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Interview: Hardy discusses debut album ‘A Rock’ and his success as a songwriter

The songwriter behind ‘God’s Country’ releases his album this week.

Hardy
Credit: Tanner Gallagher

Hardy aka Michael Wilson Hardy is an artist on the verge of a huge breakthrough in the world of Country music.

Having already enjoyed success as a songwriter with hits such as ‘God’s Country’ for Blake Shelton and ‘Up Down’ by Morgan Wallen under his belt, Hardy is stepping in the artist spotlight himself with the release of his debut album ‘A Rock’ on Friday.

I caught up with Hardy to talk about the album, discuss the success he’s had as a songwriter and find out about his journey so far…

Your debut album ‘A Rock’ is coming this week. How are you feeling ahead of the release?

I’m just so excited. It’s been a long time coming and I’m just so excited for people to hear this new side of me; this serious and sensitive side at times. I just can’t wait for my fans and the rest of the world to hear this thing.

The last track to be released before the album was ‘Truck’. Why did you decide to put that one out?

We’ve put out ‘Boots’, ‘Give Heaven Some Hell’ and ‘Boyfriend’, and ‘Truck’ is a little more country. I think that my fans really want to hear that. (All my songs are) Country, but with ‘Truck’ the subject matter itself is a little more country. I know the fans associate my music with that subject matter and I just want them to be as excited as they can about this record. We went with (‘Truck’) just to say there’s definitely some very Country subject matter on this record, and this is one of them.

This record really does show every side to you and there are some surprises in there for the fans. Tell me about the process for putting this record together…

I have more to say than just that I’m a redneck and I like to do Country stuff and drink beer and blah, blah, blah… I was ready to say more than that. I think that a sign of me growing as an artist, and letting the fans tap into a little more of my sensitive side. I just knew it was time man. When I started writing, I kept that in mind. I thought, ‘what do I want to say? I want to say I’m in love. I want to say that I’m also not perfect, and that my girlfriend and I get in fights. I want to say that I’ve lost people in the past that I was close to’. I just knew that it was time to grow a little bit.

It feels like you’re on the verge of a really big moment right now. ‘One Beer’ with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson is doing really well for you. What’s the success of that track meant to your career?

‘Rednecker’ was the only other radio single I had had. It peaked at 24 on the chart so the growth that I’m having just from (‘One Beer’) being on the radio, as an artist, has been life changing. It seems to be doing really well on radio and getting a good reception. It’s streaming really well. As a whole, it’s helped my numbers grow. It’s reaching people. Radio, especially is a huge platform, so more and more people are discovering me. What I love about that when they hear this song and if they like it, they can go on the Internet and look up more songs, and hopefully they become a fan. Even though they’ve only heard ‘One Beer’ on the radio, they can maybe go look and hear more music. It’s just a way to get more fans.

‘One Beer’ has been connecting with you fans in the UK too. Of course, we should have seen you on this side of the pond back in May with Morgan Wallen. How disappointed were you that the trip was cancelled?

I was very disappointed. It was gonna be fun. We were all gonna be one double decker bus and it was going to be a big party. I hate it. I wanted to meet my fans across the pond and I wanted to get in front of a new crowd. It’s really cool to know that I have fans that far away and this thing is somewhat worldwide. I really hope I can get back soon. I really do.

Hardy - A Rock
Credit: Big Loud

Your UK fans are desperate for you to come over here…

Man, I mean, I really, really want to! I’m really excited. As soon as things get back to normal, I will definitely be over there at some point.

What have you heard from your friends who have been to the UK about the crowds here?

They say that the shows are different and the people are really listening, and they really gravitate towards lyrics. They just say it’s different man, that the crowds are really listening and they’re really into the music itself. Although they’re there to party as well, they say that it’s almost like they appreciate the music even more over there, which I just think is so cool, because that’s all I want is for people to really listen to my music and appreciate it for what it is.

Before stepping into the spotlight as a recording artist, you were writing for a lot of other artists. Was it always your intention to be a performing artist as well as a songwriter?

