"She's not going to hold back," the rising country singer tells PEOPLE of his longtime love

By Brianne Tracy
September 04, 2020 04:30 PM
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When it comes to his music, HARDY never has a plan B.

"I'm big on the strength of the law of attraction," the 29-year-old rising country star tells PEOPLE. "Even the times when I have negative dollars in my bank account, I always say, 'One day it's not going to be like this.' It's something that I live by every day and it's working so far, so we'll see."

Indeed, things have been working out for HARDY (born Michael Wilson Hardy) as of late. On Friday, he released his debut album, A Rock, after making a name for himself as a songwriter in Nashville over the past decade thanks to hits like Blake Shelton's "God's Country" and, most-recently, LOCASH's "One Big Country Song."

"I think without me knowing it, I was writing towards this record," HARDY says. "The songs that I'm putting out are a result of writing for 10 years. Every time you sit in a room and you write a song, you get a little bit better. I feel it's as good as I can do, for right now."

A Rock's 12-song tracklist includes "One Beer," the Philadelphia, Mississippi native's collaboration with Devin Dawson and Lauren Alaina that continues to be a massive hit on country radio.

"I'm honestly shocked at how well radio's working with us on 'One Beer,'" he says. "I think if anything, it just gained us more and more fans right before this record came out."

HARDY's A Rock album cover
COURTESY BIG LOUD RECORDS

"One Beer" was inspired by late country star John Prine's songwriting.

"I've always been inspired by [him] and wanted to write a song that told a really elaborate story," HARDY says. "But the source was a sampled song. So I got a lot of my inspiration from that. I just love telling stories at the end of the day."

In "Boyfriend," another single released off the album, HARDY uses his knack for storytelling to list all the reasons why he wants to change his relationship status with his girlfriend. "I don't wanna be your boyfriend anymore/I'm tired of talkin' 'bout babies and diamond rings/I'm so sick of drivin' clear across town every night/From my place to yours, girl/I don't wanna be your boyfriend anymore," he sings.

By the chorus, though, HARDY pulls a fast one and makes clear the song isn't about a breakup at all. Rather, he wants to be upgraded from "boyfriend" to "husband."

Inspired by his girlfriend Caleigh Ryan, HARDY got the idea for "Boyfriend" while they were on vacation together in Clearwater, Florida.

"We were in the pool, picking at each other about something — we're always picking at each other — and I said something like, 'Fine, I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore,'" he says. "Then she said something along the lines of, 'It better be because you want to be my husband' with a wink. I looked at her, and instead of turning that into a really sweet moment, I said, 'This is a great song!'"

When the song was finished and he played it for Ryan, HARDY says she "loved it."

"We've been together for over two years, so now she's my biggest critic," he says. "She's not going to hold back, and she's going to tell me if she loves it. But as always, she thought we nailed it."

As for the song he's most excited for fans to hear on the album, HARDY says it's the title track.

"'A Rock' is such a good synopsis of life," he says. "I thought it suited the album title well because the song itself sums up a lot of what you heard on the record: there's a lot about love and the lack thereof, and there's death. There's getting married songs, and then there's a little bit of cheekiness because the record kind of sounds like a rock record."

With all of the rock references, it begs the question of whether Caleigh will be getting a rock of her own soon.

"I told her the longer she waits, the bigger the ring," HARDY says with a laugh. "But we're definitely talking about it. We're just waiting it out and are waiting to see what's going to happen to the world."

HARDY's A Rock is available now.