Full of twangy, distorted guitars, foot-stomping drums and the Mississippi native’s down-and-dirty vocal drawl, the country rock anthem is all about about establishing his “county-line cred” – so don’t bother arguing over who’s “rednecker” than who. Hardy’s pretty much guaranteed to win.
“I’ve killed catfish with shotguns,” he says with a wry laugh, speaking with Sounds Like Nashville while hopping airports on a promotional tour of radio stations. “We used to trap wild hogs and take ‘em up to this guy who would keep ‘em to train his dogs with, and I’ve got the arm band that gets you into the county fair in my hometown tattooed on my wrist. There are so many things …”
Hardy – the stage name of singer-songwriter Michael Hardy – got his start as a Music Row tunesmith, honing his tightly-coiled brand of backwoods badassery with platinum-certified No.1s like Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” featuring Florida Georgia Line (he can even been seen in the beginning of Wallen’s “Up Down” video) and FGL’s “Simple.” But with “Rednecker” and two new EPs – This Ole Boy and Where to Find Me – he’s forging his own path.
“It’s where I came from and the language I know to speak,” he says about of single’s middle-of-nowhere grit. “I feel like that, more than any other way of writing, is what I know to do the best. I’ve never gotten heavy into writing love songs, and the truest thing I can say is what I come from. I’m from the country. I’m just a good ole boy.”
“Rednecker” was written a little over a year ago with Jordan Schmidt and Andy Albert while the buddies were visiting Colorado. One of them, he’s not sure who, said “I’m rednecker than you,” and all three busted out laughing. That’s where the song got its start.
“We were in Colorado, so you can take a guess [about why we were laughing] from that,” he says. “It’s always this thing like ‘Is that a song? You think we can pull that off?’ So we walked upstairs and wrote the whole song. It started off just being funny, but we also knew it was good.”
A few weeks later the trio met up in Schmidt’s studio and fleshed out the song’s hard-driving sound, and the rest is history. “It just took on this cool vibe like ‘Man, this is funny, and it’s tough. But I bet it can appeal to a lot of people,’” Hardy says.
“My town’s smaller than your town, and I got a bigger buck and bass on my wall,” goes the chorus. “I’ve got a little more kick in my drawl, y’all, I’ve got a little more spit in my chaw.”
Soon enough Hardy signed a record deal with Big Loud Records and “Rednecker” became his first radio single. He’s been taking it out on the road with Wallen’s If I Know Me Tour – playing to rowdy, sold-out crowds all across the country – and Hardy says one thing’s for sure. He finds proud rednecks everywhere he goes.
“I’m not gonna lie, I think there might be just as many rednecks – if not more – up north than there are in the south,” he admits. “One time I drove from Buffalo, New York, to Albany, and I had no idea it was like Texas. There are signs on the road saying ‘Next gas station 40 miles.’ There’s a whole lot of nothing up there.”
Hardy’s certainly drawing attention with his own tunes, but he’s also still collaborating with his superstar pals. He’s featured as an artist and a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line’s “Y’all Boys” from their new album Can’t Say I Ain’t Country, and says part of the reason they work so well together is the duo’s willingness to stand out from the crowd
“I’m all about just really going for it, and being fearless about what you’re going to say,” he says about his songwriting approach. “Weird lines will always stand out over time, but I feel like country has gotten away from being ‘not safe,’ and I just don’t understand why somebody wouldn’t want to go for it and say something cool. There’s a lane that’s wide open for that.”
With more tracks like “Rednecker” on his This Ole Boy and Where to Find Me EPs – which are out now – Hardy will do his best to keep filling that lane. Fans can check him out on Florida Georgia Line’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country Tour this summer.