When I finished college, I wanted to be an artist and then I signed a publishing deal, and I realised that was way easier than trying to do an artist thing by yourself. I got paid a salary to go just write a song every day and that’s amazing. I put it on the back burner for a really long time and focused on my songwriting. In recent years, with the help of the FGL guys and my producer, Joey Moi, they got my ear about it, as well as some of the Big Loud people, and just said, ‘we think that you’ve got a shot of really being something special’. It took a little time to think about it but I just jumped right in at the end of the day. It wasn’t always the plan, it went back and forth a little bit,

You’ve had two very big hits in Morgan Wallen’s ‘Up Down’ and Blake Shelton’s ‘God’s Country’. What was it like being part of that success?

Just surreal and crazy. I don’t know how to describe it. I’m very gratefuland it’s just crazy man to get that acceptance from the fans and from Nashville, and to think that I’m one of a million people that moved to Nashville to try to do this and I’m the one of the few people that it actually works for… it’s just a great feeling. A feeling of gratitude.

Did having that success as a writer give you the confidence to transition into a performing artist?

Yeah, absolutely. If I can get the approval of other artists and producers and labels, that my songs are actually good, then I think I could get it from fans. So far I feel like that’s what’s happened.

As a songwriter how do you decide which songs to keep for yourself and which ones to give to other artists?

I think that I just know. I know my sound. If I’ve finished a song, I just know. I’ll tell the writers, ‘guys I think this one is going to be for me, let me send it to my team and see what they think’. When I’m in the cycle of writing for a record, I’m more conscious that I’m writing for me. Since I’ve turned the record in and the record is done, I feel like I’ve gone back to being just a songwriter. In another year when we’re thinking about starting to cut for a new record, I’ll get back in that headspace and I’ll know that I’m writing for me again. For right now, I’m just back to being a regular songwriter. It’s a nice dichotomy and it’s nice to know that I’m not gonna be writing music for myself for a while, so I can spend more time thinking about other people.

You’re such a versatile and clever writer. Writing for other artists is another way of connecting with your fans and showing them who you are isn’t it?

I think so. Yeah. Something that I really love about this is at the end of the day, if it’s a big ole hit, I can play it in my live show, which is really cool. It’s a way for me to let fans know, if they don’t know a lot and they come to a show, I can tell the story about how I wrote ‘God’s Country’ or how I wrote ‘Up Down’ and I can play those songs for them, which is really exciting as well.

Your album ‘A Rock’ is so perfectly sequenced. How much time did you put into getting that right?

It just sort of came naturally. It’s really hard to explain. I just wrote for me. One thing is I really did look at the subject matter and I would see the gaps and be like, ‘OK, I really wanna say something about me being in love’ and so I wrote ‘Boyfriend’. I was looking at what hadn’t been said yet for the record and tried to think of songs that I could write that would fill that space too. It just kind of came naturally. I was really relieved that my first ever solo record was so easy to put together.

How are you feeling about releasing your debut album in the midst of the global pandemic? Are you a little nervous?

I think so but I think people are listening to music now more than ever, because they don’t really have much else to do. I’m excited. Maybe by the time we get out there and start playing shows people will have heard the record enough to know the songs front and back, which’ll help with our live show instead of going out and playing all these new songs now. It’ll be cool to know that people will be really familiar with them by the time we play a show.

How have you coped since quarantine came in earlier in the year. Has it benefitted you creatively or have you struggled with it?

I struggled at first man, me and a lot of my friends did. I feel like we had just finally gotten dialed in as a band. I had finally gotten used to the road life and it was hard. It was a big change. We all know as human beings, we don’t really deal with change very well sometimes, which is just kind of human nature, but I’ve gotten used to it and I have found peace in knowing that I can go back to my old ways a little bit and just write songs, and be happy that I’m just able to write songs every day.

Hardy’s debut album ‘A Rock’ is released on Friday 4th September 2020. Watch the video for ‘One Beer’ below:

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