Country’s Rising Hitmakers: Morgan Wallen, HARDY & ERNEST 

Morgan Wallen, Hardy, and Ernest are arguably some of the top rising artists of today’s country music. Not only do they have outstanding vocals, but they also have incredible songwriting talent. Whether it’s a phone call in the grocery store or a sit-down session in the studio, these three Big Loud artists often find themselves writing together.

In 2021, Morgan Wallen dominated the country genre with the release of his sophomore album Dangerous: The Double Album. Much of the successful lyric crafting of these songs are credited to Morgan who co-wrote 18, Ernest who co-wrote 11, and Hardy who co-wrote 7, out of the 32 total songs (30 original tracks and 2 bonus tracks). In October of 2021, these three artists hit the road together to play a few shows before the holidays, setting attendance records nearly everywhere they went. Whether they are writing together or apart, each of them have been writing hits for years, not only for themselves but also for other artists. Let’s take a deeper look into their careers.

SongwritERN

Ernest Keith Smith, better known by his stage name ERNEST, released his debut album back in 2019 titled Locals Only. This album consisted of 9 songs all co-written by him. Following that release, came a single called “Cheers” in 2020 and a single called “American Rust” in 2021. On top of releasing music of his own, Ernest has written plenty of songs for others, making a name for himself as a songwriter. So far, he has contributed to over 70 songs for himself and other artists such as Walker Hayes, Kane Brown, Chris Lane, and more. His number one co-writes include “More Than My Hometown” by Morgan Wallen, “Big Big Plans” by Chris Lane, “I Love My Country” by Florida Georgia Line, “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90s” by Sam Hunt, and “One Mississippi” by Kane Brown.

Now, Ernest is working hard to make a name for himself as an artist. Right before 2021 came to an end, Ernest released a duet with Morgan Wallen titled “Flower Shops.” Yet before this highly anticipated single was released, the two were performing it to crowds of over 30,000 and leaking it on social media. This resulted in the duet instantly becoming a fan favorite. When the song did come out, it debuted at #1 on the iTunes All-Genre Chart, #1 on both the USA and Global Spotify Top Songs Debut Chart, and #44 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart, earning the breaker award. Ernest was also able to hear himself on the radio for the very first time as this song was the most added song of the week it impacted country radio.

Since then, Ernest has been taking to social media to share his studio time, share unreleased music, and has officially confirmed that his next album is finished. Just recently, he released three songs called “What It’s Come To,” “Some Other Bar,” and “Feet Wanna Run” all on the same day. On top of that, Ernest announced his second studio album, Flower Shops (The Album), will be an 11 track album being released on 3.11.22.

As for touring, he has been the opening act for Chris Lane’s Fill Them Boots Tour and will be joining him again for all 2022 March dates. In addition, fans can expect to see Ernest making surprise appearances throughout Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous Tour. He has already appeared at Morgan’s first sold-out Madison Square Garden show to sing their duet “Flower Shops.” 

PENNED BY HARDY

Michael Hardy, better known for his last name, HARDY, has had lots of success mixing his love of rock and roll to form a bro-country sound. He has become one of the most popular new artists of country music and is arguably one of the best songwriters in the genre. Since 2018, Hardy has been releasing new music yearly. That year he released a 4-song EP titled This Ole Boy and released another 4-song EP in 2019 titled Where To Find Me.

Later that year, Hardy also introduced Hixtape Vol. 1, a joint album with himself and Hixtape, that is filled with features by country music’s biggest stars. This project consisted of 10 songs with 18 different artists. It also gave Hardy his first number one song as an artist with “One Beer.” In 2020, Hardy released his debut album titled A Rock, again consisting of 10 songs. Finally, in 2021, Hixtape Vol. 2 was born, this time doing things a little differently. This album was only a Hixtape album, where Hardy was a feature on 6 songs, allowing other artists to include these songs on their own albums. This project upgraded to 14 songs with 33 artists/bands.

Not only has Hardy been hard at work writing and recording for himself, but he has also co-written for various other artists, totaling over 100 songs he has been a part of. You can even find him featured in many of these songs. As a songwriter, Hardy takes great pride in writing every single song he has released as an artist. His hard work and dedication to songwriting have surely paid off as he has been nominated for ACM Songwriter of the Year for three consecutive years. Over the years he has written hits for many artists including Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Dallas Smith, and more. His number ones as a songwriter include “Gods Country” by Blake Shelton, “I Don’t Know About You” by Chris Lane, “Some Girls” by Jameson Rodgers, “More Than My Hometown” by Morgan Wallen, “One Big Country Song” by Locash, “Up Down” by Morgan Wallen, “Simple” by Florida Georgia Line, “Single Saturday Night” by Cole Swindell, and “Sand In My Boots” by Morgan Wallen. 

