‘Fancy Like’ singer Walker Hayes is coming to St. Paul (and Applebee’s too)

It will happen this weekend. Walker Hayes — the “Fancy Like” singer of TikTok, famed country radio and TV commercial — plans to pull his tour bus, with his wife and six children on board, into an Applebee’s parking lot.

He’ll order the usual: a Bourbon Street steak with an Oreo shake. And diners will likely recognize him and his daughter Lela from their wildly popular TikTok dance music video.

“We’re most recognized when we’re together,” said Hayes, who performs Saturday at the Palace Theater in St. Paul, not far from one of two dozen Applebee restaurants in the Twin Cities.

A celebration of life’s ordinary joys, “Fancy Like” has become one of those infectious, ubiquitous country crossovers like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Going to Applebee’s has been a big deal for Hayes and his wife, Laney, since their dating days as 11th graders in a suburb of Mobile, Ala.

“Yeah, we crave Applebee on a date night,” the chorus of her song continues. “I got this Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake. Put some whipped cream on top too. Two straws, one check, honey, I got you.”

His team reached out to the restaurant chain after the TikTok video went viral in mid-June and the song became a digital hit. Sales at Applebee began to increase, and the company incorporated the chorus into a television commercial. He also brought back the Oreo shake, which was removed from the menu during the pandemic.

“Applebee’s was very generous,” said Hayes, who is pictured with his daughter on restaurant signs. “A lot of the company’s top brass have been very vocal about how this song collided with downtime for them.”

Hayes has seen TikTok as a fun thing to do with her kids during the pandemic.

“Without TikTok, I think we’re not even talking on the phone right now,” he said last week from Nashville. “The power of that outlet, when you’re able to create something that’s very pure and infectious, it’s amazing to watch it go and see people give it their own spin.”

The dance created by Hayes and Lela, 16, has been replicated countless times on TikTok. His favorites are those of “Fuller House” star Candace Cameron Bure (“my kids absolutely loved it”) and one in which Shaquille O’Neal joins a woman dancing in front of an Applebee (“it blew my mind”).

Country’s No. 1 song of the past 24+ weeks, “Fancy Like” is featured on Hayes’ third album, “Country Stuff: The Album,” released last week. The record begins with the unlikely juxtaposition of “Drinking Songs” (about his love for them) and “AA” (about his need for Alcoholics Anonymous).

“That in itself describes me and probably describes a lot of humans,” Hayes said. “‘Drinking Songs’ is a beautiful illustration of who I was. And ‘AA’ is who I am today. I find it comforting to let people know those are my flaws. …I have nothing to hide. “

Her latest single, ‘AA’, has a sing-song hip-hop feel – much like ‘Fancy’ or Nelly’s old hit ‘Country Grammar’.

Now 42, Hayes grew up on hip-hop and country music, skateboarding in what he calls a suburban mall town.

“For my talent show my senior year [in high school], me and two other friends did “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. I love the way music makes me feel.

“I grew up loving lyrics of all genres. … I’ve always had the most respect for the turn of a lyric in country music and the turn of a phrase.”

In 2005, he and Laney moved to Nashville, where he hoped to earn a living as a songwriter. He had his songs cut by Colt Ford, Rhett Atkins and others, and landed his own recording contract, releasing his debut album, “Reason to Rhyme,” in 2011.

But Capitol Records let him down, and he didn’t bounce back until 2017 with the hits “You Broke Up With Me” and “’90’s Country.”

Saved by a stranger

Now Hayes is back with “Country Stuff.” The album features a dreamy R&B duet, “What If We Did,” featuring rising country thrush Carly Pearce; a tribute to Hayes’ real estate agent father called “Briefcase” (which also serves as his children’s excuses for being on the road all the time), and “Craig”, a collaboration with Christian group MercyMe which is a tribute to the benefactor of Hayes.

One night, six or seven years ago, Laney dragged a drunk Hayes, an unbeliever, to church.

“Craig was the first hand I shook. He said, ‘I’m glad you’re here. Something told me he knew I didn’t want to be there, I’m sure I reeked of alcohol, that didn’t deter him from accepting me.

“That feeling of welcome was foreign to me. I was an alcoholic, I worked at Costco, I had no career going on, yet I called myself a songwriter. Craig and his family had nothing to gain from us. love, but they loved us anyway.”

Craig gave the Hayes family a van because their own vehicle didn’t have enough seat belts for all six children.

Hayes was initially suspicious, but eventually quit drinking. And he found Jesus after he and his wife lost their seventh child, just hours after he was born.

To top it off, the Hayes family moved next door to Craig’s family of six in suburban Nashville at the start of the pandemic. The first thing the two fathers did was tear down part of a fence between their homes so the children could come and go.

Now Hayes and Craig Allen Cooper have written a book, “Glad You’re Here: Two Improbable Friends Breaking Bread and Fences,” due in May.

While on tour, Hayes and his wife homeschool their children, as they have for years, and show them sights along the way, especially on their first trip to the Upper Midwest. It’s possible that Lela will join her dad on stage for a little dance, especially if he keeps visiting Applebee.

How many TikTok dances does it take to burn an Oreo shake?

“Let’s just say a lot. These Oreo shakes are not diet food.”

Walker Hayes

Opening: MacKenzie Porter.

When: 7 p.m. Sat.

Or: Palace Theatre, 17 W. 7th Place, St. Paul.

Tickets: $25 to $50, first-avenue.com

Twitter: @JonBream 612-673-1719

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