A chance meeting with the guys of Florida Georgia Line led to life-changing events for rising country singer/songwriter Michael Hardy (better known as simply HARDY). HARDY met F.G.L’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley at a party before they skyrocketed to success, and while it took a few years for the three guys to hook back up, when they did it was music magic. Impressively, HARDY has co-written Florida Georgia Line’s chart-topper, “Simple,” Morgan Wallen’s number one hit, “Up Down,” and Chris Lane’s Top 20 hit, “I Don’t Know About You.”
Notably, the Philadelphia, MS native had a hand in writing an impressive eight cuts on FGL’s latest album, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country including the latest hit, “Talk You Out of It” as well as a vocal guest spot on “Y’all Boys.” In addition, HARDY will open on tour for FGL this summer and has released two EP collections of his originals—This Ole Boy and the latest Where to Find Me. Named the CMT Listen Up Artist for 2019, HARDY’S new single “Rednecker” had debuted on the charts.
We are pleased to present this new Q&A interview with HARDY. He talks about the stories behind his big hits, how he backed into being a country music artist. and his mixed feelings over missing out on smash hits.
BC: How did you write your new single, “Rednecker?”
HARDY: I wrote that song in January 2018 with Jordan Schmidt and Andy Albert, who are really good writers in town. We wrote that song in Colorado with no music, no guitars or anything. We just wrote it like a poem without melody. It was like 3 in the morning, and we were kind of delirious. One of the guys said something like “I’m rednecker than you”, and we all kind of laughed. We said, “We should write that right now—that sounds like a great idea.” We wrote it like a Dr. Seuss kind of thing.
A few weeks later, we came back to town. Jordan Schmidt is a producer as well, so he produced this big sounding track along with it. After I put my vocal on it, I knew it was going to be something amazing. Around the time we wrote it, I was getting ready to sign a record deal. A couple of [other artists] wanted to cut it, but I talked with the writers, and said. “I’d love for this to be my first single.” They were cool enough to let me run with it, and I’m glad they did.
BC: You’ve had so much songwriting success. Did you give up any songs that you wish you had on your new EP?
HARDY: Not really. There are definitely some that have been cut that I now think this would have been good for me. At the same time, I’m so glad that whoever cut it for themselves that I’ve never really thought twice about it. I just think ahead. I just want to write, and especially now that I have a record deal and being an artist, if I write something I can hold it. For a while, when I was just a songwriter, I was having to write songs and I didn’t know that I was going to sign a deal or put out music. Songs would get cut. Now that I am playing my own music, I look back and think, “Man, I definitely could have cut that, but I’m also super thankful for whoever recorded it. I’ll just try to go in and write something better if I can and cut it for myself, now that I know I’m specifically writing for myself.
Here’s the lyric video for HARDY’s single, “Rednecker.”
BC: Did you have your sights set on being an artist, or were you planning to just focus on songwriting?
HARDY: I think it kind of changed. When I first moved to Nashville, my goal was to sign a music publishing deal. Then, towards the end of college, which is probably about five years ago, I kind of wanted to do the artist thing, but then I signed a publishing deal. I thought this was pretty cool (to be a pro songwriter). You write a song and do whatever you want with your time. I got used to that for a few years. It wasn’t until about a year-and-a-half ago that I was out on the road running with Florida Georgia Line, and they started getting in my ear and saying, “Dude, you can put out your own music. We’ll back you up in any way.” Next thing I knew, Joey Moi (producer & music exec) called me and said he wanted to do a record with me. I had the realization I didn’t want to go 20 or 30 years down the road and say I potentially missed an opportunity. I told them, “Yeah, let’s do it! Here I am!”
BC: You’ve had a lot of success writing songs with Florida Georgia Line. How did you get to know the guys?
