The Untold Truth Of HARDY

HARDY, whose real name is Michael Wilson Hardy, may have started his career behind the scenes as a songwriter for other artists like Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line, but these days he's taking the country music world by storm with his own work. He launched two EPs in 2018 and 2019, as well as "Hixtape Vol. 1," which featured several collaborations with big names like of Keith Urban and Trace Adkins, all while he was writing hit songs for other country singers and working on his debut studio album.

Since the 2020 release of "A Rock," and his hit single "One Beer," which went to No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart, it's clear HARDY has made a name for himself as a star on the rise. He was even nominated for the CMA Award for new artist of the year in 2021. It probably helps that the musician surrounds himself with inspiring people, including his fiancée, Caleigh Ryan, and close friends like fellow country singer Morgan Wallen. Yet for HARDY, as he told The Boot, "At the end of the day, I'm a pretty normal person." He added, "I grew up in and lived a very normal life. I really want that to be expressed in my music, the stuff that I grew up doing and loved." 

While HARDY may think he's an average Joe, he's definitely lived an exciting life so far. So, let's get to know the untold truth of this country singer-songwriter.

HARDY was 'obsessed with music' as a kid

HARDY had been quite literally dreaming of stardom from a young age. He revealed to Forbes, "I would lay in bed when I was a little kid and I would imagine singing to help me go to sleep." The country musician added, "I would picture myself being a singer and singing songs that I had written." But it was actually HARDY's sister who was the musician in the family. He dished to One Country, "She won all these contests ... and so that was just kind of her thing. I just kind of never assumed that it was my thing, but I was obsessed with music."

The "One Beer" singer credits his dad for that love of music. Recalling how "some of my earliest memories are me listening to music with him," HARDY explained how this eventually led to him writing his own songs during his senior year of high school. "I guess all of that just kind of stuck with me," he added. It was also perhaps because by age 17, HARDY had a new motivation. Admitting to Billboard that he wrote his first song "to impress a girl," he noted, "If it wasn't for her, I would've never known there was a whole industry behind [songwriting]." 

From there, HARDY wanted to pursue songwriting for more than just a date. "I learned there were more songwriters than there were artists on the radio," he said.

This country star has a degree in songwriting

It appears that HARDY took his music aspirations very seriously, since he decided to earn a degree in songwriting at Middle Tennessee State University. According to The Boot, the "A Rock" singer joked, "I say 'commercial songwriting,' and half the people think I'm writing Hot Pockets jingles!" However, he added, "I think it's a cool thing to share with people ... that maybe wanna write songs or learn about it, to know that there's a whole industry and, obviously, college majors based around it."

It was because of a memorable trip to see his sister that HARDY ended up in Nashville. Recalling to All Access, "I didn't realize how much music was literally everywhere up there," he vowed to return to Music City — and it's a good thing, too, since HARDY found himself in the right place to start his career. As the musician explained to Songwriter Universe, "My goal was to sign a music publishing deal. ...You write a song and do whatever you want with your time. I got used to that for a few years. "

It seems that for HARDY, songwriting just fit, as he told CMT how he felt "really fortunate" that it "came naturally" to him from an early age. He eventually realized that he didn't just want to write the songs, he also wanted to sing them, but added, "It definitely took me a little bit to figure out I could actually learn how to sing."

How Florida Georgia Line helped HARDY's career

HARDY may have gotten himself a publishing deal when he moved to Nashville, but it seems that it was meeting Florida Georgia Line that really helped launch his career. Speaking with One Country, HARDY revealed that he met the musical duo back in 2012, the year their hit song "Cruise" dropped, at a "parking lot party" held by Big Loud Records. "We kind of hit it off," he said. "I got [singer Tyler Hubbard's] number."

But things didn't really take off until a few years later. "I was writing songs in town and they reached back out to me and were like, 'Hey, we remember you.' Tyler especially was like ... 'I've got my eye on you,'" HARDY recalled to All Access. "... After that, they had me out to write a couple songs with them on tour and we reconnected." A couple songs eventually led to more, with HARDY saying, "They pretty much had me out for two full tours ... just writing." Despite his success as their songwriter, HARDY was able to still pursue his dream as a solo performer in his own right with the band's support, adding, "They had me sing on 'Y'all Boys,' which is really cool." 

