The Walkers is a family group of seven. Hailed from Dothan, Alabama, the Walkers started full ministry on the road in 1991. Starting off with concerts in Florida and South Georgia, they have now their singing territories to most of the US. In 2011, Oklahoma City based Tate Music Group offered The Walkers a recording deal. After the release of their debut TMG album "Twenty," Nashville based promotional firm Higgins Music Group signed The Walkers to a deal where their music would be promoted in the Christian Country Industry. The results have been outstanding. The Walkers have had 3 Top 40 songs on the Inspirational Country Music charts with 2 entering the Top 10.
The Walkers have just released their new album "Legacy."
Q: Thanks Billy for doing the interview with us. Let's start with yourselves, who are The Walkers?
First off, let me just say Thank You and what an honor it is for our family to do this interview with you. We are The Walkers, a family group from Perry, FL just outside of Tallahassee. We have been traveling across The United States, including Alaska and Canada for 25 years and right now we are on the summer leg of our 2017 Legacy Tour.
There are 7 people who comprise The Walkers but they do not all travel full time. There are 4 full time members. There is myself, Billy Walker, Jr. I am a vocalist, I play guitar on some songs and I used to play drums on a few. I am the group manager and I help write the songs. There is my mother, Geneva. She writes primarily most of the music we sing and record. Mom plays the keys, has written several books that we sell on the merchandise table with several more in the works. Mom loves The Word and she shares a testimony at each service as well.
Next is my sister, Gail. Gail is a great emcee and knows how to read a crowd. Gail does primarily harmony vocals but does take the lead on a song or two. We also call her our transportation manager because it sounds better than bus/van driver. In years past she played the bass guitar but now not as much. There is Benji. He is not related to us but it seems like he's been with us forever. He just celebrated his 6th year with The Walkers. He was 19 when he started with us. He is primarily our baritone but he does lead and tenor on different songs each night. He oversees our stage lighting and we are excited that he is with us, he really is part of the family.
Our newest member is not new to The Walkers. Wayne Hamlin joined us back in January 2016 to play drums and sing a bit too. We were the first group he was involved with and his original stint was from 1989-1991. Afterwards, he joined several groups and sang tenor most notably Down East Boys for a couple of years. Wayne is an awesome drummer and we're thrilled he's back with us. Unfortunately, Wayne can only play with us on a limited basis because he is a business owner and cannot be away too much.
Then there is my wife Angela. Angela and I have been married for over 14 years. She will be taking back the role of office manager. She had taken a hiatus from the ministry to take care of our special needs son, and during this time she became a kindergarten teacher within our school district. However, as the ministry has grown and we've gotten busier I need her help running the ministry's office and I am glad because she is good at her job. It has been a little while but she used to run a multi-media presentation during our concerts. I'm hoping we can start that again soon. Finally, there is Billy "Tripp" Walker, III. He is Angela's and my 9-year-old son. We call him the boss man. Tripp was diagnosed with autism 3 days prior to his 3rd birthday. During his kindergarten year he was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech(CAS). We have been able to spread awareness of autism to everyone we sing too. He really is a trip and is the joy of our lives.
Q: In Southern Gospel music, there are so many quartets and groups. What sets the music of The Walkers apart?
That's a great question. In an age that there are so many groups you must do something that stands out. I think if there was one word you could use to describe The Walkers, especially live, it would be "versatile." There is versatility in our own original material but when you see us live you get a bit of everything visually and stylistically. We do primarily original music. We take the best elements of southern gospel, Christian country and contemporary and fuse them into our own unique style that I just call "Walker style". We do some traditional hymns and we also do some of today's current praise and worship.
On the visual side we do some stage lighting in which we create an ambience and mood for worship. We do not use them everywhere we go as some churches aren't ready for that. As I said in introducing Angela, we used to do a multi-media presentation. As the majority of music we do is unfamiliar to an audience unless they've seen us or have our discs we utilize this medium. We have great scenes and the words to our songs come to life both audibly and visually for an audience.
There are also some videos that we show before some songs that really help bring the message home while we sing it. One great example is at one church there was a mother with a special needs child who was deaf. With using this medium she was able to not just see us on stage and wonder what was going on but the words on the screen made our performance come alive with her. The mother tearfully came to us after the service and thanked us for helping her daughter feel like she was a part of the service. This was a great compliment to the use and importance of this component in our ministry. In all of this we do a combination of live instrumentation with tracks.