HARDY: My sister went to Belmont, and they went to Belmont, and she was friends with them. She was also somewhat connected with the music industry at the time. She told me to come up to this party, and I hit it off with the guys. We just talked. This was literally right before (their debut hit) “Cruise” came out. I got Tyler Hubbard’s number, and we’d text each other. Then, “Cruise” came out, and they were gone…they were instantly stars. Years later, they had started their publishing company called Tree Vibez, and I started writing with Jordan Schmidt, who I wrote “Rednecker” with. I hadn’t talked to them in about four or five years. Jordan Schmidt comes up and says, “Hey, dude. Tyler Hubbard told me he saw your name and heard your voice on some of these songs that we’ve been writing, and he likes the songs and he wanted to keep an eye on you. He remembers you.” My mind was kind of blown. This is amazing! This is so cool that they would remember me after the crazy four or five year run that they had. Then I wrote on the road with them.
BC: I noticed that you’re also a featured artist with them on the song, “Y’all Boys.”
HARDY: Between the four of us—me, Brett Tyler, Ashley Gorley, and Jesse Frasure—we were all double-booked. There was a scheduling error. Brett Tyler was the last one to get there. We’re all like, “Sorry that the schedule got mixed up, but we’re all here. We might as well write one.” Brett Tyler turned around with the idea, Y’all Boys, and then we wrote it. I had just started putting songs on hold for myself (as an artist). Seth England (music exec at Big Loud) put that song on hold for me. I told him, “I don’t know if this is right for me for my first EP because there are four other songs that I really like.” “Y’all Boys” was a weird fit for me, and I don’t know why. Seth said, “Tyler (Hubbard) and Brian (Kelley) love it.” I said, “Why don’t they record it?? And I asked if I can sing on [their record], kind of as a joke. The next thing I knew he said, “Hey, you’re going to sing on their record.” I was like, “Well, that’s just fricking great.” I’m just thankful that they loved it enough to not only cut it, but want me to sing on it as well.
Here’s the video of Florida Georgia Line’s hit “Simple,” which was
co-written by HARDY.
BC: One of your new songs, “People Are Different,” has a strong, unifying message. What’s the story behind that song?
HARDY: That one was my idea, and I had it for a while. It was about a year ago. There was snow and ice everywhere, and I had a truck, so I could get through it, and I drove to (writer/producer) Mark Holman’s studio, and (hit songwriter) Hillary Lindsey was texting us, “I don’t think I can make it.” I texted her that I had a really good idea, so try as hard as you can to make it. It took her about an hour to get there, and she only lives about 20 minutes away. She said, “I was slipping and sliding the whole time and thought I was going to wreck.” We were all kind of skeptical to drive into work that day, and not a lot of people were writing that day. I originally had a different way to write it…what the bridge says is how I wanted to write the whole song. Then, Hillary said I think we should do it like this, and I said I love it. It was cut in like two weeks.
BC: You had a recent hit for Florida Georgia Line called “Talk You Out of It.” How did that song come about?
HARDY: We wrote it on a Friday, and I was off of work. I was about to go play golf, and my good friend, Hunter Phelps, who is a writer on it, said. “We’ve got a really good songwriting idea, and we want you to help us write it.” I trust his judgment a lot, and that wasn’t the first time that he’s done that before. S0 I drove straight to the studio, walked in and said, ‘What’s the idea?’ And then we wrote it.
BC: You had another hit with Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down.” How did you co-write this song?
HARDY: What’s funny is we started that song, and we didn’t finish it until two-and-a-half years later. We started it at my house around 2015. Everybody had something to do that day, and we didn’t finish it. Through the course of two years we would send texts, like second verses and stuff, to each other. (Co-writer) Brad Clawson did a demo, and then I did a demo. Then I got with my friend, Jake Mitchell, and we did another demo. It kind of evolved as a song sonically.
BC: Were you surprised by the success of Florida Georgia Line’s “Simple?”
HARDY: I wrote that with the guys and Mark Holman, who I wrote “People are Different” with in Austin, Texas. We just knew it was something really special and different. They’re really good about experimenting with new sounds that they haven’t done before. I was surprised because sonically it was very different for them. If you look at every first single off of every [Florida Georgia Line] album—you have “Cruise,” and then you have “Dirt,” and then you have “H.O.L.Y.” and now “Simple”—they’ve all very different. They’re really good at leading off with a new sound. I praise them for being courageous, continuing that trend and putting out something that sonically they had never done before. I’m super grateful for it.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is also on Google+