Michael Hardy, known professionally as HARDY, may be the hottest songwriter in Nashville right now.
The 30-year-old Mississippi native has penned a handful of No. 1 cuts over the last few years, including Florida Georgia Line’s “Simple,” Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down,” Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” Chris Lane’s “I Don’t Know About You,” and Jameson Rodgers‘ “Some Girls.”
In addition, HARDY recently scored his first No. 1 single as a singer with “One Beer,” which he also co-penned. The tune was featured on his 2020 debut album, A Rock.
HARDY sat down with Outsider to talk about 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter. From Eric Church and Kid Rock to Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, HARDY’s picks are hard to beat.
1. ‘Homeboy’ – Eric Church
HARDY: “There are two main reasons why ‘Homeboy’ is on my list—the subject matter and the production. Everything about it is a prime example of why I write songs. To date, I’d have to say this is one of the most inspiring songs—in the true sense of the word—that I’ve ever heard. It had a major impact on me, my songwriting, and my career. The subject matter and the lyric refer to something that seems so specific, then you’re hit with that hook turnaround: ‘Come on home, boy.’ It’s pretty incredible how such a simple change in the lyric has the ability to affect the entire song, overall, in such a profound way. And then you have the production, which definitely has that Rock & Roll grit to it. As someone who grew up on Rock & Roll, when I heard this song for the first time, it was kind of a defining moment for me. I just remember thinking to myself, ‘If that can be considered country—if that’s a country song—I can do that.’ And now, here I am.”
2. ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ – Pink Floyd
HARDY: “Let me just preface this by saying, if you’ve never heard this one, it’s more of a saga than a ‘song,’ which is exactly why it’s next on my list. It’s hard not to feel like you’re on some weird journey whenever you listen to it. That being said, the main reason I am so inspired by it is because of the space. For example, you’ll hear a guitar lick, and then 30 seconds will go by with nothing but the hum of a background synth before the guitar picks back up again. And it somehow manages to keep your attention the entire time, regardless. When it comes down to it, having that seemingly empty space takes a ton of patience. And patience takes courage, particularly when it comes to music. So I’ve always appreciated this song for that very reason. Just listening to it inspires me to be more courageous in my writing and performing.”
3. ‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails
HARDY: “I know Johnny Cash covered this song—and don’t get me wrong, it’s great. But nothing compares to the original version by Nine Inch Nails. The reason this one made the list and truly shaped me as a songwriter is because of its ability to make me feel—more so than any other song I think I’ve ever heard. In my opinion, that’s the mark of greatness right there. If it makes you feel emotion that’s super deep, raw, and real, that means the songwriter did their job. So, for me, ‘Hurt’ is the absolute perfect example of a song’s ability to really shake you to the core. And if you ask me, there’s not a better written song than one that makes you feel like that.”
4. ‘Landslide’ – Fleetwood Mac
HARDY: “Man, this is such a good one. I have a feeling it means something different to every single person who hears it. And that’s what I love about it. Even though you don’t necessarily know exactly what Stevie Nicks is singing about, unless you’re familiar with the backstory, each individual line is so poignant and relatable in its own way. You can pick out pretty much any lyric and easily apply what she’s saying to your own life, regardless of where you’re at in your walk of life. It’s that broad spectrum of perception that I respect so much. And it’s really inspired me to want to write more songs that have even an ounce of that kind of relatability.”
5. ‘Cowboy’ – Kid Rock
HARDY: “I don’t know, man. This song changed me. When it first came out, I was 8 or 9 years old, and hearing it just did something to me that no music had ever done before. It was so fresh and so free. And it’s hard to explain, but I guess, for lack of a better way of putting it, it just made me want to write badass songs. ‘Cowboy’ exudes a level of confidence that is hard to match, and because of that, I feel like it has driven me to be more confident in myself and my songwriting over the years. This song will never get old.”