Artist Interviews / Clay Walker / CMTT Exclusives

It Takes a Village: Clay Walker on New Music, Managing Multiple Sclerosis for 21 Years

Photo Credit: Nicole Palsa for Country Music Tattle Tale


It’s been a few years since Clay Walker has released new music, but the wait is nearly over. Fans can expect to hear a new single in August, with an album to follow shortly thereafter.

From writing and recording in the studio to managing the business aspects of the project, launching new music takes a small village.

“It’s taken a while to get the right partners. From distribution to sponsorship to promotion… you’ve gotta get the right partners.”

Clay has been performing some of the new songs in his live shows, including a song destined to be a hit, “Makes Me Wanna Stay.” The song’s intro kicks off with a fiery fiddle solo and energetic percussion that immediately transforms the room into an Irish pub full of dancers.

The studio recording of the track is even more special, with a featured appearance by violinist Mairead Nesbitt from the group Celtic Woman. Producer Jimmy Ritchie had been working with Celtic Woman and shared Clay’s song with Mairead, who fell in love with it and offered to play on the track.

Clay has written or co-written more than half of the songs on the upcoming album, crediting the songwriting community for also sharing songs that fit his style and vision. One of the songwriters that has influenced him recently is Ed Sheeran. Clay has recorded “Thinking Out Loud,” but didn’t know yet if the cover will make the final cut on the album.

“The first time I heard that song, the lyrics of it sounded like something I wish I’d written.”

Crowds are loving Clay’s live rendition of the Sheeran hit, including the audience at the 8th annual Chords of Hope benefit for multiple sclerosis (MS) research, held in Nashville during the CMA Music Festival.

Clay was diagnosed with MS more than 20 years ago, and says that just like in music, managing the disease requires the right team.

“You have to have partners with anything you want to be successful at.”

For him, those partners have been his medical team and his family. They’ve helped him find the right balance of medication, diet, and exercise to help keep him relapse-free for 19 years. He is passionate about MS awareness and encourages patients to play an active role in managing their own care.

“I want to encourage people who have it that whenever they meet with their neurologist that they are part of the decision about A) what medication they’re going to take and B) that they feel comfortable enough and confident in themselves to have an opinion with their MS specialist.”

Because of Clay’s touring schedule, maintaining an active lifestyle at home and on the road is important to his health.

 “I woke up this morning and I rode horses with the kids, then I went fishing with the kids, I did some gardening, then I had a workout, and then I came here. I lead a very, very active life. I wouldn’t be able to do that without the knowledge of how to live with MS.”

To learn more about Clay’s charity Band Against MS and his music, visit

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  1. Bill Palsa says:

    What an inspiring story, thank you for sharing! It’s great to see the human side of someone that so many people look up to and admire. I hope that Clay’s story will touch people and let other people affected by MS know that they are not alone.

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