Ryan Hurd is coming off the biggest year of his career — and this year looks to continue that momentum in more ways than one.
The country singer’s 2019 breakout hit “To a T” hit the Top 20 and was certified Gold earlier this year, and last fall he announced that he’s expecting his first child with wife and fellow country star Maren Morris, this spring.
With a baby on the way, Hurd has been touring his September EP, “Platonic,” all over the country on a sold-out headlining tour and. After taking a short break to welcome their baby into the world, Hurd and Morris will take their newborn on the road this summer for RSVP: The Tour.
Ahead of one of his sold-out shows at Gramercy Theatre in New York City earlier this month, before much of public life ground to a halt in the United States, In The Know’s Gibson Johns caught up with Ryan Hurd to talk about how touring has evolved for him as his career continues to take off, prepping for fatherhood, having admiration for Katy Perry and why the timing “couldn’t be better” for his first child.
Check out our interview with Ryan Hurd below:
You’re playing two sold-out shows at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. I feel like country concerts here have a different energy. Does it feel different performing here than in other places?
It’s interesting, because I’ve asked people who come for meet-and-greets where they’re from, and a lot of them come in from hours away in Jersey or Long Island or Connecticut … it isn’t easy to get here, but seeing anything in New York City makes it more special. The coolest part about our genre is that it’s grown so much in the last 10 years. The biggest shows are in the biggest markets. There are massive festivals in the middle of nowhere, but because there are so many country music fans, our biggest markets are still New York and Chicago.
It must feel pretty special that these shows can attract so many people.
The coolest part is that there’s so much to do in New York, so to sell out a room like this on a Thursday night means that people have been circling this on their calendar. That’s the thing — they could be doing anything, and they’re coming to see you; it’s not as though you’re the only game in town. We love to tour in the North when it’s wintertime, because we don’t like competing with Lake Michigan in the summer, but still, you can do anything here, and I’m really blessed that we’ve worked hard enough to have a fan base up here.
These shows are part of the Platonic Tour, and you’re bringing songs from the “Platonic” EP on the road for the first time. What has it been like performing your newest material live?
It’s been unexpected to see the reaction to these songs that we just put out, because we didn’t have any radio push — it’s literally just people who are fans and demanding it. There are no tricks or marketing behind it, and I don’t mean to throw anybody under the bus saying that there was no marketing, but what it is is that we’ve developed a fan base where we can’t really give them enough music. There are hardcore people who have been here a couple of years. A lot of people who are fans of me found me because of Maren [Morris], but it’s been cool to talk to people who say that they’ve been a fan of me since I came out. Some people even tell me that they listen to me and then discover Maren, which is not a lot of them [Laughs] — but I’ve had a couple of people say that. It’s cool to have cultivated my own thing. I know that that’s a lot of people’s first thought, that I’m her husband and I’m totally fine with that, but it’s fun to have a tour like this and music that stands on its own two feet that really connects with our shared fan base.
Which songs from “Platonic” have been connecting the most with fans in a live setting?“Platonic,” the title track?
Yeah, I love that song the most. That’s my favorite. We start with it, and it sets a tone. I’m not salty about the fact that it didn’t go to radio, because we were still working “To A T,” which was on the radio for, like, 53 weeks, so [“Platonic”] just kind of got blocked, which sucks. I understand the way that timing works, but it’s cool to see it live and give it that moment. I just think it bangs, bro! I’m really proud of that song.
Are you singing any other songs that you write for other people during this tour?
This is the first time that I haven’t had to sing all of them! Which is awesome. I make some choices now; I sing a couple. I do some covers, too — I’ve been covering Alessia Cara’s “Rooting For You,” which I’ve really enjoyed. I think she’s really talented, and I like doing a male take on a really cool female tune. I also do “False God” now, the Taylor [Swift] tune, which is really cool. I’ve done a couple Taylor covers, and it’s been really cool diving into those lyrics. I did “Dress” last year and “False God” this year and, diving into it, you really realize how great the lyrics are. It’s kind of like an exercise in songwriting for me to study something like that. I do those covers, I do Luke Bryan’s song that I wrote, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” and then I just had a No. 1 with Lady Antebellum called “What If I Never Get Over You,” and I cover that song. I also do “Heartless” [by Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley].
What was it like getting involved in the Diplo’s country project?
