Joshua Ray Walker kicked off a tour with the duo Carolina Story on Wednesday night at City Winery in Nashville, delivering a tight 30-minute set of songs off his two stellar albums, Wish You Were Here and Glad You Made It. Alas, the Texas singer-songwriter’s cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” didn’t make the set list.
But Walker delivers the goods on Friday with a new studio recording of the 1984 hit, along with a cheeky shot-by-shot remake of Richie’s iconic music video.
“I arranged the cover a long time ago, and it’s one of the only songs that isn’t mine that gets requested regularly at shows,” Walker said in a statement. “When I had the chance to cut it full band during the Glad You Made It sessions, I knew I had to.”
Walker’s version increases the tempo, turning the ballad into a twangy rave-up. While the cover isn’t a lark — Walker dives into the lyrics headlong as if it were one of his own compositions — the video surely is. With help from his Ottoman Turks bandmate Nathan Mongol Wells, an iPhone, and mannequin heads, he re-creates the original video by playing both parts: Richie’s theater teacher and the blind student who pines for him.
“The idea for the video came about during the pandemic,” Walker says. “I was home alone trying to think of cheap things I could make to keep my audience engaged…. Making something with zero expectations was very freeing; the fact that anyone is going to see this is a miracle. I’m excited for people to see a more lighthearted side of me that isn’t on display in my more despondent originals.”
Walker has shows scheduled this weekend in Texas and will play a pair of gigs with the Old 97’s on June 3rd and 4th.