Between writing and recording with Florida Georgia Line, HARDY knew his star was rising. He revealed to Forbes, "There was a moment in the summer [of 2020] where everything just started happening and I started getting cuts left and right. I think that's when I knew that I was going to be all right."

The road to HARDY's debut album

It's hard to believe that HARDY almost didn't pursue a career as a country singer. He explained to Entertainment Focus, "When I finished college, I wanted to be an artist and then I signed a publishing deal, and I realized that was way easier than trying to do an artist thing by yourself." He admitted that he "put it on the back burner for a really long time," and eventually "jumped right in" to pursuing a solo career with the support of those around him, including Florida Georgia Line, producer Joey Moi, and Big Loud Records.

HARDY went on to release extended plays and his first "Hixtape" with country artists he had written with, but by 2020, he was ready to release a "real" album. He told Country Now how that was different in that it's "a little deeper," adding, "Some things I wanna talk about that aren't really a party." That year, HARDY released his debut album "A Rock," telling People, "I think without me knowing it, I was writing towards this record. The songs that I'm putting out are a result of writing for 10 years."

Yet, while HARDY may have said that he was "really relieved that my first ever solo record was so easy to put together," he did release it during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the singer saw it as a positive, explaining at the time, "I think people are listening to music now more than ever, because they don't really have much else to do."

HARDY is engaged

It's safe to assume that being in love himself helps HARDY write love songs. It also probably helps that his partner, Caleigh Ryan, knows how to inspire him. He told People how she basically came up with the idea for his song "Boyfriend" during an argument. "I said something like, 'Fine, I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore.' She said something along the lines of, 'It better be because you want to be my husband' with a wink." He added, "Instead of turning that into a really sweet moment, I said, 'This is a great song!'"

Ryan didn't seem to mind. Even though HARDY admitted that "she's my biggest critic" and isn't one "to hold back," she thankfully "thought we nailed it" when she heard the tune. In August 2021, HARDY followed through on that notion by proposing to Ryan — and even gave a nod to "Boyfriend" in his engagement announcement. Sharing a photo of the couple on Instagram, he wrote alongside a red heart emoji in the caption, "I'm not her boyfriend anymore."

For her part, Ryan shared a sweet snapshot of the two kissing outside The Lyric Theater in Oxford, Mississippi to announce their impending nuptials. It turns out that the venue was an integral part of HARDY's proposal. He later revealed (via Music Mayhem), "That's where she and I met around four years ago. ...I wanted to do it exactly in the spot that we met." The country hitmaker added, "It really all worked out perfectly."

This singer-songwriter tours a lot

It appears from his Instagram feed that HARDY spends a good portion of his time on tour, which is a good thing for his fans. One told Zanesville, Ohio's Times Recorder, "You're out with the boys drinking beer and having a hell of a time — and that's what he writes about ... and that's why we like him." Another fan said he's able to connect with HARDY since, "He's a songwriter first. ...I know he's a guy who didn't mean to get famous and huge, but his talent brought him here."

HARDY's basically been touring since he first hit the road with the Florida Georgia Line. The "Truck" singer recalled a particular fun moment from his time with them following a performance of "Y'all Boys" to All Access: "One night, I'm walking off stage and BK [singer-guitarist Brian Kelley] was just like, 'Hey HARDY, why don't you shotgun a beer?' ... I'm just standing there with a beer in the middle of the stage." HARDY at one point even toured with his good friend, Morgan Wallen, which helped get his music on the radio. He dished, "We did radio every city stop on Morgan's tour, which was, like, 40 shows. ...I would go the station and hang and do the thing."

In 2021, HARDY joined the "Back in the Saddle Tour" headlined by Jason Aldean, and he often posts photos from the road, especially those of him performing for large audiences. In one post, HARDY gushed in the caption, "So many emotions ... gonna keep it short just say thank you all for showing up and showing out."

