When Hardy sings of "county line cred" and a "bigger buck and bass on my wall," it's not bragging when it's fact.
Those lyrics to his breakout hit "Rednecker," are a peek into the country singer's life growing up in small-town Mississippi. Although he sings of dirt roads, backwoods, trucks and alcohol, his music really doesn't fit the "bro country" style because, as he puts it, "I think my songs have a little cheekiness to them that makes them not down-the-middle bro country."
Hardy didn't intentionally plan to carve a niche for himself as country's redneck singer-songwriter, it just grew organically as he wrote about things that defined him, he explained in a phone interview.
"I'm from a small town, and I grew up the way I did. I know there are a million people just like me who grew up, or are growing up, just like I did. I'm here to represent or speak for those people, and I feel there aren't a lot of people doing that right now. I feel that's how I can connect with my fans, by speaking that language," he says.
If you go
* What: Hardy with Sean Stemaly
* Where: The Signal, 1810 Chestnut St.
* When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
* Admission: $20 in advance, $25 day of show
* For more information: https://www.thesignaltn.com/e/hardy-84662069529/
COMING IN TWO WEEKS
* What: Lauren Alaina in US-101’s Concert for a Cause
* When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7
* Admission: $20 in advance, $25 day of show, $40 balcony, $95 VIP
* For more information: https://www.thesignaltn.com/e/lauren-alaina-75012280751/
Michael Hardy — who just goes by his last name onstage — grew up in a house filled with music. He says his dad turned him onto rock 'n' roll when he was 2 or 3, teaching him one band from another. His mother played piano and his sister was the singer in the family, he says.
He didn't get into singing or trying to play music until high school, when his sister left to attend Belmont University in Nashville. But he had been writing; the seeds of becoming a talented songwriter being sown.
"When I was in high school and we had to write short stories or essays, I was really good at that. Never good at anything else in school; didn't care about any other subject. But I was really good at writing."
Seeing the potential in his prose, his family encouraged him to move to Nashville, which he did 10 years ago. He's been professionally writing songs for almost seven years.
"I signed a publishing deal out of college (Middle Tennessee State University). When you sign a writing deal, you get paid a minimum salary, but I was happy to do it. I lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water for four or five years until I had my first hit."
That was "Up Down," Morgan Wallen and Florida Georgia Line's No. 1 single spun out of Hardy's line "We live it up down here."
"Nothing for me really happened. Then I wrote 'Up Down' and once that started, it's been one crazy thing after another. I would say my success definitely happened really fast," he says.
Did You Know?
Hardy is working on a Mississippi sleeve on his arm as a tribute to his home state. He listed the tattoos he’s gotten so far.
“I have three big magnolias, and a big catfish on my forearm because it’s the Catfish Capital of the World. I grew up in a Choctaw community and I also collect Native American artifacts, so I have an arrowhead. I have a mockingbird on my elbow and the state of Mississippi with my county outlined,” Hardy describes.
In less than a year, Hardy had his first headlining tour as a Sirius XM Highway Find in 2019, and also scored four No. 1 hits (both his own and his songs recorded by other stars). His songwriting shows an innate knack for good hooks and lyrics that surprise listeners with the twists they take.
His current single, "One Beer," is No. 26 on iTunes Country chart and climbing. Singing with him is Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson.
"The first time I met Lauren, I was on the road with Luke Combs writing songs. That was when Lauren, Luke and Jason Aldean were on tour together. Since then, we've run into each other in different places and developed a friendship.
"I knew I wanted a guy and a girl to sing on the song, and we asked her. Lauren is one of the best female singers out there today," he says.
Hardy is bringing his rowdy redneck show to The Signal on Saturday night.
"I'm bringing my band and a light show. Our live show is like a rock 'n' roll show and we bring a lot of energy," he promises. "I want people to leave saying it was one of the best shows they've ever seen."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
A Breakthrough Year
Hardy had a stellar year in 2019. Following are some of his accomplishments and awards:
* Released Hixtape Vol. 1, which reached No. 35 on U.S. Country charts. Hardy collaborated with 17 country stars on the record’s tracks.
* “Rednecker” went to No. 23 on U.S. Country charts.
* First headlining tour on Sirius XM’s The Highway Finds Tour
* Support on Florida Georgia Line’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country Tour
* Opened on Morgan Wallen’s If I Know Me Tour
* Co-wrote “God’s Country,” recorded by Blake Shelton, which won CMA Single of the Year and was nominated for Song of the Year.
* Named one of MusicRow’s 2020 Next Big Things
* Listed by Rolling Stone Country as a Country Artist to Watch in 2019
* Scored four No. 1 singles as a writer
Who’s Singing His Music
* Blake Shelton: “God’s Country” and “Hell Right”
* Morgan Wallen and Florida Georgia Line: “Up Down”
* Florida Georgia Line: “Simple” and “Talk You Out of It”
* Chris Lane: “I Don’t Know About You”
* Locash: “One Big Country Song”