HARDY on the Importance of Shutting Off the Noise: 'Silence Is the Greatest Thing to Me'

"She's so great about this because she knows how important things like mental health are," HARDY says of his fiancée Caleigh Ryan

HARDY. Photo: Ryan Smith

Shortly after playing his last show of 2021, country music powerhouse HARDY retreated to a "crappy old deer camp cabin" in Mississippi, eager to put the chaos of the past year behind him.

He spent his days in the deer stand, often finding that his songwriter brain remained on overload despite his efforts to quiet things down. And as the sun would retreat into the horizon, HARDY would then retreat to his cabin and the silence that awaited him.

"Silence is the greatest thing ever to me," says HARDY, 31, whose real name is Michael Wilson Hardy, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview. "I stayed there by myself every night. I needed that reset to feel normal again and to make the road exciting again."

HARDY. Ryan Smith

On the road is where the 2022 ACM songwriter of the year currently finds himself right now, as he joins real-life bestie Morgan Wallen on his sold-out Dangerous tour. And despite a profession that often has HARDY raising his voice in the songs he delivers, the low-key figure has kept fairly quiet about the circumstances Wallen found himself in last year when he was caught saying a racial slur.

"I just like to keep my head down," HARDY says quietly. "At the end of the day, you're out there doing your job and the people that are there are the ones that love you and the ones that support you. You just have to always remember that the ones that are there are the ones that paid the money to see the ticket, and they've been with you the whole time."

He draws in a deep breath.

"That's very inspiring to us, to walk out there knowing that the ones that are there are the ones that really care about you," says HARDY, who has co-penned ten No. 1 singles since 2018, including his own first-ever No. 1 hit "One Beer" featuring Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson. "[Wallen's] fans are my fans, I guess you would say."

So too are the people behind the scenes of the Dangerous tour, many who have been along on the ride with HARDY — and Wallen for that matter — long before either one of them discovered the brutal glare of the spotlight.

"Me and Morgan and his crew, we are all legit friends," HARDY explains. "It's not stressful. You're not having to fake talk to people every day. It's just really easy and everybody's welcome everywhere and it feels like a big family out there. I'm very thankful for that."

HARDY is also quite thankful for patience, a virtue he has had to infuse into a career that found itself a tad stalled during the darkest days of the pandemic. In fact, HARDY'S current single "Give Heaven Some Hell" was written all the way back in 2019 alongside Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, and Hunter Phelps when HARDY was out on tour with Florida Georgia Line.

"That song just keeps on chugging along," HARDY says of the rally cry of a song which currently finds itself inside the top 15 of the country music charts. "It's been a slow grind, but people are reacting to it more every single day."

At the same time, the days are ticking off for HARDY as he preps to marry Caleigh Ryan later this year, the same woman who stayed back home when the avid outdoorsman retreated to that 'crappy old deer camp cabin' in Mississippi a few months back.

"She's so great about this because she knows how important things like mental health are, especially for an artist," HARDY says. "She knows that I need that, you know? I told her, I'm going to be gone and I need you to let me go."

And she did.

But wedding plans continued.

"I told her that I will do anything I can to help you, but it's going to have to be things I can do through text and email and phone calls," HARDY says with a laugh. "We don't get service down there. So, I had to bring my hotspot and my Wi-fi and do a ton of FaceTime audios. It was kind of a tricky situation, because she was out in California visiting her own family, but it worked!"

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