"I’m actually a very emotional writer" A chat with Ryan Hurd
Having recently visited the UK for a first tour supporting fiancee Maren Morris we spoke to Nashville songwriter Ryan Hurd about his debut EP, writing songs for Nashville superstars, and his favourite bar in Nashville.
Hey Ryan, how the devil are you?
I’m good! This is really cool to be over here - my first time and it’s been a great trip so far.
What have you been up to today?
Well today I woke up and am doing interviews at the UK record label. This has been a really cool experience to talk to people here about the music and our tour. So only things: interviews and talking about the tour!
What can you tell us about your EP in two sentences?
My EP was very intentional as far as song choice and it is also a very good representation of me as a writer, a person and an artist. I think that’s almost two sentences!
If people could only listen to one track from the EP, which would you suggest?
I think I would say 'We Do Us' because I think it’s sonically different because it has rock n roll elements to it and the production is really creative. Also it’s a really fun story about the beginning of a relationship and it’s a really nice gateway into the rest of my music.
You’ve had a few songs cut by other people, which of your tunes are you most proud of so far?
The song I like the most that I’ve written for someone else is ‘I’ll be the Moon’ which Dierks Bentley recorded. It’s a special lyric and it’s a song that no-one said would ever get cut because it was about infidelity. Then he recorded it! So I feel very strongly about that one. It tugs my heart.
Do you write songs specifically for other people or do they just get picked up after writing?
Unless I’m writing it with the artist all the songs I write are written, recorded and then sent out to a lot of different artists. Mostly they are written ‘on spec’. You just hope somebody wants on their album what you’ve said in the room that day. It’s a really interesting process in Nashville to get your songs recorded. I’ve been really fortunate that people decided that my songs are what they wanted to say.
What’s your approach to writing?
I’m actually a very emotional writer. For me I have to feel personally interested in something to make it great and I kinda know right away if it’s a great song or something that’s just mediocre. And it’s kind of funny because when we ‘get on’ something great I get so excited and ride this emotional wave until it’s over! That’s the rush that you can’t find doing anything else. The creation of this stuff is the most exciting part. It’s funny - as an artist you don’t have to do that every day but as a writer you do, and there’s a trade-off, of course, but I really love that feeling when you get that demo back and you just want to listen to it and show everybody what you did that day. There’s nothing like it.
You’re from Michigan originally, how did you end up in Nashville?
I went to college in Nashville at a school called Belmont and I got a Sociology degree. I just stayed and loved the city and wanted to be a songwriter on Music Row and somehow got my foot in the door, got a publishing deal and started writing songs for all these country artists. It’s been the greatest decision ever to live in Nashville, Tennessee. I love the place. I don’t think I’ll ever live anywhere else.
What’s your favourite thing about the town?
My favourite thing: East Nashville. The neighbourhood is so great. When I get back home it really feels like home. I love being in bars and coffee shops there and It’s where I feel most at home.
And the worst?
There’s a lot of growth, new buildings and stuff- and I don’t think that’s a bad thing but it’s different even from two or three years ago when I was writing songs. It’s just different and it takes some getting used to, especially when you travel as much as we do. You get back and there’s a building you haven’t seen before.
As ‘Love In A Bar’ is one of the standout tracks from your EP, I’ve got to ask, what’s your favourite bar in Nashville?
Oh man! I’m not gonna tell you that! There are some amazing bars that we love and obviously anything in midtown is really cool. Red Door, Midtown is a really special place. I think people kinds gravitate to Broadway when they're from out of town and I think they're missing some really great stuff. Anything in the east is amazing. Red Door, Midtown is a really special bar that if you came and visited you’d say ‘ok …this place… I kind of get it’ - and it’s right off Music Row so it kind of straddles that line between the real Nashville . This is the place if you are wanting to see what a day in the life is of a songwriter who works there, that’s the place where we all go.
You’ve toured the UK with Maren Morris, how much fun was that?
As far as the shows go I didn’t know what to expect. I was really blown away by the crowds: they were very attentive and it’s a different dynamic than in the States, in a great way, and I love it. As for the tour: it’s so fun to tour, it’s really fun to tour with Maren. It feels like a vacation when we get to work together and be together on the road coz our calendars are so crazy. I’d never been over here before even to visit so to come over here with my fiancée is just amazing and we get to play shows on top of it. It was a fun ten days!
I interviewed Maren a couple of years ago at Country To Country, any chance you’ll be coming back over for C2C in 2018?
We have plans to come back I’m not sure yet but we'll be back at some point hopefully in 2018! [Ed note: Ryan's been confirmed for a Bluebird Cafe show at C2C in 2018]
How’s your 2017 been so far?
This year has been wild! I mean for a lot of different reasons. I feel like it’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. To get to put out music on a major label is a huge accomplishment for me and getting engaged has been really special too. Also getting to tour this much and be a part of making a music in Nashville still. I’m really blessed and happy: it’s been a special year and exhausting! But super rewarding and I’m really, really thankful.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Anything other than my songs (laughs) – man, I actually heard Brothers Osbourne sing ‘Loving Me Back’ last night with Lucy Silvas and I think that’s the one I’ll take. There won’t be another moment like that on this trip, except Maren always sings ‘Dear Hate’ at the end of her set now and I always love that special moment and I’m proud of her for saying that and singing it, and for being such a leader in our genre- and beyond that as a public figure. I’m just so proud of her and that song. So those two songs.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I have no idea! You should have asked me how hungover I am! I’m not too bad but we did go out last night with our bands. There was a thing here called the ‘honesty bar’ (which you would never have in America) at the hotel pretty late last night. It was great fun and really special. It’s a really cool concept and I’d heard of it before but I was excited to get to experience that.
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
I drink a lot of beer. I love the beer in the UK - it’s flatter! It feels a lot smoother. And we take tequila on the rocks a with a splash of soda and some lime. That’s generally my drink. Coffee is generally black.
To find out more about Ryan and what he's up to visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. His EP is streaming on all decent services now.