A few years back, life in many ways was much simpler for Ryan Hurd. Sure, much as he is today, the Michigan-born singer-songwriter was making his way in Nashville, charting his course toward a career in country music. But in the interim, having fallen in love and gotten engaged to fellow singer-songwriter Maren Morris, he also now finds himself one-half of Music City’s most compelling and talked-about young couple.
“That stuff is always strange,” Hurd says of the newfound tabloid attention. Not that it’s stopped him and Morris from being refreshingly open and honest with the outside world about their relationship. “Some people in the public eye are hardline like, ‘We don’t share anything about ourselves.’ And that’s fine. But I like my relationship with Maren. And it’s a part of my life. Plus,” he tells Rolling Stone of their willingness to share about each other on social media, “if we were just accountants, then that’s what we would be posting about.”
With Hurd’s “Love in a Bar” taking direct inspiration from the formative days of his and Morris’ relationship, the singer says it was only fitting the pair’s bond would take center stage in the song’s new music video. “I’ve never hidden the fact that this is a true story,” Hurd says of the romantic single, which recounts early get-togethers the two songwriters shared on a Nashville bar’s patio. “Honestly, we’re both really private people. We like to have our time together and our time alone and there’s stuff we really do not let people see. But with this video” – which finds him and Morris spending time together at his family’s Michigan lake house, rowing on a canoe and getting close – “it’s like, ‘Man, that’s my house I grew up in. It’s our lake house in Michigan. We got engaged there.’ We didn’t reenact anything. That’s the canoe boat we got engaged on and that’s the place I remember taking her for the first time a year and a half ago. It’s always been a really special place for us.”
Morris remembers the first time her now-fiancé played her “Love in a Bar.” “When he played me the demo it felt like a beautiful time-stamp for us and our story,” she says. “But it was also so relatable. Right now there are thousands of people all over the world sitting and having a drink after work and falling in love with the person across the table, and he captured so many of those nuances in three minutes.” Adds the Grammy-winning singer, “Ryan and I have been writing love songs about each other for quite some time now … even when we didn’t realize it. He’s always had such a uniquely sensitive take on what happens when two people fall for each other.”
Like Hurd, Morris sees the pair’s relationship transparency as a direct reflection of the open-book policy they share with one another. “I think since we met in that first writing room the songs we’ve written together and separately have always been an unflinchingly honest account of how we felt about each other at the time,” Morris says. “Some things certainly shouldn’t be on display for the world, but he and I truly are each other’s biggest supporters, so why shouldn’t we celebrate out loud? He’s been there for all of my important moments, so it’s so exciting for me to see him finally start to have his.”
Hurd is equally enthused about what lies ahead for his career. Having released his self-titled EP earlier this year, the “We Do Us” singer is now busy putting the finishing touches on his as-yet-untitled full-length debut set for release next year. Hurd admits he’s itching to put out new material but recognizes patience is a virtue in country music. “It would be really nice for me to put out a song a month every month for a year and a half,” he says. But ultimately Hurd realizes he’s beholden to his music’s success at radio. “Everybody’s always waiting on that – I’m not special in that way. It’s just the way it is. There’s a reason they do that. The radio is what makes hits.”
When not on the road, as he was much of this past year, including a stint on Thomas Rhett’s Home Team Tour, Hurd has been logging countless hours in the studio. “The creation is always the most fun part,” Hurd says. “I love to conceptualize albums and songs.” To that end, the 31-year-old says he’s recorded more than 20 songs for his forthcoming debut despite the final tracklisting only slated to feature 12 tracks. In many ways, the singer notes, the album is still a work in progress. “This album has really gone through two or three stages,” Hurd explains. “There’s songs that I thought would be singles that aren’t even going to make it on the album. It feels really alive. It’s like a working tracklist all the time.”
In the end, Hurd says he’s thrilled with the way his record label, Sony Music Nashville, has given him the time and flexibility to create his ideal album. The label, in his estimation, has also made a concerted effort to sign time-tested songwriters, including Morris, Old Dominion, Luke Combs and Kane Brown, and let them develop into well-rounded artists. “They’re cultivating a cool roster and letting it develop,” he says, “and I’m benefiting from that in a really cool way.”