Cole Hayes: Courageous Louisiana Teen Battles Illness To Write Country Songs

Cole Hayes

Sixteen-year old Cole Hayes comes from the little Louisiana town of Roseland (pop. 1,162), and like Jerry Lee Lewis and Tim McGraw, two of his fellow Louisianans and heroes, Cole has remarkable natural talents to create country and blues music.

“When I was little, I fell in love with the way Elvis Presley sang and shook his leg, and how all the girls went wild,” Cole says in a late August phone call from Roseland. “I also like Jerry Lee Lewis, I like the way he plays piano and that’s one reason I started writing blues songs. I play piano and I play guitar.”

We mentioned that we thought Jerry Lee was in his mid-70s and still playing shows.

“Jerry Lee Lewis will be 76 on Sept. 28,” the very bright teen said.

Cole, who is the cousin of the Louisiana riverboat captain, songwriter, and music publisher Captain Joe Kent, has had to overcome a physical challenge none of his musical heroes faced, a very rare skin disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosa (XP).

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Xeroderma Pigmentosa is a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light – such as that found in sunlight – damage the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells. Normally, the body repairs this damage. But in persons with Xeroderma Pigmentosa, the body does not fix the damage.”

The very courageous Cole has written songs like “Walk Out The Door” which have attracted the attention of Captain Joe, who hopes to have some of Cole’s songs recorded. Another of Cole’s biggest fans is the country superstar Brad Paisley, who Cole has met twice.

Paisley has been a major supporter of folks with XP.

“Country singer Brad Paisley and actress wife Kimberly,” PRWeb reported in 2008, “showed continuing support by donating $10,000 to Camp Sundown, a summer night program by the XP Society. Founded in 1995 by the parents of a child with the rare disorder, Camp Sundown has been an international haven for children suffering all light-sensitivity disorders and is run entirely on donations.”

Cole lives with his grandparents. His grandmother Cathy says: “Cole’s seen Brad Paisley twice. Cole said that he would sing one of the songs he wrote for Brad, and Brad took time with him backstage. When Cole got to meet him again, Brad actually said he remembered him.”

Captain Joe was thrilled. “Cole pitched Brad Paisley a song backstage,” the Captain says.

Sadly, some folks are not so kind or supportive.

“Cole gets picked on a lot by other kids,” Cathy says. “Going out in public, we’ve been asked to leave a couple places. It is heartbreaking. It was worse when Cole was younger.”

But music has always provided pure happiness and joy for Cole. Besides, the kid’s really good at it.

“At first, he was just totally infatuated with Elvis Presley,” Cathy says, smiling. “We went to a show by an Elvis impersonator. That was the first time we even knew Cole liked music. After that he was just totally fascinated with Elvis.”

Cathy is also Captain Joe’s aunt, and maybe the musical gifts run in the family.

“Joe and his wife Denise have both sort of taken Cole under their wing,” Cathy says. “He’s just real excited about it, and Cole just thinks the world of Joe and Denise.”

When Cole’s dad did some work at Captain Joe’s house a few months ago, Joe and Cole began talking about songs and playing each other tunes they had written.

“I don’t really how Cole got started writing songs,” Cathy says. “In elementary school he would write stories, lots of horror stories. We talked to him and said `write a song,’ and then we never thought anything about it. Then Cole went to Joe’s house, and Joe was very impressed with Cole’s songs. It’s awesome.

“Joe has never been a person to give up,” Cathy continues. “I think it’s great what he’s doing with Cole. Joe’s real excited about it. I don’t anything about music and I was real nervous at first, but Joe was very impressed and Cole and Denise text each other all the time. It’s amazing.”

One of the beauties of country music is that it’s always been a source of comfort and inspiration for folks in both good and bad times. And many of our greatest artists have battled lifelong challenges.

Ronnie Milsap has been blind since birth, yet has sung 35 No. 1 Billboard country singles, the 4th-most of any artist ever.

Meanwhile, Cole Hayes is writing and singing the musical soundtrack of his own life.

