Dec 20, 2021 - Things to Do

Joshua Ray Walker is on the cusp of stardom

Joshua Ray Walker
His baby face belies his poet's soul. Photo courtesy of Philip Poulsen/REK Room Media

Joshua Ray Walker is on the cusp of international stardom, but his accolades haven't translated into financial success just yet.

  • Walker writes novelesque country songs populated by the type of beautifully flawed characters he saw growing up in East Dallas.

Why it matters: The 30-year-old singer-songwriter has had three critically acclaimed albums in the last three years and his shows are often packed. But if he doesn't break through to a larger audience soon, he might have to find a new career.

  • His story exposes the financial conundrum faced by many up-and-coming musicians.

The intrigue: Over the last few years, Walker has received glowing coverage from national outlets like Rolling Stone and regional media like Texas Monthly and D Magazine.

  • The music scene in North Texas has produced recent national phenoms like Leon Bridges, whose songs feature regularly in movies and commercials.

What they're saying: "I'm right at that tipping point where if you don't make it past where I'm at in a few years, a lot of people give up," Walker told Axios. I'm either going to jump the gap in two to three years, or I don't jump the gap and I'm in crippling debt."

By the numbers: How much would he need to earn to keep making music?

  • "If I was bringing home 60 grand a year, I would feel like, ‘Okay, I can take care of my house. I can pay my bills. I can buy healthy groceries. And I have some money in the bank in case an emergency hits.'"

Between the lines: As his star has risen, his off-stage life has been chaotic and painful. Over the last year, his father died, a pipe burst in his house and when he opened the storage unit where he kept his belongings while contractors worked on his home, everything he owned was covered in mold.

  • "So I have no furniture," he says. "I have no clothes. I have no books, no records. All my important documents are ruined."

Of note: Earlier this year, Walker sang the national anthem at the F1 race in Austin in front of a live audience of 400,000 and a global television audience close to 90 million — easily the largest of his life.

  • "It was just an incredible moment," he says. "I've never been so nervous."
  • Shaquille O'Neal was on hand for the festivities. He gave Walker a hug and told him he was proud.

Yes, but: Afterward Walker still saw a deluge of bullying comments on the internet, targeting everything from his weight to his green hair to his unique, high-pitched voice.

  • "It's sad for them, really." Walker says. "What an awful way to live as an adult. I got to sing for 93 million people. I got to meet Shaq. I got to shake hands with Formula 1 drivers. And I got to experience that. So a couple thousand angry internet trolls are the least of my worries."

Our thought bubble: If you care about our region's ability to produce big-name stars, check out Joshua Ray Walker or consider seeing him live. You won't regret it.

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