Ryan Hurd is an artist in a strange position. Half of the country music world knows him as the fiancé of superstar Maren Morris and the other half knows him as the long-haired (not so long any more!) songwriter who has had cuts with major artists and released his debut EP in early 2017. The single ‘Love in a Bar’ has certainly catapulted Hurd into the latter half of that description for most people. We caught up with him at the end of last year following his UK tour in support of Maren.
Thanks for taking the time to chat to us. You’ve over here in the UK at the moment. How have you found the tour?
I’ve really really loved it. This is our last show so everybody is a little bit worn out but I’ve really loved it. The fans are just a cool listening audience and it feels like the crowds are just soaking in the lyrics.
Is this your first time playing for crowds in the UK?
Yeah, truthfully, this is my first time even being here to visit so it’s been a really cool and eye-opening experience. It’s cool to come over and be with Maren so I’ve really enjoyed it.
You mentioned about it being a really good listening crowd. I guess as a songwriter that’s what you want to have those people listen to the words that you’ve poured your heart out over?
Yeah! I think we have more of a rowdy scene in the States, which is also fun, but it takes kind of a second to realise that these people are so dialled into what you’re doing so I’ve really enjoyed that part of it. It’s really cool to have such an amazing attentive audience.
Have you found the reaction to your music to be quite positive?
Yeah and I think even if it wasn’t you guys are too polite to say it! It’s been a good response and just a fun ten days over here.
Obviously you’re touring over here with your other half Maren Morris. It must be great touring together and getting to explore a new country?
It’s really fun! It’s sort of like a vacation in a way in that we don’t have to be apart. She’s been really good to take me out on this tour, we started the year in New York City on the ‘Hero’ tour and we’ve kind of finished of with this tour for the last couple of months which has been amazing. It’s cool to get to hang out and see each other’s shows – I’d be out here any way watching her set so it’s fun to get to open too!
It’s got to be tough being a couple who are both out on the road on different tours. You must spend a lot of time miles apart?
It is pretty hard but the nice thing is that we have really good people who work for us and make sure that our calendars are as good as they can be and we get to have a personal life. We still get to hang out and have fun.
Maren has had a fantastic rise in popularity over here in the UK. She went from playing the pop-up stages at C2C to the main stage in a year. Does that encourage you as you make your first foray over here?
Absolutely! It’s really inspiring. People have said that once you come over here one time you’ll want to come back and that is truly the case. I’m excited to come back at least once next year. It’s been everything that people said it would be.
That somewhat answers my next question really. Do you have any plans to head back over for another tour?
Absolutely next year! The difficultly is being able to finalise everything before we make an announcement and step out but we’ll definitely be back next year! We started talking about it after the second show!
Moving on to your music. You released your debut EP this year. How did you feel it was received?
I think it was really well received. It’s really nice to have the first thing that you put out feel really intentional and it’s kind of a time stamp in that part of my life. Emotionally they’re all a little bit different but they’re all complementary songs and stories so I feel like, sonically, it really did capture what I do across a broad spectrum. I know it’s only four songs but it’s been really cool to get to tour off those four little songs. Now it’s just about filling out an album and making it everything we want it to be.
‘Love in a Bar’ was the first single and got some decent traction. How difficult is it to break into a country music market that has so many talented artists and such a variety of styles?
Yeah and it takes a second sometimes to get your feet underneath you in Nashville because there are so many guys that are trying to make a go of it and I think it’s sometimes a little bit discouraging because at some point everybody is really good in Nashville, Tennessee so you’re trying to figure out what makes you special and that can sometimes take a second. Nobody told me that it would be fast and for me I love my record label and my manager so I think we’re in a really cool spot. ‘Love in a Bar’ did a lot for me and it was such a personal song so whatever’s next I have no doubt will be just as personal and intentional as these four.
What do you think is the most important thing that sets you apart or helps you reach an audience of your own?
I think the thing about what we’ve released so far is that those songs are so emotionally nuanced and really relatable. They’re not spoon-fed emotions and they’re very tangible at the same time. I think we had such a rock ‘n’ roll element to what we do, not like a Southern rock ‘n’ roll but an indie rock ‘n’ roll sonic quality and I don’t know if there’s a tonne of that in country music right now.
How about an album? Can we expect a full length LP from you in the near future?
I hope to finish in Janaury so it’ll still be a second before it comes out. The timing has to all be right so we’re just going to do the creative thing and see what happens.
You’ve obviously had some great success as a songwriter, your song ‘Lonely Tonight’ hit number one for Blake Shelton, do you plan to continue allowing others to cut your songs?
Yeah man, it’s funny I stopped caring about writing songs for other people then they all wanted to cut my music! There’s one on the new Luke Bryan album that’s coming out, I just had another major artist cut one of my songs this week actually, Chris Lane cut one and I’ve got holds all over the place! It’s been a weird two months in songwriting for me – it kind of shows that whenever you take the pressure off of something it usually flourishes. I haven’t even been writing songs and I’m getting cuts! I think it’s testament to the people in Nashville who are pounding it daily and making really great situations for writers like me. My publisher is amazing – they’re great at helping you as an artist and still exploiting your catalogue. It’s something that floated me a lot when I was struggling to get this part of my career off the ground.
A lot of artists are making that transition from songwriter to performer now with acts like Old Dominion finding great success. As a songwriter do you think it gives you a little more in your toolkit to then become a performer?
I don’t know. They’re totally different skillsets to be honest, man, performing is something that I’ve just had to learn how to do and learn how to be myself. I really have enjoyed that, it’s been a long year and we’ve played a lot of shows but I feel like we’re now just coming into our own and it’s kind of like a sweet spot where the crowd knows the music. The song writing thing, it’s cool to have a few songs that people know and it’s kind of cool for the crowd to hear your version. They’re two very different skills.
Obviously you’re at the start of a journey in your career as a performer. What have your highlights been so far?
Doing the Thomas Rhett tour in the Spring was pretty mind-blowing and getting to play in arenas. Getting engaged, I know that’s not a career moment but that was pretty special. That was fun. It’s been fun to just start talking about that.