Country Music Trailblazer Clay Walker Recalls the Day He Questioned It All: 'I Surrender'

"Creating this album has been a process that I've enjoyed more this time than ever before," Walker says of new album Texas to Tennessee

Three years ago, Clay Walker decided to have a little conversation with God.

The conversation came at a time when the '90s staple with the storied career — encompassing four platinum albums and a slew of No. 1 singles — found himself treading water a bit within an ever-changing country music industry in which his brand of music started to feel a touch out of place.

"There was a point that I told God, 'You know, I've always envisioned that I was going to have an enormous career and all that, but this is in your hands, and I surrender,'" Walker, 51, remembers during a revealing interview with PEOPLE. "I basically said, 'If you want this for me, I'm all in. And if there is something else out there for me, then I'm all in with that too.'"

So, the Texas native stopped, and he waited, and then the pandemic hit.

And frankly, Walker was confused.

"I said to myself and to God, 'What is going on?'" Walker remembers. "I keep hearing you say 'yes,' but when?"

Clay Walker
Clay Walker. Courtesy Clay Walker

That when is now, as Walker currently finds himself smack dab in a complete career resurgence, propelled by the release of his 12th full-length album Texas to Tennessee. His first album release with his new label, Walker's drawl and traditional sound effortlessly partners with renewed and refreshed production on songs such as "You Look Good" and "Need a Bar Sometimes," further demonstrating that Walker isn't going anywhere, except perhaps back to the top of the charts.

"Creating this album has been a process that I've enjoyed more this time than ever before," Walker says about the album, which was recorded both in Galveston, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee. "It was partly due to the experience I've had in the past doing it, but it was also about the people that help put this one together … and it took a village."

A proud member of that village was famed producer Michael Knox.

"He's an awesome talent," Walker says of Knox, best known for his work with country powerhouse Jason Aldean. "He had a vision for this album that he called it to happen. The focus that was put on it by everyone involved, led by him, was an amazing thing to watch."

What surprised Walker most was the fact that Knox had no interest in encouraging the country traditionalist to transform into something other than who he was in an effort to fit in some country music mold.

He wanted Clay Walker … to be Clay Walker.

"[Michael] wanted this to be my most authentic album," recalls Walker of his new record, which was also co-produced by chart-topping songwriter Jaron Boyer. "He wanted me to have a hand in writing every song. So, he put me with a bucket of writers who all were so phenomenal and who all were so different. It was never about getting in there and writing a hit song. He would tell the writers that 'it was about focusing on who Clay is and writing the song directly about him.' And that was it. It was the nicest experience I've ever had."

It was yet another piece of the beautiful puzzle that is Walker's life. Earlier this year, Walker and wife Jessica welcomed their fifth child together, son Christiaan Michael, a "blue-eyed little man that always seems to have a serious look on his adorable face."

"A lot of people ask, why do I need that many children?" Walker, a father of seven, says with a slight chuckle. "The fact is that it's not as much 'a need' as it is 'a want.'"

Clay Walker
Clay Walker. Courtesy Clay Walker

Granted, Walker admits that the family does get some funny looks when they are out and about.

"We'll go into a restaurant, and you know, the hostess will want to sit us in some table the farthest away," exclaims Walker, who says he feels younger now than any other point of his life. "But then, people will get up and walk over to our table when they're finished eating and tell us that they've never seen kids so well behaved."

Indeed, it's a life that he and his wife have always dreamed of.

"The reason why I wanted to be with Jessica is because the first time we ever met, I asked her what she wanted to do with her life and she said, 'I want to be a mom,'" remembers Walker, who has amassed a whole new generation of fans as of late, in part to his nearly one million TikTok followers. "I fell in love with her immediately."

And while he knows that a career on an upswing may eventually mean less time at home, Walker says he has learned to appreciate the little moments now more than ever.

"I lay Christiaan on my chest, and he falls asleep and it's the sweetest thing to see before I fall asleep," Walker shares. "That's my greatest joy in my life, seeing my kids and seeing them learn and teaching them what their purpose is in life."

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