Walker Hayes and his new business partner spent 15 seconds on one recent collaboration. Another took nearly an hour, which is a relative eternity for a teenager stuck in quarantine with her father.

As the "You Broke Up With Me" hitmaker and professional genre-bender preps his new single "Trash My Heart" for radio, he picked up a new trick, one he'd have never guessed he'd excel at. The 40-year-old father to six is to TikTok what hot is to chicken, but make no mistake: He's nothing without oldest daughter Lela.

The 14-year-old is the master, Hayes tells Taste of Country. He is just the student. Across his three dozen or so posts, you'll find them working together often, creating dances for well-known pop and hip-hop songs, or his own new single.
“She’s very forgiving," Hayes — who loves to dance — tells Taste of Country. "I mean, she makes fun of me. She’s like ‘Dad, it took you like 30 minutes to learn to dance' ... Honestly she will say, she’ll just be like, ‘I’m just glad somebody in the house wants to do that stuff with me.’ And I do."

Wife Lainey is more reluctant, but she's appeared in several full family videos (see our favorites below). Their version of the BDash X Twitch I'm Good Challenge took an hour to make because Hayes just couldn't get his part down. But it paid off.

"I look at today’s youth and I’m jealous that they have these resources," Hayes says from home during a Zoom call. "Because when you and I were kids, there wasn’t access to cameras like this, and editing resources and so much music and all of that in one place."

He won't admit it, but the Alabama-rasied Hayes is kind of made for TikTok. As a progressive creative in a genre that values tradition first and second (and maybe even third), it's incumbent on him to find new resources. All of it feeds his creativity, but "Trash My Heart" was actually written in the most traditional of ways. He hosted a songwriter's retreat and the group wrote nine songs in three days.

"I was not allowed to do that Walker thing where I just over-process," he shares. "It was kind of like, 'That line makes me smile, that’s it.'"

Much like "You Broke Up With Me" (a kiss-off to a music industry that tried to leave him behind, disguised as a love song) "Trash My Heart" has a double meaning.

“It can be a girl or a guy where you’re like, ‘You know what, it’s gonna be good tonight and I’m gonna give myself to it regardless of what it does to me later,'" Hayes says. On a personal level, it's his answer to anyone who questions why he sticks with music, despite all of the obstacles. The little bit of pleasure is worth the pain, he'll say.

It doesn't hurt that now, during the coronavirus quarantine, it's bringing him closer to his daughter.

"We’re so lucky to have Lela as our first kid," Hayes says. "I remind Lela, I swear I say this once a week, but I’m like, 'Hey, you’re our first. Give us a break.' We’re still beginners with her. I’ve never had a 14-year-old."