Clay Walker Talks Multiple Sclerosis Journey and Coronavirus Fears: 'You Look It in the Face'
"It gives you an appreciation for work other people do and an appreciation that you are still able to do it. You thank God for that," the Easy Goin' singer tells PEOPLE
It was one of those phone calls that stops you in your tracks, makes you grab onto something steady and causes you to take a deep breath before taking another step.
And yes, Clay Walker recently had one of those phone calls.
“I decided to call my multiple sclerosis (MS) doctor a few weeks back when this coronavirus thing really got going,” Walker, 50, tells PEOPLE as Merle Haggard music can be heard playing in the background. “He basically told me that having MS means that my mortality rate, if I did in fact contract COVID-19, would be twice that of a normal person. I didn’t know that, but I do now.”
It’s this kind of news that makes this multi-platinum selling artist, who was diagnosed with MS back in 1996, take notice. But he presses on.
He has to.
“I was once told that I’d live my life in a wheelchair, so I have faced my share of bad news and quite frankly, mortality,” says Walker, who still experiences occasional debility in his right leg and right arm. “You look it in the face and make some decisions about life going forward.”
Indeed, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that while MS itself does not increase the risk of getting COVID-19, ‘the body’s response to infections, including COVID-19, may cause a temporary worsening of MS symptoms.’
“I don’t feel any different right now,” stresses Walker. “I’m okay.”
In fact, Walker sounds nothing less than great at the moment as he finds himself enjoying the extra time at his vast Texas property, a place where he is currently self-isolating with his wife Jessica and children, a place of peace and solitude that reminds him every day of the many blessings he has been given, even when the world feels like it is falling apart.
“It’s only us here right now,” says Walker, whose No. 1 singles include “What’s It to You,” “If I Could Make a Living” and “Live Until I Die.” “Normally we have caretakers taking care of things, but now we take care of everything ourselves. It gives you an appreciation for work other people do and an appreciation that you are still able to do it. You thank God for that.”
The other salve for these uncertain times for so many is music, and Walker is no different. Currently staying busy writing for a slew of new music coming out later this year, Walker says it was important for him to put out music right now, including his new song “Easy Goin’,” premiering exclusively Thursday on PEOPLE.
“Just like all great songs, it’s about a woman,” Walker laughs of the song, which was co-written by the country star alongside Adam Wheeler and Paul Sikes. “It’s about a woman who leaves her man and it’s easy going because she just knew he wasn’t right. It’s about being that strong and making that statement with your actions. She’s not even hollering or mad. She is just leaving.”
Of course, with a career spanning over 27 years, Walker has seen country music transform in front of his eyes, but he says that’s okay with him.
“Country music has changed a lot and there were plenty of times when I was skeptical to where it was going,” says Walker. “But I’ve come to realize that only the good stuff is going to remain and there is plenty of that now when it comes to the writing and producing and sounds and production of the music. I want to stay in the game, no matter what that game looks and sounds like moving forward.”
Until then, Walker says he is planning to stay safely tucked in at his Texas retreat as he waits with the rest of the world until this coronavirus crisis passes.
And yes, he will be careful.
“The fact is that it’s impossible that we are not all going to be exposed to this at some point,” he says quietly. “I never thought there would be a day when I would be buying a mask instead of a guitar. But I won’t be going without a mask at the moment. I’m going to do my part to stay safe like we all should.”
That is, until it’s time to get back on the road.
“I’m just ready to resume life,” he says. “I want to start shows again and spread joy again. People leave their jobs and their problems somewhere else when they come to a concert and I want to be a part of that healing process when the time comes. It might not be how it was, but we will be back.”
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