“Cole is doin’ really, really good,” Cathy says. “He’s over five years cancer-free now. We are awfully proud of him.”


By Phil Sweetland


  1. I observed this young man during the school year 2009-2010 at his middle school and what I say at that time was a person who was not afaird to dream. I was totally impressed with his courage. God Bless you Cole and remember that there is every beginning start with one single step.

  2. Keep up the good work, young man! Those who pick on you are jealous of your talent. Use what you have been given and you will continually be blessed. You have a wonderful support system! Congratulations to all of you!

  3. Wanted to say “keep working at your dream.” This young man is the sort of person that looks at life and grabs it with both hands. I have listen to him over the years reading his poems, singing his songs and living life to the fullest. Congratulations Cole, keep singing your song of life.

  4. This young man is my totally incredible nephew. He is so talented & insists on being heard. I had the pleasure of being with him when he sang to Brad Paisley. I had tears in my eyes , but not him he was so proud & sure of himself it was amazing. Afterwards I asked him if he was nervous all he said was no mamma. What a gentleman. You see if anything Brad should feel honored he was just sang to by an angel. Cole isn’t suppose to still be here, drs told us years ago he’d die as a child. Well obviously they wasn’t counting on Cole’s determination, the love he is showered with & most importantly Cole’s unfailing faith in God. I’m so proud of this young man I can’t express it in words alone. Cole never stop being you . I love you & as always will support you. Thanks to Joe & Denise Kent for living this the attention it was deserved, Paul & Cathy Hammock for hiatus.g your tail raiding such a unique angel , THE XP FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP (for all of your incredible studies & oppurtunities) Randy & Joe. And everyone that has made this possible for a much deserving young man. Remember never let disabilities, being different or illness stop you from dreaming. Shoot for the moon you just may hit a star… God bless the USA! LOVE YOU COLE!



  5. I read this story, then I read it again. Kinda puts everything else in perspective for me. When I was in school, (many years ago) it made me mad to see some pick on others or make fun.. It still does today. If we were all alike, this would be a boring world to live in. There’s a place for all of us. That’s why God put us here. You have your place. You go Cole..!!! I’m a singer/songwriter/entertainer and nothing gives me more pleasure than writing a song. I’m sure you feel the same way. You’re the very reason for a song! You are a song my friend. Much health and success in everything you do.

  6. wow what a great article !!!!! my name is bruce hayes ,i am coles uncle i can honestly say that everthing in this article is so very true .i loved reading it and it brought tears to my eyes .cole is a wondrful young man and we love him very much .thank you to all involved in writing and geting this published .GOD BLESS YOU ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    thank you
    bruce hayes

  7. Recently I had the distinct pleasure of spending a couple of days with Cole Hayes. He told me stories and sang me songs he wrote. I was just blown away with the intelligence of this young man. In addition to his own songs he knows the lyrics to about million songs!! He reminds me a lot of me!! He also had the courage to pitch one of his songs to a major artist, Brad Paisley!! That can be a bit intimidating for even seasoned pros but he seized the opportunity!! Dean Koontz is the author of the Moonlight Bay trilogy-Seize The Night, Fear Nothing and Ride The Storm-in which the hero of those novels has XP!! Evidently Mr. Koontz has good insight because everyone of those titles can be used to describe Cole Hayes!! Cole did more than sing for me, he performed!! He got that leg going like Elvis and played my pool table like a piano!! For 3 minutes at a time he was Elvis or Jerry Lee!! What a show!! What’s next for Cole Hayes?? We are planning on doing some recording and maybe get him on!! The titles and lyrics to his songs are very hooky and pure genius!! In the meantime-thanks to Randy & Joe for running this story-Randy never hesitated when he heard about it!! Thanks to Phil Sweetland, the Alphabet Architect, Mr. Word Perfect for bringing this story to life!! Thanks for creating public awareness about XP!! Cole has enthusiasm and courage and I’m proud to say I know him!! See you at the top of the charts!!

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