Q: "Legacy" I believe was your second album. What was your debut album? How did that album come about?
"Legacy" was actually our second album with Tate Music Group. "Twenty" was our first with them. We have been making albums, most on the custom side since about 1988. We have been fortunate to work with some great studios and producers. From around 2000 to 2010 we recorded with Mike Pillow and Lamp Music Group. We made one of my favorite Walker discs with them in 2005, "Restored, Revived, Renewed". The players did an amazing job on the tracking. Our previous disc, "Twenty" was a really good tracked album as well. It was really an artistic album. It produced 3 Top 23 songs in the Christian country genre with two going into the Top 10 and our first charting southern gospel. It helped secure an ICMA nomination for Group of the Year in 2013. One thing about a Walkers album is that no 2 discs sound alike and really no two songs ever sound alike. There is a lot of diversity with each song. We are really excited about our next album. We will be making this album for The Mansion Entertainment. We have known John Mathis at Mansion since 1990. This will be our first opportunity to finally work professionally with him and I personally cannot wait to get started. We hope to start tracking in late fall.
Q: When you were making "Legacy" did you approach this album any differently compared to your previous recording?
Yes, we did approach this disc a little differently. On previous discs there was so much diversity that the genre line definitely got blurred. We tried to hone in on making a really good southern gospel album, a kind of get back to our roots type of thing. There is no telling what the next album will sound like but I think we accomplished the goal we set out for with "Legacy".
Q: What were some of the highlights of making this album?
Just getting back to making a great southern gospel disc. I love all genres of music with the exception of rap/hip hop, no offense to anyone, but there is no music like good southern gospel music. Several of the songs on "Legacy" were recorded on albums with our dad in the 90's that we do not sell anymore. When we were picking out songs for this disc I thought why not re-record some of these great songs and put a fresh face to them. As with any album I love the process. It's a little like building a house. You start with blue prints, a plan, and then you lay the foundation, put up the walls and roof, dress the inside and trim the outside. It's the same for building an album. You start with songs on paper, build the tracks, then come in and finish it with vocals and final mixes. I just love seeing an album come to life.
Q: Did you or the team write most of the songs on "Legacy"?
Yes we did. My mother writes the songs and brings them to me. I edit things out and I put the music to them. On occasion the reverse takes place. On this disc my sister Gail put the music to two songs.
Q: How would you wish this album could impact the lives and faith of your hearers?
I really hope that people will be encouraged, empowered, strengthened and their relationship with The Lord uplifted. This is the mission of our family. There are 12 different messages on "Legacy". Each night that we have the chance to stand in front of an audience to sing there are 12-15 messages that are delivered. It is my hope and prayer that this album provides the listener with the desire to advance The Kingdom of God. I really liked what I read in my devotion back in January that has stuck with me. In Matthew, in the NLT, Jesus said of John the Baptist's disciples that they forcefully advanced God's Kingdom. They forcefully advanced God's Kingdom not in a violent manner, but they stood for what was right and condemned what was evil and wrong. In this day we are living in it seems like every cause is being forcefully advanced by its supporters. I think it is past time that Christians take their rights to stand up for our beliefs and values and advance God's Kingdom forward.
Q: Speaking of legacy, what is the type of legacy you would like to leave behind?
I have been so fortunate and blessed to have the legacy of a Christian heritage passed down for several generations in my family. I have had relatives in all capacities of ministry from evangelist to pastors and all positions in between. My grandparents passed this legacy to my parents, they passed this legacy to me and I hope and pray that I continue in this tradition with my family. I have the opportunity to make a difference in many people's lives but I would be remiss if I were to be focused solely on other's needs and ignore my family. My first responsibility is to lead my household and then to be wise in leading the ministry of The Walkers.
My goal is to treat everyone that I deal with in a fair and respectable manner, to be a man of my word and be a man of honor and integrity. Most importantly, the greatest legacy that The Walkers will leave is not something that can be measured in this life but will be measured by the people who we meet in Heaven that come up to us and say "I am here because you were obedient to the call God placed on you." There is no chart song, no dollar amount, no award that will ever be able to top the fact that we have made an eternal difference in someone's life by the gifts that God has given to us to use for His Glory and His Honor. That is the legacy I hope to leave.