?
I’ve known the co-writer of that song for a long time and I just love what the song says. It stuck out as a great title that I felt was a good way to wrap up a lot of what the songs talk about and the values and way of life that I believe in.
When listening to the album, one definitely gets a clear idea of what’s important to you in life – including your faith.
Faith is very important to me. If you don’t have faith in something beyond this life, then you don’t have much. It’s something that we all lean on, especially when times are tough.
Country music was built on great songs that talked about life, the trials we go through and things people can relate to - and that’s the thing I look for the most when choosing songs. If there’s a song that I can relate to, then maybe other people can relate to it as well and be able to say, “I know what that song's talking about. I’ve been there before.”
I think people will find that the songs on the album are certainly relatable. The album begins with “Why Me.” Why did you choose to place that song first?
What I try to do when deciding how to track a record is to make it so that if you sit down to listen to it front to back it, it’s not a lot of the same thing in a row. I want to take people on a journey with different types of songs, some fresh and some familiar, that elicit different emotions.
You and long-time friend Rory Feek produced the album - it must have been an incredibly special collaboration.
I really enjoyed getting to do this with him and share this together. He and Joey have been dear friends for a long time. After hearing my first record, Joey ended up finding me on MySpace. We exchanged phone numbers, and eventually met at their restaurant where we immediately connected. Over the years, I was blessed to sing on some of their records and with them on the Opry. We have shared great times and a wonderful friendship.
Sounds like a very special, and rare, type of friendship.
It is. The first time we met was at a songwriter’s night and I had never heard them sing before. I sat there and just listened, wondering why I had not heard of them before. After the show, we spent three hours in the restaurant talking about music, life and the way we grew up and we realized we had a lot in common. I knew instantly when I left that night that I wanted to keep them in my life forever and you don’t run across that every day. I miss Joey so much and love them with all my heart. They’re the absolute best.
That’s incredibly heartwarming to have a friendship like that.
Switching gears, you recently sang on the Grand Ole Opry. Was it your debut?
Many people thought it was my debut, but I have been blessed to sing at the Opry several times and call some of the members and musicians friends. I was on the Opry back in 2002 for the first time with the Bluegrass group IIIrd Tyme Out, who allowed me the opportunity to sing with them. This time, I got to debut the record on the Opry stage and that, to me, was the best way to kick off the new record. It’s a special place and singing there never gets old.
As the year winds down, what are your plans for the remainder of 2016 and early 2017?
We’re still trying to figure things out. I’ve gotten several opportunities to do some shows, but everything has happened so fast that we’re going to give it to the good Lord, enjoy the ride and see where He’s going to take us.
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Purchase Call Me Old Fashioned here