As a true holder of the title “Okie from Muskogee,” Wesley Michael Hayes grew up a country boy with a passion for sports and music. Working to promote his first single, “Love In Pictures,” to Texas Radio and planning the release of the EP, BENT, Hayes is a self-described “underdog who loves going against the grain and doing things that others are afraid to do.” Having lived a “broken and patched life” that includes all the trappings of a true country song, Hayes is counting on his traditional sound and style to resonate with those looking for realism and raw honesty.“My mom’s people were bootleggers and outlaws who would play music on the porch and such after some shine runnin’. That’s where the music talent comes from,” he said. “I was given a ’71 Alvarez guitar by my Uncle Harley at one point and my love for playing grew from there.”
At the age of 10, Hayes began playing drums debuting just two years later with a solo of “Wipe Out” at Coweta High School. With influences that range from rock to traditional country, Hayes’ father took him to a Jethro Tull concert as a child and they often cruised around listening to Stevie Wonder, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Earth, Wind & Fire; at home with his mother and grandparents he watched “Hee Haw.”
Carrying a melody inside at all times, Hayes pursued sports, another passion passed on from his family, during an emotional and unstable youth. Using the activity to escape the feelings of loss and grief when his parents divorced at 5 and, at 11, he lost his grandfather (the man he considered his “source of stability”), he excelled in high school and as a basketball player at Northeastern State University. Admitting to developing a lot of rage as the anger and hurt consumed him, Hayes recalled the many times he could be found “wearing the silver bracelets for drinkin’ and fightin’ and all the things outlaws are known to do,” as he tried to cope from many years of holding his feelings inside.
Music only became front and center when Hayes’ life changed dramatically in 1998 as he and his wife, Brandy, lost their infant son, Jacob, just 16 days after his birth. Needing an outlet once again for the pain that ensued, Hayes looked to songwriting for healing. Influenced by Merle Haggard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and David Allan Coe, Hayes’ difficult upbringing, the loss of his son, and other trying life experiences served as the backdrop to his traditional storytelling.
“You carry those dark days with you always and, sometimes, the darkness has nowhere to go but to the heart,” he said. “When that negative energy is born, if you don’t channel it the right way you will go crazy. I had always had music in my bones so I channeled it into music.”
As life on the road beckoned and opportunity came knocking, Hayes began playing in Branson, Missouri with the Bluegrass band, Goldwing Express, and taking gigs that would grow his career. Releasing his first CD, YESTERDAY, in 2012, he has been honing his craft for the last several years writing each song to be “something unique in and of itself.” With the uncanny ability to tell stories from many walks of life, Hayes’ talent for songwriting has no limits. Tackling subjects that range from politics to love his lyrics tell of loving someone you hardly ever see with “Love In Pictures” or of a man being taken in by a crooked call girl in “Memphis.” A mixed bag of rollickin’ tales and many emotions, “Bent,” which is Hayes’ anthem, is perhaps the most heartfelt song on the EP. “I have walked through many things and I write about life,” he said. “Most people love country music because they can relate to it; George Jones made you feel the hurt in ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ and ‘The Grand Tour’ and that is what I bring to the table. I aim to make you want to fight, love, drink, cry, laugh or just feel good all over. I think it’s my job to offer people a chance to get lost, maybe go to a happier time or maybe realize that time is the happiest for them right where they are!”
Away from music, Hayes is a history teacher and a coach at a middle school. He and his wife, Brandy, are the proud parents of a 20-year old son, who plays drums with Outlaw Territory, and a 13-year-old daughter. With the full support of his family behind him, Hayes honesty and genuine nature are transparent as he chases his dream.“You have to believe in what you are doing,” he said. “Nobody else is going to believe it or dream it for you. I am a fighter, survivor, and I just don’t sit around and wait for somebody else to do it or to hand me something. There is no substitute for hard work and I take that notion with me every time I hit the stage.”