Ryan Hurd is a very well respected writer in Nashville and has worked with some of country music’s finest artists. He is now showcasing his own material and opening for Maren Morris during her UK dates. GIGsoup caught up with him in London.
Welcome, it’s your first visit here. What’s your impression so far?
It’s been really amazing, just seeing how involved the fans are. The fans over here are so special. They already know the music. Amazing to come here and experience that.
So you have a new self titled EP, Ryan Hurd. What was on your mind when you started writing the songs?
I didn’t write the songs especially for me. As a songwriter in Nashville, you’re just writing all the time. They were some I held on to and didn’t pitch to anybody else. I wanted the first thing with my name on to be really intentional and each song is a true representation of a part of what I do. I wanted it to be exactly what I wanted it to be. All four songs are very different, but they are all uniquely me. I hope when you listen to them you’ll get a good sense of what I do as an artist and writer.
‘Love In a Bar’ has been a huge hit, what’s the story of that track?
It’s a cool song just because it’s pretty autobiographical. A lot of songs might be honest and real, but they are not necessarily a true story. I really loved telling my story with Maren. We used to just write songs for other people. Every day, in Nashville, you write from 11am to 3 or 4pm. I would stop writing and leave my little office at the publishing company, go to this bar, get two beers and she’d be waiting on the patio. We’d talk for two or three hours, sometimes all night. That’s what that story was. I wrote it with a friend. It was one of those days when I didn’t really feel like writing. We knew we had something and he made me sit down and finish it. It’s a really special to have the first thing people hear from you be so uniquely honest.
You went to Nashville to study Sociology and ended up writing for respected artists such as Lady Antebellum – how did that happen?
It feels like it’s all flown by. I went to Nashville for college – I’m from Michigan. I studied and then wanted to go to graduate school. I couldn’t really pull the trigger on that. That’s when I started writing county music, started to invest in Music Row and figure out how I could get my foot in the door. I’ve always just tried to figure out the next thing. What is this song writing thing? How do I make it my job? Then it was now I’m signed with a publishing company, how do I get these songs on records? I dove into it. I didn’t plan it like that. I got interested, started and focused on getting better. I can’t imagine my life without that community of writers or the music community in Nashville.
What was it like the first time you stepped in to the writing room?
The first artists I got to write with were this band called Thompson Square. They had a huge hit ‘Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?’ I got to go on a bus with Jonathan Singleton, who’s a huge hit writer in Nashville, it was really scary to write with him as I was so new. I didn’t have any hits at the time. I remember just watching them. When you’re writing on a bus, there is so much other stuff going on for the artists. They’re not just writing a song. They are conducting their day, business, touring, life and also writing a song. It was very eye opening, trying to get songs done and be inspired in a place that wasn’t wholly inspiring.
It’s funny, there are days when you don’t get a song or finish one off. One time I didn’t finish a song with Keith Urban, it just wasn’t in the room that day. At the end of the day these are still people, who are trying to be creative, it’s not a science. It’s still an art. There’s such humanity, such a human element to what we do. It’s amazing to watch them on stage, then sit in a room with them trying to find another rhyme for the word girl that isn’t world.
More recently you collaborated with Tim McGraw on the track ‘Last Turn Home’. Tell us the story behind that song
Tim tells the story of hearing this song, having Faith Hill listen it, loving it and wanting to put it on his album. That was also the second time I ever wrote with Maren and it was her first cut as a song writer. It’s special to have that moment with her.
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Is it more fun to write for other people or for yourself?
I only write with other people. Everybody in Nashville is co-writing all the time. Very few songs have just one writer in Nashville. It’s just about inspiration, bouncing off each other. You hope you write better songs that way. I do a lot of the editing by myself though.
You are used to being in the studio and writing, but you have stepped out and have been touring with Thomas Rhett and Maren Morris. How has that been?
Terrifying! It’s just different. A totally different skill. I got baptised by fire. I got to tour with Chase Rice about a year ago, but that was nothing like the next tour which was with Thomas Rhett. It was go and play for 10,000 people in this arena, get them to like your songs and maybe buy a t-shirt! I didn’t know how to do that. Being a performer has nothing to do with writing songs, but it’s so rewarding to have people know your songs and say ‘that’s my story too.’ I think that’s the thing I’ve taken from this last year
You have had amazing year, professionally and personally. Can you pinpoint a highlight, if that’s possible?
Getting engaged was definitely the highlight for me. Personally that was such a huge moment. Nothing will trump that. I’m excited about getting married and having the time to do that. Professionally, the Thomas Rhett tour. That was just a really wonderful group of artists travelling together.
Quick fire questions
Snow or sun? Right now, snow
Beer or Bourbon? Beer
Boots or sneakers? Sneakers, but I’m wearing moccasins right now!