Ryan Hurd: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey

Since moving to Nashville more than a decade ago to study sociology at Belmont University, Ryan Hurd has parlayed his understanding of human behavior into a successful career as a singer/songwriter.

If country music speaks to its fan base about what’s going on in their lives, Hurd’s sociology degree may be the insight that’s helped him pen a number of hits. The Michigan native’s catalog of chart-toppers is ever-growing, including “Lonely Tonight” (Blake Shelton), “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” (Luke Bryan), and “What If I Never Get Over You” (Lady A).

In addition, Ryan has penned songs for Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw, Jake Owen, and more. Hurd also has found success writing tracks for wife Maren Morris, including “All My Favorite People,” “Great Ones,” and “I Wish I Was.”

In the past few years, Ryan has stepped out from behind the songwriting curtain and onto the stage. He scored a Top 25 hit with “To a T” in 2019. Ryan teamed with Maren for his new single, “Chasing After You,” which is currently Top 40 and climbing.

Ryan sat down with Outsider to talk about the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter. And don’t be surprised if the 34-year-old is constantly being inspired.

1. ‘Anything But Mine’ – Kenny Chesney

Ryan Hurd: “I love this song because it’s such an American experience. I remember going to Florida with my family for spring break, and all of the lyrics are so pointed and so subtle at the same time. It’s an amazing example of storytelling in songwriting and feels almost cinematic. I used to cover it in my set. It still gets me every time I hear it.” 

2. ‘Whiskey and You’ – Chris Stapleton

Ryan Hurd: “The first time I heard the version of this song with Chris’s voice, I said to myself, ‘This is the best song I’ve ever heard.’ I still feel that way. It is country music songwriting in all of its perfection. It feels like the pictures fit together flawlessly. And the emotion in his voice and in the guitar playing are something that can’t really be replicated.”

3. ‘I Got a Gig’ – Hayes Carll

Ryan Hurd: “It’s hard to pick just one Hayes Carll song. His 2011 album, KMAG YOYO, might be my favorite country album of all time. ‘I Got a Gig’ [from 2008’s Trouble in Mind] has so much groove with so little instrumentation. And something about describing the life of a troubadour just crushes me. It’s not all glamorous, and this song describes it in a way that’s both raw and humorous.” 

4. ‘All Your Exes’ – Julia Michaels

Ryan Hurd: “This is a new song, and I think it’s important to always realize how other people’s work continues to inspire. I don’t think anyone expected Julia to put out a rock song. But it’s funny, and it’s a feeling that is more or less universal. The bridge is something every guy has heard from their girl at one point or another.” 

5. ‘Beer Never Broke My Heart’ – Luke Combs

Ryan Hurd: “This one just fires me up. Some songs just make you bob your head. I wish I could write something this fun every single day. Sometimes you just need to turn it up and let it roll!”