A love of Jesus, his music and family.
That’s Rhett Walker, a country-Christian and Grammy nominated artist who has returned to his roots in the CSRA.
Walker was born in North Carolina, but raised in the North Augusta/Aiken area. He attended Silver Bluff High School before attending South Gate Christian School.
“I lived a lot of life in my teenage years,” Walker said. “My dad’s a pastor at Heights Church and he was preaching on Sunday mornings all these things about grace and redemption, and I was living very selfishly. Got kicked out of high school for fighting and just being a dummy. I was never mean, I was just dumb, I was a teenager.”
But everything changed when he was 17 because that’s when his girlfriend – now wife – April got pregnant. He started homeschooling so he could work to pay for expenses needed for a baby.
“I graduated with my high school diploma and we got married immediately when we were 17,” Walker said. “We had dated for about two or three months and got married. Now we have been married for 18 years and have four beautiful kids (Rileigh, 17, Jett, 15, Autumn, 10, and Cash, 4).”
Because his dad was a pastor, Walker was on the praise team and said he would fill in when someone wouldn’t show up. That meant he would sometimes play different instruments, including the bass and drums, the latter of which he ended up loving. But one day they pulled him off drums to sing “Grace Like Rain” by Todd Agnew and he kept singing.
“I don’t know if that means it was horrible and I was still better than I was at drums or what. I’ve been afraid to ask that question. But I never stopped singing there,” Walker said.
When he found out his wife was pregnant he thought his music dreams weren’t possible anymore, so Walker got a job working for the city of North Augusta. He did landscaping and anything that would help pay for diapers, formula and food.
Then a man from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, asked Walker to help lead worship services at colleges. So the family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Jett had just had his two month check-up, so I was 19 and moved about six hours away from all family,” Walker said. “But honestly it was the best thing that could’ve happened to us because we didn’t have my mom and dad or my in-laws, we didn’t have them to rely on so we had to figure this thing out.”
While in North Carolina Walker focused on his music, and after some praying, felt the calling to move to Nashville. But they were hesitant because they had already moved a lot.
“We were praying about it and my mom was like, ‘If you want to be a surfer, you would move to the ocean,'” Walker said. “Alright there’s confirmation, we moved.”
Two years after moving Walker signed a record deal with Sony Records and released his first single, “When Mercy Found Me.” That song was nominated for a Grammy and everything took off from here.
“We didn’t slow down down for years,” Walker said. “This year marks 10 years for me being signed and putting out music full time, it’s kind of a cool year.”
Over his 10 year career Walker has released three albums and 2 EP’s. The music he has released has been both Christian and country, he said.
“We’ve played, we did a headlined spring tour and brought only Christian artists this year, but then all the festivals we did this year were country festivals,” Walker said. “We did the Opry 15 times now … we just kind of, whatever door God opens honestly. I’ve from the South and from the Carolinas and living in Georgia, so I’m not hiding it. I’m not going to be able to. I talk the way I talk, and that’s the way it is.”
Walker said he became more serious with his faith after he found out he and April were expecting because he needed it. He’s not going to put Jesus into a song to get it on the radio.
“I want to talk about Jesus to where people go, ‘<an I needed that, I needed that hope today, I needed that peace to say and the only place I can find it is in Jesus.’ But I’m also a family man. I love to go mudding and get dirty and play outside, so I’m going to sing songs about my wife, my kids and love of life. However the music comes across, I mean there’s a lot of people that call me a country artist, a lot of people that call me a Christian artist, I just make music.”
As for what his favorite songs that he’s written is, Walker said it’s “When Mercy Found Me” because it was his first song and he put his testimony into that song.
“When you put out music you don’t know if the only person who buys it is your mom and dad; it’s subjective, it’s art,” Walker said. “To have it nominated for a Grammy on my first single and be able to make it was just a cool reminder that I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing.”
As for how he would describe his 10 year career, Walker had one word: “wild.”
“Honestly it’s like a roller coaster where we jump on and we hold on and at some points our hands are in the air going ‘woo-hoo’ and other parts we’re going ‘oh, crap,’” Walker said. “The music industry is fixable, it’s weird. People come and go … But it’s cool to look and go all those times it felt scary or felt like the mountain top incredible, looking back you are able to compartmentalize a little bit more and it’s like man that really wasn’t that big of a deal. It felt like it at the time, that was something I need to remember and celebrate.”
When he looks back on his career, Walker looks with happiness and joy that he is still able to perform. But he’s also curious about what he future holds and what door will open next.
“In today’s world you’re one tweet away from some celebrity that found your music and all of a sudden this new song that wasn’t a single is on fire,” Walker said. “I hold on for dear life and go as long as my wife’s happy, as long as my kids are eating, I’m good.”
Walker and his family moved back to the CSRA in October 2019 right before the COVID pandemic hit because they wanted to be closer to family.
“My grandparents are here, my aunt and uncle are here, my sister and her husband. April’s whole family is here, so the fact that we were here before everything shut down, we would’ve been in Nashville by ourselves like, ‘oh, this sucks,’” Walker said.
Moving back to the CSRA was the right decision for the family because it’s slower paced and Walker said has helped him stay grounded.
“(In) Nashville I felt like I was always one call away if management or the label needed something or they wanted to shoot a video, whatever it is,” Walker said. “Now when I go up for a write, it’s very proactive: here’s the times we’re writing, here’s who we’re writing with, I’m able to then collect my stories from the CSRA when I’m out and about and go in with a very purposeful this is what we’re writing about.”
During the pandemic Walker was able to lead worship at his dad’s church and help out when they held services in the parking lot.
“I wouldn’t have gotten to do that if I hadn’t moved back here. A lot of cool little seasons since moving back,” Walker said.
Walker and his family attend Stevens Creek Church where he helps lead worship and write some music, said Todd Sturgell, the executive pastor of experiences.
“Rhett is a super down to earth guy, very humble, super funny,” Sturgell said. “One of those people that (is) easy to be around. Sometimes when people have a little bit of success they can turn into a different person, but he’s super down to Earth … has really fit into our team really, really well. I love having him on the team, I love when he serves and helps us out.”
Walker is always willing to help out and Sturgell said when his brother was diagnosed with ALS eight months ago he wanted to do a benefit concert and asked Walker if he wanted to be involved. He said Walker jumped in and donated his time and was part of the concert. He added that April also helped with the benefit because “that’s the kind of people they are.”
“(He) loves Jesus, loves his family, loves music. That’s Rhett,” Sturgell said.
When he’s not working, Walker likes to be outside.
“If there’s not something to paint or fix or keep me busy I’ll sit out on the back porch,” Walker said. “Every night I light a fire on the back porch and sit out there. I just prefer to be outdoors whether it’s hunting, fishing, sitting riding four-wheelers, playing golf, me and my son, we, my 15-year-old Jett, he went with me to the driving … he’s starting to get into golf too. This time of year it’s easy to get stir crazy. The weather is still nice, and you want to get outside before we get a month of cold.”
To keep up with what Walker is doing, visit his website, www.rhettwalker.com, or follow him on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter.