If you’ve been following HARDY’s career for the past couple of years, it’ll come as no surprise that he co-wrote every track on his upcoming debut album, A ROCK. Even before he decided to pursue a career as an artist, HARDY was already gaining momentum as one of the industry’s most in-demand songwriters, penning hits for the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen and Blake Shelton.
But HARDY isn’t just well-versed in what makes a catchy country song; as a songwriter, he has an uncanny knack for finding the middle ground between what’s familiar and what’s innovative. For example, he’s a co-writer on Cole Swindell’s “Single Saturday Night,” which came out this summer and just might be the first country single to ever namecheck White Claw hard seltzer.
“I definitely have a brand,” HARDY cackled, a little sheepishly, when asked what inspired him to incorporate the seltzer brand into a country lyric. “…Because I’m gonna try to do everything I can to stay hip to [how lingo and trends evolve]…and that song is a good example. White Claw didn’t exist five or six years ago. But it’s just kinda paying attention to what’s going on in the world, in the realm of style, what people are drinking. Stuff like that.”
As for his own debut album? HARDY says he probably wouldn’t have recorded any songs he didn’t write for the project, no matter how good those outside cuts might have been.
“No, I think maybe it could’ve been the best song that I’d ever heard and I wouldn’t cut it,” he doubles down. “I wanted to write every song! It’s my first record. And I knew what I wanted to say. The time it would take to look for songs where other people had said it — you know what I mean?”
In other words, he had a vision for the album, and the easiest and most authentic way for him to bring that vision to fruition was to have a hand in writing each of the tracks himself.
A ROCK isn’t, strictly speaking, the first album-length project that HARDY has released — in 2019 he put out Hixtape Vol. 1, a collaborative party project featuring lots of friends and fellow artists — but he knew his debut album was going to be different.
“The ‘Hixtape’ was fun, it was about partying…and this was just a little different,” he explains. “It was more of a statement. There was more serious subject matter. I guess my goal with this was just to show a few more sides to me than just my ‘Hey, I’m from a small town, let’s party’ side.”
Many of the songs on A ROCK are dedicated to individual, game-changing moments in a person’s life: The day he meets his future wife, for example, or the way his truck serves as a window into who he is as a person.
Then there’s “GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL,” a powerful ode to friendship and the untimely death of a loved one. Though he’s known some tragedies in his life, HARDY didn’t draw on personal experience for that track, he clarifies: Rather, the title came up as a lyric while he and his co-writers were working on another of the album’s songs, and he instantly knew “GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL” was a concept that needed its own spot on A ROCK.
“So the last line of the verse in ‘TRUCK’ is ‘He misses him like hell,’ and the original line was ‘ ‘Cause he’s giving heaven some hell.’ And he and Hunter [Phelps] and Ben Johnson just looked at each other and were like, ‘Whoa,’” he remembers. “That should be its own idea. That shouldn’t be wasted on just one line in a song. And so about a week later we got together and wrote ‘GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL.’”
While the storyline of sending off a buddy lost too soon might not exactly be ripped straight from the pages of HARDY’s diary, there’s plenty of material on A ROCK that is.
“‘BOOTS’ — [my girlfriend] Caleigh didn’t break up with me by any means, but ‘BOOTS’ was very much close to a real situation,” he admits. While “BOOTS” is about a breakup, there’s plenty of love songs on A ROCK that are also inspired by HARDY’s real-life relationship.
“‘BOYFRIEND’ came from a conversation that happened between me and Caleigh. So that’s pretty spot-on,” he explains. “…I would say ‘BOYFRIEND’ applies very much to where I am right now. I mean, I don’t have any big announcement to make, but I think Caleigh and I are pretty close to getting engaged.”
There’s a track on HARDY’s new album for every moment or stage in life. And when the singer zooms out and thinks about life’s big picture, he thinks about “A ROCK” — that’s why he chose the song to be the title track, and the last song on his record.
“I just think about my life, and my path — because it’s been a little crazy, especially since I got here to Nashville,” he reflects. “‘A ROCK’ kinda makes me think about that. It makes me very introspective — it makes me think about, just, life, you know?
“I do a lot of that anyway,” he adds after a pause. “I guess I would say ‘A ROCK’ is kind of me in song form.”