When it comes to pushing the boundaries between country and rock, nobody out there right now is doing it more than HARDY.
His most recent album, the mockingbird & THE CROW, is half rock and half country, showing off both sides of the genre-bending superstar.
But as HARDY explains on a recent episode of Power Hour, he grew up listening mainly to rock music.
“I grew up in a small town, so I grew up country. I grew up this regular small-town kid, I just loved rock and roll so that’s all I ever listened to.
So speaking that language, I’ve always had that part in me, the lyrics and all the ideals of being from the small town and country and all that stuff.
I’ve always had that cause that’s how I grew up.”
It wasn’t until HARDY was a teenager that he started to get into country music – and it was all thanks to one artist in particular: Eric Church.
“As far as starting to learn about country music and love country music, it probably started when I was 17 or 18 years old and Eric Church put a record out called ‘Chief,’ which was obviously one of his biggest records.
And he had a song on that record called Homeboy, and I was driving to class one day and I heard that song on the radio for the first time and it just sent kind of a chill up my spine, because it was a very good marriage between rock and roll and country and I had never heard it been represented like that.
I said, ‘Ok, if that is country music right now today, then I love country music and I can do that. I want to do that.’
So that was like this really big cornerstone moment for me.”
Of course at the time HARDY probably didn’t think that he would soon be hanging out with Church himself, like when he was just sitting around on a couch with Chief and Morgan Wallen singing “Sand In My Boots” all together.
But HARDY’s far from the only current country music star who credits Eric Church for turning them on to country music.
Morgan Wallen has often spoken about the influence Church had on him and his music, calling him his “country music hero.”And during an appearance together, Morgan even called Church “the best f*ckin’ country music singer that ever lived.”
“He walked into my room and he said ‘Hey, I got this guy that I think you would like. He’s playing a show at Legends tonight and his name is Eric Church.’
If Andy Stoker doesn’t walk into my room on the third floor of Dalton residence hall in 2009, this show doesn’t happen tonight.”
After Church won Entertainer of the Year at the 2020 CMA Awards, Luke praised Church and credited him for his country music career:
“I was pumped to see Eric win Entertainer tonight. Without him, there is no me and I think no one has deserved anything more than he deserved that trophy tonight. As much as I would’ve loved to win, I couldn’t be more excited for him too.”
“A friend of mine said, ‘Hey, there’s a new guy out. And you’re gonna love his record, it’s called Sinners Like Me.’
And by God it was Eric Church. And it inspired me to write country music.”
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Eric Church has had on an entire generation of country stars. It’s not often that somebody comes along who has that much of an influence on so many people, but Church is a one-of-a-kind artist who’s left his mark on country music through so many other artists – and it sounds like we can add HARDY to that list too.