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Country music hitmaker Walker Hayes and co-author Craig Allen Cooper recently (May 3) released their highly anticipated book, “Glad You’re Here: Two Improbable Friends Breaking Bread and Fences.”
Following the release, the two sat down with Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist on Today to discuss the faith-centric novel at length. In the pages of the hardcover, Hayes explains how Cooper became his saving grace as he struggled with alcoholism, mourned the loss of a child, and struggled to find his place in the music industry. The way Cooper presented Christ changed Hayes’ misconceptions about Christianity.
When the award-winning musician struggled, he searched for answers and “needed to feel welcome”. He went on to share that Craig and his family raised him when he was at his lowest.
“Nashville beat me, I was an alcoholic, Laney and I had lost a child. It was tough, and Craig – the unconditional love (of) Craig and his family really changed my life,” he said. he told the outlet, “We saw Jesus in them so clearly. And it’s coming from an atheist…it’s crazy. And again, it’s just crazy that we’re sharing a book about Jesus.”
Hayes and Cooper developed their dependable relationship in church, but now the close friendship extended beyond the pews.
“We are neighbors now. It’s crazy, and I love this guy. I love his family and I’m just glad we can do life together,” he added of the pastor.
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In the novel’s description, the two explained that they tore down the fence between their homes to “break down barriers” and show how the man upstairs has the power to unite people.
In 2017, Hayes released “Craig,” a moving tribute track on his ten-song LP, “Boom” and “Country Stuff The Album” with MercyMe. Throughout the tune, the artist describes their close bond and a particular act of kindness by Cooper that changed his life. The emotional lyrics center on a van donated by Cooper, when Hayes was struggling to make ends meet.
Although Cooper provided for Hayes and his family, he made it clear that their relationship was a two-way street.
“A lot of people have heard the song and may consider it a one-sided thing. The truth is that Walker and Laney and their family have been with us through our toughest times, and they have lifted us up,” the pastor said. “It’s just a friendship, I think it comes from heaven.”
Cooper went on to explain his personal situation and how he saw something special in the chart-topping artist.
“When I first entered the ministry, I kind of filled the schedule, hit everything really hard and got to the point where I was completely burnt out. To the point where I was released from this ministerial role,” he explained. “Five years later they hired me back, which is amazing. Then we came and helped plant Redeeming Grace Church. But I know what it’s like to feel broken. I know what what it’s like to be heartbroken and, you know, to struggle. I found a friend in Walker.
Hayes mentioned that Cooper’s advice transformed the way he approached songwriting and changed his outlook on life.
“It’s all about Jesus, honestly now. Which was not the case at all,” he said. “When I wrote that song for Craig, I was very intentional not to say the name of Jesus. I didn’t want to say his name. I didn’t believe in him. But I said, ‘Man, this dude might actually know it.’ That’s what the song says, and that was sort of my rebuttal of their unconditional love.
—Walker Hayes (@walkerhayes) May 4, 2022
The friends started writing the book two years ago, before Hayes rose to stardom with his viral hit “Fancy Like.” Although he is blessed with sudden fame and fortune, he pointed out that his big platform is what he values the most.
“I really feel like I was given this platform, this stage to share this message,” he said. “The timing was orchestrated entirely by the Lord. We just have a great platform to share this message of vulnerability, friendship and just strangers becoming neighbors,” he concluded.
The book is available for purchase everywhere.