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Ryan Hurd takes center stage: Singer-songwriter is the focus after writing hits for country’s biggest stars

UPDATED: Sun., May 8, 2022

Singer-songwriter and storyteller Ryan Hurd has written hits for some of country music’s biggest stars, including Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Lady A. Hurd, however, takes center stage in his new Tour de Pelago that stops at Knitting Factory on Friday night.

Chicago-born Hurd, 35, chatted Tuesday morning about his new album, “Pelago,” receiving his first Grammy Award nomination, working with his wife, fellow country singer Maren Morris, and more.

You recently received your first Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for your platinum-certified single “Chasing After You” with your wife Maren Morris. How did it feel to receive that first Grammy nomination?

It’s one of those things you dream about as a kid. Seeing that nomination come across was incredibly special, but getting to share it with Maren was even cooler. It has been an amazing year working that song and getting to put an album out. The Grammy nomination capping it off was incredibly cool.

You also recently performed “I Can’t Love You Anymore” at the CMT Music Awards with Maren. Do you get nervous before performing?

Yeah, most of the time. It’s something I’m comfortable with, but, for the most part, especially with doing television or anything with that big of a stage, it’s definitely a situation where you have to shake off some jitters. It was incredibly cool to get an opportunity to do something like that with her and to write a lot of that album with her and be with her creating it.

I’ve done a couple performances on TV, and it’s always nerve-wracking, but it’s also always a blast.

Please tell me about your debut album “Pelago” and current single “Pass It On.”

I wanted the album to be, because I come from the songwriting world in Nashville, I wanted it to showcase my writing first and foremost but also have enough hits to be able to tour and promote it on the radio.

“Chasing After You” was such a moment. It opened up this opportunity to release “Pelago.” And now we have “Pass It On” on the radio, which is unabashedly positive and fun. I’m really excited about what the album is doing and where it’s taking me this year.

What is the inspiration behind the album name “Pelago”?

I grew up on a lake, and pelago is an Italian word that means open sea. I thought that umbrella was pretty encompassing of all the songs on the album. I call it my little album with a weird name because it is something that you have to ask about.

But I like that people have to ask what it means because it gives me an opportunity to talk about these songs and the project in a fun way. … The point was to have something a little different.

Is this your first headlining tour?

This is my second theater and club tour, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve played a lot of places for the first time on this tour. Spokane is one of those places I don’t think we’ve ever been there even to open for someone. Getting to a new part of the country is exciting for me.

You can now say you’re going to Spokane for the first time in the same month that Paul McCartney performed here for the first time.

Hey, that’s not bad company!

You are truly a singer-songwriter and storyteller because you’ve written hits for Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Lady A and Tim McGraw. What has been the biggest surprise for you to go from writing songs for other people to stepping into the spotlight yourself?

They’re very different skills and very different jobs. I’ve been songwriting now for 10 years and the artist part for about five years. At this point in my life, I can’t imagine doing one without the other. It’s like wearing a pair of shoes.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great country stars who have recorded my music, and I’m really proud of that. As long as I get to continue to do it, I’m going to keep trying.

Is there a song or two that you’re especially proud of or happy about writing?

I love being a part of “Circles Around This Town” with Maren. I feel like just having another song on the radio with her is special. I remember when “What If I Never Get Over You” by Lady A went No. 1. It was an incredibly gratifying moment because it wasn’t the kind of song you think of as the first single on a record. All of them have a special place for me.

Your parents have a musical background. How much did they influence you in making the decision to pursue a career in music?

They’re just supportive. They’re not professional musicians. My mom loves to play the piano, and my dad liked to sing in church and sing in choirs in high school. They’ve always been musical. They always encouraged me and never really discouraged me from pursuing music, which I think is probably more important.

What can fans expect at your concert Friday night at Knitting Factory in downtown Spokane?

Well, if they love my album “Pelago,” they’re going to hear a lot of songs off of that. If they’ve been following me from the beginning of my career and my artist’s journey, they’ll hear some songs from the beginning, too.

For the most part, I just want people to come and enjoy the music and really look forward to an awesome night. Morgan Wade is opening, and she is an amazing artist. You definitely don’t want to miss her.

Maren had a big hit with “The Middle” with DJs Zedd and Grey. Would you collaborate with a DJ again, as you did with Diplo and Morgan Wallen in 2019, and is there an artist who you would consider a dream or buck list collaboration?

I think collaborating is one of the most fun parts of music. We collaborate every day when we write and co-write. I always say that Taylor Swift would be a great person to collaborate with because she’s always been really nice to me and Maren, and her fan base has always been really welcoming to us.

As far as DJs go, send them my way. It sounds like an awesome time.

Please tell me something fans would be surprised to learn about you.

Something they’d be really surprised to learn about … I really like golf, and I really like boats. Those are two things I look forward to first and foremost on my mind now that it’s becoming summertime. We love taking our family out on the boat and enjoying the water.

What’s next for you after the tour?

We’re going to be out with Sam Hunt most of the summer and fall, and we’re going to be opening for some other acts and doing a lot of festivals. There is always an opportunity to see us on the road since we’re touring all year.

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