The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Clay Walker Opens Up

The year was 1996. While Garth, Alan, and Shania ruled the country charts, a small but talented group of young guns were hot on their heels. One of these artists was Clay Walker. Walker was definitely at the top of his game. He had already released five number-one records, and his newest hit, “Hypnotize the Moon,” sat solidly at number two. Then tragedy struck. Walker was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

“At first, I was pretty devastated,” Walker told The Torch during an interview earlier this month. “I’ve always been the type of person that never gets sick, even when around a roomful of sick people. This is what really surprised me when I was diagnosed. The first physician I saw told me that I would be in a wheelchair in four years and die in eight and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Undeterred, Walker sought out specialists who assured him that he could and would recover. He considers himself on of the lucky ones. “There are many great medications out there now to help people that didn’t exist 20 years ago because of the growing public awareness,” he said. “There is also a lack of specialists. There are a lot of good neurosurgeons out there, but very few of them specialize in MS.”

Walker also considers himself lucky in the sense that his disease never affected his career in any way. “God has really blessed me. I was diagnosed after just finishing my winter tour and I had an eight week rest and I never missed a show before or since.”

These days, Walker is still hard at work. He has just wrapped up a new album that will hit stores March 13.

“It’s very stripped down,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of production or synthesizers. That’s why I really wanted to work with Keith Stegall on this. I wanted to get that great George Strait sound. It just sounds so much better because you can hear all the instruments and all the lyrics. This is definitely a more traditional-type record than I have released in the recent past. It reminds me more of the first album I released.”

At the time of this writing, the first single, “Fore She Was Mama” has cracked the Billboard Top 25 and there are plans for a full-scale tour. “We plan to kick off the tour around May and go all the way through October and hit a lot of cities.” Of course Walker continues to work with MS-related charities and events as well, particularly MS Awareness Week (March 5-11). “It’s always important to raise awareness of life issues, whether it’s poverty, breast cancer, aids, or MS. It’s important because it takes people to make cures happen. It takes people to fix problems, but if they don’t know about the problem, they can’t fix it. So this year, as in years past, I’m going to be very visible during MS Awareness Week making sure that I’m doing my part.”

Walker encourages others to get involved as well. “Folks can visit my Web Site, www.bandforms.org, where they can find a lot of information about MS and how I cope with the disease,” he said. “They can visit the National MS Society Web Site and just learn as much as they can. People can also participate in the National MS Bike-a-Thon and the National MS Walk which raises money for the cause. And that’s very important, because finding a cure and doing research takes money.”

Walker certainly isn’t letting anything hold him back. When asked what the future holds for him, he answers confidently, “I really feel like this is going to launch the next part of our career. I’d like to just stay on the charts over the next five years or so. Maybe get some Awards and nominations and do some TV.”

And of course, there is the road. “I’ll always be touring to make sure we get the music out there to the people so that they can participate and yell and scream and sing along. Actually, if it weren’t for all the other stuff that goes along with being a recording artist I’d probably tour 365 days a year. I can’t think of anything more fun than that.”

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