Ryan Hurd: From the Sessions to the Stage

Taking a Shot With CMT on Tour

For every hundred guys who threw their guitars in their trucks and moved to Nashville chasing the neon rainbow, there’s probably only one guy who it did it like Ryan Hurd.

He came for the sociology. But he stayed for the music.

“I came to Nashville to go to Belmont. I went to school to be a student,” the Michigan native told me. “I got a sociology degree, and then had an opportunity to go to graduate school. But I said no, because I wanted to give songwriting a shot.”

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 30:  Ryan Hurd performs on stage during the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe's Bar on July 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Gabriel Grams/Getty Images) Gabriel Grams/Getty Images

That shot came, when Hurd banded together with a group of other guys who wanted the same thing he did. First Jake Owen cut one of his cowrites, “Surefire Feeling.”

Then there was the “Payback.”

“You never think your song’s gonna be on the radio,” Hurd said, “until it is.”

When Rascal Flatts cut Hurd’s “Payback,” that was what he said put him on the Music City map.


“It’s hard to describe the feeling of hearing your cut for the first time. That moment is so special. I love having my voice on my songs now, but it also means a lot to hear that another artist likes your song enough to cut it and put it on their album. It’s a special kind of compliment,” the singer/songwriter recalled. “And the first time I heard it on the radio, I had to pull over. I almost hit a telephone pole. I stayed there for about ten minutes. I cried. That moment never gets old.”

Even though Hurd came to Nashville for a sociology degree, he got an unintentional songwriting degree. And he learned some hard and fast lessons about perseverance right out of the gate.

“Everybody in Nashville’s heard ‘no’ a thousand times before they heard ‘yes.’ You get used to it. If you work hard enough, you’ll get heard eventually,” he said, adding that Blake Shelton turned down Hurd’s “Lonely Tonight” twice before he recorded it. And look how well that turned out, eventually.


Hurd also penned Tim McGraw’s “Last Turn Home,” the Swon Brothers’ “Later On,” Darius Rucker’s “Down Here” and more. But now he’s set his sights on cutting some of the songs himself. His four-song EP, Panorama, was just released. And his video for one of those songs, “Good as You Think I Am” gives listeners a look inside his life on the road, pre-show shots and all.

And as swiftly as Hurd moved from songwriting sessions to recording sessions, he’s also getting used to being the one onstage. It’s a move that looks like it comes naturally to him, whether he is up there as part of the CMA Songwriters Series or manning the CMT on Tour After Party.

Ryan Hurd/CMT on Tour

“I took a shot at songwriting. Then I decided to take a shot at my own record. And now I’m out there connecting with fans who may not know me,” Hurd said, “but they know my music.”

You can catch Hurd on the road with Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge and Danielle Bradbery on the CMT on Tour through December, when the tour wraps in Chicago.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.