It was very passive. I wrote the song with earnest with a guy named Charlie Handsome, who’s an L.A.-based writer. It was through [writer] Ernest [Keith Smith]’s management that that stuff all got to Diplo. He was looking for a song and an artist to kick this [project] off —and it’s a platinum record and it just went to radio. So, that’s kind of crazy to see. I’ve never been part of a song that’s viral, and that’s my first experience with it. It’s kind of cool being the anonymous fifth party, because a lot of people have no idea that I wrote that song.
Switching gears, I feel as though this tour you’re on is basically the equivalent of having a bachelor party but for having a baby. Do you feel like this is a sort of last hurrah?
You’re actually the first person that’s brought something like that up, and I think that it’s kind of brilliant. We should’ve called it The Last Hurrah! We would’ve called it that if we were staying home, but the reality is that this baby is coming on a bus. We’ll press pause for a couple of months, but then we’ll be right back out there. It’s fun, because every day we’re sort of looking at the dates crossing our fingers and saying, “Are we going to make it? Or do we need to switch around some stuff?” Obviously, we’re not in any imminent situations right now, but we are looking at it like maybe we got to get off the bus. It’s the one excuse where nobody can say anything to you — if we have to switch around some stuff in the next couple of weeks, it’s the one time I get to play that card. It’s been fun to fit everything in, and the timing for this kid is really perfect. It’s cool to get to do this job, and it’s cool for Maren to not have to choose between being a touring artist and being a mother. I will be there. That’s a thing that I’ve really been impressed by, is her ability to really invest in herself and invest in her family, while at the same time not taking anything away from her career. It takes a lot of effort and thought and money, truthfully, but I think that’s very cool that that’s what her priority is and that’s what our priority is, as opposed to other things.
It seems as though you both truly love to work, which is amazing, but you must also be looking forward to having a bit of “time off” this spring.
I am. I’m looking at it like it’s going to be a bubble of time. We’re going to get in this bubble, and it’s going to be really different and fun and cool and strange, but really fulfilling. We do love to work, and we’ve struck a good balance. It’s been cool to navigate that the last couple of years, and it’s not easy to have two people doing this separately and together. She’s very invested in this; she’s very invested in Ryan Hurd as a touring musician and as an artist and a writer, the same way that I’m very invested in what she does. We have the same management team, which has become a necessity, as I don’t think we could do this without that now. We don’t say “yes” to everything, either. We’re not doing a whole lot at CMA Fest this year. We did it last year, and it was great, but we felt like we were doing the same thing two years in a row, so we’re taking a year off. It’ll always be there. We’ll do something else this year, but we don’t want to push our schedules so much that we burn out. There’s no way to get over burnout except just to stop, so we are very careful to safeguard both of our minds and hearts from that. It was time for her to take a bit of a break, because she’s been going non-stop for three years. With or without a baby it was really time to hit the breaks, and she was feeling that. The timing of this couldn’t be better.
And, like you said, Nashville is there waiting for you — even if you want to take years off, like the Dixie Chicks just did, you’ll be welcomed back with open arms, and it must be nice to have that in the back of your mind.
The touring schedule is really helpful, too, because we’re in the middle of the country, so we can do weekend runs, and that’s the way that it’s structured, as opposed to being out for four or five months at a time. Whenever we want to do something crazy, our motto has always been, “Well, people do it!” (Like, “Can we get a dog?” — “People do it!”) [Laughs] It’s fun to watch Maren go through it all, and Katy Perry just announced that she’s having a baby, and that made me really happy. It’s kind of cool when baller women go and do something like that, like, “Yeah, it’s going to be a little different, but we’ll figure it out.” I just remember when we were not telling people that we were having a kid yet, we were like, “We better start telling people, because they’re gonna start figuring it out.” I just remember that moment, and I don’t know Katy Perry at all, but I was really excited for her family, because we just went through that, and it was really fun and exciting and it was neat to see somebody in that position doing the same thing we are.
Going on tour as a family with a newborn this summer will be a very special experience for you guys. What are you most looking forward to about that time?
9:30 to 11 when it’s just me on the bus with this kid — I’m there to babysit, and it’s going to be awesome! The whole thing will be different and cool. We have our own bus now, which is interesting, and it’s just like our little family bus. It’s going to be a change and something to navigate and it’s all exciting and good stuff. If we’re not ready, we’re prepared. People do it.
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