The Walmart Yodel Boy is growing up and wearing Gucci.
Mason Ramsey had been singing since he could speak but it wasn’t until the ripe old age of 11 that he broke out.
It was then that he visited a Walmart store in Harrisburg, Ill., near his hometown of Golconda, Ill., and randomly started singing — and yodeling — Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” in the aisle.
A customer he didn’t know videotaped him, posted it on social media, and within days, the performance had garnered more than 25 million views. Ramsey became a viral celebrity.
Ramsey, who lived with his grandparents in the rural community with a population of 648, had no WiFi, Internet, cellphones or even cable television, so he didn’t immediately realize he had become an overnight sensation.
“I didn’t know about it until like a week later, and it just kind of went from there,” said Ramsey, now 16, in a visit to WWD before his sold-out concert at Mercury Lounge Friday night.
“My cousin, who lives about two miles from us, has Internet and she’s the one who found out about it. Then we started getting calls from Ellen, the Jimmy Kimmel show, the ‘Today’ show, Jimmy Fallon and a bunch of places.”
Before he knew it, Ramsey was swept up into a whirlwind that found the Yodel Boy from Walmart appearing on “Ellen,” “Good Morning America,” the Grand Ole Opry, the Grammy Awards and countless other television shows. It wasn’t long until he inked a record deal with Atlantic Records’ Nashville imprint, Big Loud Records, making him the youngest country artist to sign with a major record company in nearly two decades.
Since then, Ramsey has released two EPs, charted a Gold-certified single, “Famous,” headlined two tours, had a Las Vegas residency, and exceeded 300 million global streams since 2018 alone.
And on Friday, Ramsey is releasing “Falls Into Place,” an EP with five songs, four of which he had a hand in writing. It marks the first new music he’s released since 2019.
“I took some time to settle back in at home in Golconda the past few years where I was able to do some big life things like get my first job, go to prom, and work on remodeling my truck,” he said. “I also was able to spend time playing the guitar, focus on my songwriting and figure out what I really wanted to say with my music.”
It also gave him the chance to get his yodel back.
As he entered puberty and his voice changed, the unthinkable happened: he could no longer yodel. But one day while he was sitting by a lake, he started singing and miraculously, the skill had returned.
“I actually lost my yodel for a good amount of time,” he said. “And then last year around this time, I actually got my yodel back. And so now I’ve just been singing and practicing even more to make it stronger.”
But the fact that he yodels in the first place makes Ramsey an enigma among other artists his age. It comes from the fact that his grandparents were huge fans of old-time, traditional country music, especially Hank Williams, and that’s what he was exposed to growing up.
“We would always listen to Hank Williams,” he said. “If it wasn’t in the house, it was in the garage, and if it wasn’t in the garage, it was on the way to wherever we were going.”
Today, Ramsey jokes that all his favorite artists are dead, ranging from Williams to Jim Croce to Elvis, although he does admit to liking AC/DC as well.
He’s regularly been called an old soul and even sings about that in “All I Wanna Be,” one of the cuts from the new album. “Everybody calls me an old soul but to tell you the truth, they don’t know. They branded me like a patch on some Wrangler jeans. I went from a little aisle in a Walmart to a big old stage singing my heart out to a crowd bigger than I ever dreamed,” he sings in that autobiographical tune.
Another of the cuts, “Reasons to Come Home,” also offers a peek into his life. The slightly melancholy song was released along with a video that includes footage of the “little map dot” of his hometown and his aging grandparents. The hook is: “I don’t see myself coming back this way once the ones I love are gone, ‘cause I’ve run out of reasons to come home.”
Those songs are bound to connect with his fans while he’s out on the road next year, as will the other, more uplifting tunes in his repertoire and his Elvis-inspired stage moves.
A bit shy and soft-spoken when talking about his life, Ramsey brightens when the topic of music is brought up. “Singing is just something that I love to do. I don’t take it for granted. I take it very seriously.”
Despite his success, Ramsey remains grounded. That may have something to do with his family. On his visit to New York, he was accompanied by his uncle and aunt — Mama Bear as her husband refers to her — as well as a cadre of protective members of his team. When he’s home — he’s on the road constantly and is homeschooled — he has chores to complete and even worked in a family’s local sub shop while he was taking a break from music.
For his 16th birthday last year — he’ll turn 17 on Nov. 16 — his family bought him a truck, which has proudly been working on since then. “It’s a 1968 Chevrolet K10. It’s blue and its name is Big Foot,” he said. “I wanted a truck that doesn’t have airbags or seatbelts, just lap belts.”
That love of vintage also translates into his fashion choices. For his visit to WWD, Ramsey sported black All Saints jeans, Stacy Adams boots or two-tone loafers, a blue Asos jacket or a white leather jacket from American Breed. But the finest piece in his wardrobe was a vintage Gucci shirt that his aunt found for him at The RealReal.
“I feel music nowadays lacks a little bit of that old feel from the ‘50s and the ‘60s,” he said. “I want to bring that to my music and to my fashion as well.”
His fans will get an even more intimate glimpse into his life when his documentary, tentatively titled “Yodel Boy,” is released. The film has been completed and his team is working to find a distributor.
But until then, Ramsey will continue to focus on his music and career. Although his throwback style keeps him from being embraced by mainstream radio, he’s not concerned.
“I want to do music for the rest of my life,” he said. “I love my fans a lot and I’m going to keep going and pursuing this. Country music is very tough to break into. The way I describe it that there’s a stadium and there are gatekeepers at each door. But with what happened to me, I kind of cut a hole through the roof of this stadium and just dropped through and now they just have to deal with me.”