Ryan Hurd made his debut visit to the UK recently supporting Maren Morris, who happens to be his fiancée, on her Hero Tour.
The singer-songwriter, who has penned hits for Lady Antebellum, Jake Owen and Dierks Bentley to name a few, released his self-titled EP earlier this year and he’s currently hard at work finishing his debut album.
I sat down with Ryan before he took to the stage at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London to talk about his experiences in the UK, the reception his music is getting, and his forthcoming debut album.
This is your first time touring in the UK. How have we been treating you so far?
It’s been great man. The crowds are really cool. They are very attentive, which is different. It just feels like a little bit of a different energy. It’s much more of a listening crowd and a little less rowdy than in the States and that’s cool. It’s like they’re soaking in the lyrics. I didn’t come in with very many expectations. It’s been cool to be over here and have the shows be amazing.
UK audiences have a reputation of knowing every lyric to every song. Have you been surprised that people know all the words to your songs?
Yeah it’s been really cool. I’ve never been here before so to have an audience that’s really invested time in my music, is really special. I don’t know that I’m surprised because that’s what everybody told me about coming here, that that’s the kind of crowd that it is. I think it’s hard to get it until you do it (perform) one time then you’re like, ‘oh my god, this is amazing!’
As a songwriter, is it more rewarding that people have taken the time to learn the words to all your songs rather than maybe just one single they’ve heard?
Yeah. I think that’s the most special part of it. A lot of these songs are very nuanced lyrically and some of them are very personal so to have that met with an incredible reception… that’s cool. It’s cool to have your songs received and even the fun ones I still feel like people have a great time. It’s been amazing to get to experience all that.
Let’s talk about Love in a Bar. There’s a real buzz around the song following the release of the video. What’s the story behind that track and where did the inspiration come from?
It’s cool to have the first you put out be pretty autobiographical. That’s the story of how Maren and I became more than just friends. I think it’s everybody’s story too, somebody has to put themselves out there at some point. I used to write a song in my publishing office at Universal, finish my work and walk down this little alley to go to this bar and get a couple beers, and she’d be on the patio. We’d stay there for two or three hours, and sometimes all night, and it’s a cool thing to be able to get to tell that story. I love the way that it’s so dynamic and emotive. Sonically it’s like a giant rock ‘n’ roll tune. I feel really blessed to have my first introduction into the Country music market be so personal.
What I love about your EP is that all four tracks are completely different and it gives a rounded feel of who you are as an artist. Was it your intention to show all the different sides and the facets of what you can do?
Yeah! You used the word intentional thing and it was very intentional to put out those songs in order that we put them out in. I felt like it covered the gamut of what I do sonically and also the lyrics of all the songs are very special in their own way. You’ve got a much more straight forward lyric with Love in a Bar and We Do Us but then a very nuanced lyric and feeling with City Girl and Hold You Back. It was just really neat to have people receive it in a positive way and to have Love in a Bar on the radio. This year has been really special. A lot of it has to do with the songs that we got to put out out.
You must have had a wealth of material to choose from when it came to putting together this EP. Was it hard to choose those songs?
Yeah. I think you kinda know when when they’re yours and when they’re someone else’s. That doesn’t mean that songs you write for other people aren’t as special, it just means that you’re the one who’s supposed to sing it. I’m really proud of those songs and excited to make more. It’s been a really cool intro into the market.
Tell me a little abut your songwriting process. Are you the kind of writer writes and writes, or do you develop a theme first?
I’m more of a write and write and write songwriter. I feel like I need to write 10 songs to get one that I want to record. Everybody is different and even every day is different in Nashville when you’re writing a song and there’s no formula necessarily to doing it but there are consistent ways of writing. Some days it’s a title you start with and some days it’s a track. I have written all these songs in a different way either on acoustic guitar or with the studio track and my demo. The process is really cool and different, and I’m excited to get back into it. We’re going to go and finish the album in January, write a little bit more and see if there’s anything left to say. It’s going to be a really special January so I’m really excited to be creative in the first time for a while.
Can we expect the album to arrive early in 2018?
I hope soon. Once we finish it I’ll know more at that point. That’s really my only hope for this, is for it to do well enough at radio to get the whole album out. That would be a special thing. We’ll know more once we get it finished and we start planning next year a little bit more.
It seems when Country artists come over to the UK for the first time, they start plotting their next tour before they’ve even left. Can we expect some headline shows next year?
Man! I would love to do that. I know we’re going to be back at least once next year. It hasn’t been announced but at least once. It seems like this is just such a great place to play. We’ve had a great time. This was me testing it out and seeing if this is something we wanted to invest in and wanted to spend time doing it. As of right now it seems like it’s going to be something that we continue to support and find the time to do. I think the right kind of artists are coming over here to play. You see Brothers Osborne come and you see The Cadillac Three invest a lot of time into playing these markets and those are great touring acts to model yourself after. I’m really excited that I got to see their show. Seeing somebody else’s crowd and have it be just as exciting, or even more so sometimes, is like, ‘holy shit, this is totally worth doing!’ I mean did it surprise you given that this is your first time to see just how passionate British people country is.
Given that this is your first time in the UK, were you surprised at just how passionate people are here for Country music?
I don’t know that surprise is right because I’ve talked to Maren about it for a long time and other people that have spent the time to come over here. Surprised isn’t the right word. I didn’t have any expectations and I think it was really cool to come in that way and be like, ‘these people might hate me’. I’m here, I’m going to try and I’ll see what happens. It’s been really cool to have people even know my song man, that’s enormous! It’s been a really great trip and we’re glad that we did it.
I don’t think you need to worry about people hating you. We’re a pretty receptive audience.
Everyone does man! Everyone worries about that. All of us have that terrified thought that, ‘my career ends every month or so’. That’s always in my mind that I’m one little thing away from not being able to do it. The crowd makes it very, very easy to get excited.
Will you be able to get any downtime over Christmas and actually relax and enjoy the holiday?
After this tour we start right on the Dustin Lynch tour, the Ride or Die tour, and then we’re done. We have January to work on the creative stuff and who knows what’s happening after that? Not a lot of down time but this is kind of the time to push it really and keep the pedal simple. It’s the same for Maren, this is her time to really solidify her first LP. I think she takes that really seriously. She’s really proud of the work that she gets to do this year and next year. The downtime thing is something you always want but it’s really nice to be busy.
Ryan’s self-titled EP is available to stream and download now. Watch the video for Love in a Bar below: