HARDY is ready to show fans the competing sides of his musical prowess with his highly anticipated sophomore album, the mockingbird & THE CROW, which comes out January 20. The 17-track release includes his country music and singer-songwriter influences on the “mockingbird” half of the project, while “THE CROW” half digs deep into his rock music passions.
Fans have already gotten a glimpse of what to expect with previous releases, “Wait in the Truck” featuring Lainey Wilson, “SOLD OUT,” “Jack,” “TRUCK BED,” and “here lies country music” as well as the album’s title track “the mockingbird & THE CROW.” The project also features a collaboration with his longtime friend and collaborator Morgan Wallen titled “Red.”
HARDY recently opened up to Music Mayhem and other media about the internal struggles that led to the album being split in half, how his wife has unexpectedly influenced his music, and more.
Originally, the “REDNECKER” singer’s sophomore album was going to be self-titled, using his full name Michael Hardy. “It was still gonna be a half and half album,” recalls HARDY, “but the Michael was gonna be the country side and the songwriter side or whatever, if you will. And then Hardy was gonna be the rock side.” He says that he wasn’t really committed to the idea and is glad that it didn’t stick.
The idea for the album’s title track ended up coming from the visual of an avian battle.
“Have you ever been driving down the road or been especially out in the country and seen a mockingbird attacking a crow?” asks HARDY. “I actually just wrote down ‘the mockingbird and the crow’ and I had no idea what it meant… just thought it sounded cool and I always thought that it would be in the back of my mind. I had this song idea about that sometimes I’m the mockingbird, sometimes I’m the crow and how they kind of fight each other.”
HARDY admitted that the song is actually a reflection of his internal struggles of being a songwriter and an artist, a country artist and a rock artist.
“When the crow part starts, there’s this person that’s saying ‘do this and do that’ and people don’t realize, but that’s myself talking to myself,” HARDY reveals. “It’s not like a label person… if you didn’t know that, it can sound like it’s a record label thing and how I’m saying, ‘well fuck that, fuck you.’ And that’s more of the internal struggle of the mockingbird saying to the crow like, no, no, no, no, this is how you should do the thing. And it’s really about the internal struggle.”
He adds, “It really does describe and convey and capture the dilemma that I have with not only being a country artist and a rock artist, but just as a songwriter and a rock artist. And because there’s a lot of that internal struggle and a lot of internal battle and I’ve had to deal with that because I love writing songs for other people and I love performing and being my own artist. And that song is just a struggle between the two.”
He also hopes fans hear the vulnerability in the lyrics. “It’s very vulnerable and I hope that people can listen to that and know that I’m really, really trying to be open and let people know that that’s a struggle sometimes to wonder if I should go all the way one direction or one day one way or the other.”
The song was the last one HARDY wrote for the record, when he hadn’t locked down a title for the album yet. He had eight songs for each half of the album when he was on the road with songwriters Jordan Schmidt and Brett Tyler, telling them the record was done. Schmidt and Tyler expressed their disappointment that the project was finished, because they wanted to write something for it. Schmidt went ahead and began working on a rock track and once HARDY heard it, he knew he had to finish it.
“It all just kind of came together in that moment and I said, I have an idea that could end up being the title for this record if we wrote one more song, but it would have to be a seven, six, or seven minute song,” HARDY recalls. He explained the concept for “the mockingbird & THE CROW” and they wrote the entire song that day. “So when I turned it into my record label, I was like, all right, I know this kind of throws a wrench in everything, but what if we completely changed the album title and all this stuff and the artwork and all this kind of stuff. So it kind of changed everything then.”
When it came to compiling the songs for this project, it all started about two years ago with the song “Jack.” HARDY says he knew that “nobody else was gonna cut that shit,” recognizing that he has many songs about glorifying alcohol and drinking, but that he wanted to pay homage to the people who deal with the impacts of alcohol abuse.
“I have a family history of some alcoholism and my mom especially has had to deal with that growing up,” reveals HARDY. “So it’s always been brought up in my household and I just thought it would be cool to pay homage to the people that have had to put up with that shit and write it from the perspective of maybe how manipulative that can be for some people in the grip that I can have on some people which is very real and it sucks for the people that have to deal with it. And it sucks for the people that are going through it too.” He decided to write the song from the perspective of the bottle of alcohol, starting with a riff he wrote on a half electric, half acoustic guitar he received from Fender.
From there, HARDY began alternating between writing rock and country songs. “They kind of kept going back and forth until it naturally snowballed into this like, oh, we could do a 50-50 thing. And then I needed a couple of more songs from both sides and that’s when I started going into rooms and being like, ‘Hey, we really need to hammer down a rock song today,’ or ‘I’m really missing a good country song.’ And we kind of started nitpicking a little bit more, but for the most part it happened pretty naturally.”
One of the standout tracks on the album is “wait in the truck” featuring Lainey Wilson, which the pair performed during the 2022 CMA Awards. Surprisingly, the song was inspired by HARDY’s wife, Caleigh Ryan. While the couple was dating, a guy made a pass at Caleigh at a Halloween party while HARDY was playing a show in Atlanta. “She told me about it and I got really fired up and I made a comment about wait in the truck,” he recalls. “Hunter Phelps, my collaborator, was with me. And when I said that, we kind of looked at each other like, oh man, that would be a great song idea.”
They ended up sitting on the song for a long time until they got together with co-writer Jordan Schmidt. “At first we thought maybe we would make it this tough guy, I’m gonna go kick this guy’s ass, be right back kind of thing. But the more we talked about the idea, the more we kind of thought it would be cool to write a murder ballad kind of thing and really dig into that story and see how crazy of a story we can write.”
HARDY knew the song was special right away and made sure he held on to it. Even though other artists had been discussed to collaborate on the track with him, he knew it needed to be Lainey Wilson. “She is that person. She is a country girl and her voice is so authentic. And so when she sings that and when she shares that lyric, I believe every single word of that. And I knew that before I even asked her if she wanted to be a part of it. I knew that Lainey would be the one that everybody would believe and when you believe it, you’re convicted.”
Although fans won’t find any love songs on the album, HARDY says that “i in country” reminds him of his wife. “She’s a California girl and she grew up in San Diego, so she’s not by the book a Country girl,” he admits. “But I think what the song preaches is that I know how to do a lot of things in this life, but what’s the point of doing that if I don’t get to share that with somebody? And that’s sort of the message that it conveys and I really feel that way with her.”
The track “drink one for me” is a spin on “GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL” from HARDY’s debut album, written from a different perspective. “We wanted to write it about somebody dying, we definitely said we should write this from the perspective of the guy that died in ‘give heaven some hell.’” he recalls. “That was on purpose. It’s pretty cool.”
The reigning ACM Songwriter of the Year, BMI Country Songwriter of the Year, and AIMP Songwriter of the Year appears as a co-writer on all 17 tracks and even wrote one song by himself – “happy.” It was his first solo write since 2013, a song called “Dog Years” which landed him his first publishing deal. He had been wanting to write another one by himself to know he still could.
“I was driving to the golf course one day and I had this weird idea about personifying the word happy and turning happy into a person and I just had some kind of wheels turning,” he recalls. “Later that day when I went home, I sat down at my computer and I started writing the song and I just couldn’t stop. And I remember I started at 11:00 PM and I looked up and it was like 3:00 AM when I was done. And I don’t know, I just looked up and was like, damn, I did it. I got one by myself.”
The mockingbird portion of the album ends with “here lies country music,” a cautionary tale about straying too far from the roots of country music because one day it might die. HARDY says he hopes it’s “a wake up call even for songwriters and then country music fans to just appreciate that lyric and some of the more traditional aspects of country music.”
the mockingbird & THE CROW Track List
- beer (Michael Hardy, Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps)
- red feat. Morgan Wallen (Michael Hardy, Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, Jacob Rice)
- wait in the truck feat. Lainey Wilson (Michael Hardy, Renee Blair, Hunter Phelps, Jordan Schmidt)
- drink one for me (Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hunter Phelps)
- i in country (Michael Hardy, Smith Ahnquist, Nick Donley, Jake Mitchell, Hunter Phelps)
- screen (Michael Hardy, Jessie Jo Dillon, Matt Dragstrem, Hunter Phelps)
- happy (Michael Hardy)
- here lies country music (Michael Hardy, Cole Taylor, Brett Tyler, Will Weatherly)
- the mockingbird & THE CROW (Michael Hardy, Jordan Schmidt, Brett Tyler)
- SOLD OUT (Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hunter Phelps)
- JACK (Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey)
- TRUCK BED (Michael Hardy, Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps)
- .30-06 (Michael Hardy, Cameron Montgomery, Hunter Phelps)
- I AIN’T IN THE COUNTRY NO MORE (Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey)
- RADIO SONG feat. Jeremy McKinnon (Michael Hardy, Zach Abend, Nick Donley, Jeremy McKinnon, Cody Quistad)~
- KILL SH!T TILL I DIE (Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hunter Phelps)
- THE REDNECK SONG (Michael Hardy, Andy Albert, Nick Donley)
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The chart-topping will soon celebrate the release of his new album with two concerts in Los Angeles at iconic venues, The Troubadour and The Roxy, on Monday, January 23. In addition, HARDY will also perform “wait in the truck” alongside Lainey Wilson on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, January 25.
He will also make an appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show to perform the meaningful album cut, “screen” on Thursday, January 26.
In February, HARDY will head out on a 16-date headlining trek in support of the mockingbird & THE CROW. The tour kicks off on Feb. 16, in Indianapolis, Indiana, and currently ends on April 29, with a show in Irving, Texas, featuring openers Jameson Rodgers and Blame My Youth.
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An exclusive the mockingbird & THE CROW box set is available for purchase now, HERE.