HARDY has big-name friends in country music

HARDY clearly has a lot of impressive contacts in country music, partially thanks to his songwriting skills. According to All Access, HARDY wrote Blake Shelton's "God's Country," LOCASH's "One Big Country Song," and Florida Georgia Line's "Talk You Out Of It," to just name a few. Those charted for the artists, which made HARDY the reliable guy for a hit single. He admitted, "It's something that I've wanted to be, but it is definitely surreal that it's actually happening."

Yet, it seems that HARDY's songwriting actually led to real friendships with some country stars. He told Country Now, "People like Morgan [Wallen] and Thomas Rhett ... [I] quickly learned that those people were like [me], and [I] could actually be friends with this person." These collaborations in the "writing room" have even created a bond with those he admires. "I am a huge fan of Blake," he gushed, adding, "To hear him or anybody else say that [a song I wrote] rejuvenated his career ... is just absolutely insane to me."

HARDY jokingly acknowledged to ABC Radio Online that some may refer to his friendships with Wallen and the guys from Florida Georgia Line as "a fraternity," but noted that there's "this unspoken brotherhood" and "camaraderie" they share. "We're on this new label, and everybody is just in it together," he added. "... It's like a little family."

That time HARDY defended pal Morgan Wallen

HARDY clearly has a special bond with his fellow albeit controversial country star pal, Morgan Wallen. Not only did the "Give Heaven Some Hell" singer tell All Access, "Me and Morgan [Wallen] are like brothers," but he also told ABC Radio Online that after going on tour together, "Morgan's one of my best friends in the whole world."

The country hitmaker also made it a point to defend Wallen after he was caught on camera using racial slurs. During an interview with Holler, HARDY said, "People make mistakes. I have friends that make mistakes all the time, but they don't have three million followers on Instagram." He continued, "If you truly love someone, you gotta be there for that person and support them."

And that's what HARDY appears to be doing. He even expressed his disappointment with the Country Music Association when they decided to exclude Wallen from the 2021 CMA Awards even though he was nominated in some categories, saying (via Music Mayhem) that "it sucks" and arguing his famous pal "should at least be invited." Still, HARDY felt optimistic about Wallen's ability to move forward from his controversial past, saying that it may "take a little time," but adding, "He is taking every action he can to rekindle his relationship with the people who chose to excommunicate him."

How much is this country musician worth?

HARDY is obviously making the big bucks these days, but the "Boots" singer has been working hard for a long time, writing song after song for country artists since he was signed to a publishing deal in 2014. While HARDY became one of the most sought after songwriters in the business, he seemingly brought in even more cash as a performer himself, especially after the release of his popular song, "One Beer." At the time, he told People, "I'm honestly shocked at how well radio's working with us on 'One Beer.'"

Between HARDY's booming songwriter career and then a successful debut album of his own, as well as money he's made from touring and endorsements, it makes sense that Net Worth List reports his net worth was about $15 million in 2020. For HARDY, though, failure was apparently never an option. "Even the times when I have negative dollars in my bank account, I always say, 'One day it's not going to be like this,'" he explained to People. "It's something that I live by every day and it's working so far."

So, what is HARDY spending all that money on? One big purchase he made in 2021 was an engagement ring for his fiancée, Caleigh Ryan. The Mississippi native revealed about a year before their engagement, "​​I told her the longer she waits, the bigger the ring." From the looks of her Instagram, Ryan was seemingly pleased with what he was able to afford.

HARDY didn't always love country music

HARDY writes and performs country music, but fans may be surprised that doesn't necessarily reflect his own musical taste. He told All Access, "I did not grow up listening to country music at all. I honestly couldn't stand it back in the day. I don't know why, but I just didn't like it." He specified that he was more of rocker, saying, "I grew up listening to Rock 'n' Roll, Classic Rock, and Grunge. From, like, 5 years old, that was my thing."

Yet, there was one country singer in particular that HARDY was a fan of: Brad Paisley. He told The Boot, "​​Early on, I really loved ... how he pushed forward some of his lines, how [things could be both] funny and serious." HARDY added how Paisley inspired his own writing, saying, "I try to pull from appreciating good lyrics." Outside of musical artists, HARDY told All Access, "My biggest [inspiration] is staying connected with where I came from emotionally. I try to go home every now and then, and I call my buddies to see what's going on." He pointed out, "All of the country influence that I have came from life, not music."

While HARDY has several country hits under his belt, he did admit to American Songwriter that there are some rock songs he wishes he'd written, namely Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac. It seems HARDY's musical tastes now have range, which is probably a good thing for a songwriter.

He knows how to have fun

HARDY may be busy writing songs and performing on tour, but he also makes sure to include time to have some fun. If his Instagram account is anything to go by, he often does that by golfing. The Mississippi native has shared multiple photos from the golf course, as well as some videos of him hitting golfs balls or playing alongside fiancée Caleigh Ryan and their friends. Apparently, he's quite good, considering he once shared a video of himself getting a hole in one.

Outside of golfing, HARDY frequently posts about fishing, suggesting that's another way he likes to spend his free time. The singer shared a snapshot of himself on a boat out on a river, as well as others showing off big fish he's caught or of himself cutting up their catch to eat. During an interview with All Access, HARDY revealed how some of his country star friends even get involved, saying, "Jake Owen, we go fishing all the time and just goof around out at his place."

Speaking of goofing around, HARDY appears to enjoy doing that, as well. He's posted photos of himself shotgunning a beer on stage, shooting off a beer-filled water gun at his audience, and tattooing his dad, making it clear that the country singer-songwriter really is about having a good time. From watching a football game, to being ringside at a UFC fight, to just partying with friends, HARDY is apparently living his best life on and off the stage.

HARDY has his own style

You may have noticed that HARDY doesn't necessarily look like your average country star. He does have his own style that's more hipster and punk, as well as completely devoid of cowboy hats, but the "Unapologetically Country" singer revealed not everyone was always cool about it, telling All Access, "I think right at the very, very beginning I might have had a couple people tell me that my style was a little wack, but I just didn't listen to them." For HARDY, he's just being himself. He explained, "I have my style and it's weird, but it is what it is. I've always worn whatever the hell I wanted."

Some would even say that HARDY's glasses are now pretty iconic. But he dished to Taste of Country that they're more for function over style, saying he first "got glasses in middle school," before switching over to contacts during high school and adding, "But I ended up hating them." HARDY also has tattoos, but those, too, are about more than just for aesthetic. 

Speaking to All Access about one ink specifically, he said, "I have this really cool county fair where I grew up called the Neshoba County Fair. ...My tattoo is the wristband to get into the fair." HARDY added, "It's just kind of a 'remember where you came from' thing. It's one of my favorite things ever, so I wanted it on me forever."

Inside HARDY's favorite writing session

HARDY has written several country songs with different artists, but it was creating "The Worst Country Song of All Time," in particular, that he basically said was his favorite. HARDY wrote and recorded the single with Brantley Gilbert and country legend Toby Keith. Gilbert recalled how HARDY came up with the idea as "a big joke," but told The Boot, "Before we knew it, we were writing it." HARDY chimed in, revealing, "I said, 'Look, I've got this stupid idea, but what if we wrote 'The Worst Country Song of All Time' and make everything about it just the most repulsive-to-a-country-music-fan stuff ever?"

It seems that finding those "repulsive" things proved to be a good time, especially for HARDY. He gushed, "It was truly one of the most fun writing sessions I've ever had. ... It was just a pleasure, and I'm so happy that Brantley had me on it." Of course, such a silly song needed a funny music video to go along with it, which HARDY, Gilbert, and Keith were all able to pull off. They released it as "The Worst Country Music Video of All Time." As Gilbert told Taste of Country, "It really started as a goofy idea that we were having fun with, and we've been glad to bring a laugh to folks." 

HARDY is clearly one artist who's able to bring all sorts of emotions to his fans through his music, and what's not to love about that?