Writt-en By Wall-en

As mentioned before, Morgan Wallen’s fame and success skyrocketed like no other throughout 2021. Thanks to his fans/supporters, Dangerous: The Double Album broke records and received the Billboard honor of being the number one album of 2021. In addition, Morgan is arguably the most wanted performer as he has nearly sold out all 54 dates of his 2022 Dangerous Tour with Hardy, Larry Fleet, and unannounced help. As well as writing a fairly good portion of his own music, Morgan has also written songs for Jason Aldean, Lil Durk, and Walker Montgomery.

Before Morgan became one of country music’s biggest superstars, he was auditioning for season 6 of The Voice, landing on Team Usher. On The Voice, Morgan auditioned with the song “Collide” and luckily Shakira and Usher turned their chairs. He went on to advance in the first battle round but was eliminated in the second. Luckily, Adam decided to steal him, which meant that Morgan would now be competing on his team. His Voice journey ended in the playoff round where he was eliminated. Looking back on this experience, Morgan sure is thankful that he was eliminated because it allowed him to seek a vocal coach and rediscover his sound.

In 2015, he released a 5-song EP titled Stand Alone. In 2016, he released three singles called “Stand Out,” “Chain Smokin’,” and “American Nights.” Soon enough it was time for Morgan to release his 14-song debut album titled If I Know Me, which includes the number one song that launched his career, “Whiskey Glasses.” In addition to his songs “Whiskey Glasses,” “Up Down,” “Chasin’ You,” “More Than My Hometown,” and “Sand In My Boots” all reaching number one, he has also co-written Jason Aldean’s number one hit “You Make It Easy.” Furthermore, Morgan Wallen had his first rap collaboration with Lil Durk’s “Broadway Girls,” a song that was co-written by both him and Ernest. This song went on to debut at number one on five different Billboard charts. Morgan has already successfully kicked off his massive Dangerous Tour and will be headlining a plethora of festivals this year. 

Friends Forever 

Whether these three are writing, recording, touring, or just having fun, they have become best friends, sharing loads of fond memories together. Since quarantine, they have picked up a new enjoyment for golf. Now that things are opening back up, they have been hitting the road, performing for sold-out crowds all over the country. The future is bright for these Big Loud boys, with many more hits to come. Be sure to check out the Apple Music playlists that are filled with the songs written by each artist (links below). 

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-ernest/pl.u-gxblkyGt5LEEb2d

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-hardy/pl.u-2aoqXxaFN1zzGjD

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-morgan-wallen/pl.u-kv9lbxLs7kaaJMA

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10 Country Artists Who Like to Party

            Let’s fucking go. What country artist do you want to get fucked up with? In the past, it was well documented that artists had major drinking and drug problems. Today that doesn’t seem to be the case because of PR people and all that stuff. Still, I can’t imagine that there are no fun partying country people in 2022. Saying that these are the 10 artists that would be the most fun to party with. I don’t have much evidence, but based on what artists put out on the gram. Without further ado, here is the list.

10. Riley Green

Fuck Riley Green and how perfect he is. He’s attractive, has the voice of an angel, hunts, and has amazing flow. Why wouldn’t you want to go out on the town with him? He will get all the ladies coming in flocks, and guys, can we blame them? My man seems like he is always sipping on something. Also, the fact that he’s still single all points to a Riley Green being a fun ass night.

9. Luke Combs

 I don’t know if Luke Combs is rowdy or not. Based on his past teaming up with Upchurch, plus his ability to shotgun a beer, I would have to say he is. On top of this, he has a solid posse around him. His wife is hot as fuck and I’m sure she has friends that are equally as attractive. I imagine that after a good show he can get fucked up and have a good time.

8. The Tim Montana/Michael Ray crew

  A little less known than others, Tim Montana is hilarious. If you follow his Instagram, you would see he is hilarious and I imagine he would be any less fun in person. Scrolling through his page, you see many photos of the long hair wildman rocking Pit Vipers, or kissing another dude because he lost a bet. He might also be sitting in a bathtub playing with toy cars and drinking… a lot. He also has hung out with ZZ Top leadman Billy F. Gibbons, Kid Rock, and Michael Ray.

 Speaking of Michael Ray, I’m not sure when exactly I flipped my opinion on his music, but I’m happy I did. His first album was on the pop side of country music, but his newer stuff is fantastic. He has a little bit of image repair to do because of his early stuff, but I could see him being very popular in the future. These guys combined, along with the legends mentioned above would be an insane night.

7. Ryan Upchurch

 So I will say this with a little caveat. Church isn’t much of a drinker and I’m not much of a smoker, so our particular types of partying might not match up perfectly. Saying that though, I can’t imagine an “on night” of Upchurch wanting to throw down is beatable by much. My man pretty much calls his shot and grinds his way to whatever he wants. I want to be a part of that, whether it’s going down to Broadway in Nashville or having some of the boys over to the house for a wild night in.

6. Justin Moore

  Justin admits that he isn’t the wild partier that he used to be. Still, I can’t imagine that on the right night he doesn’t have it in him. My guy passed out one night after recording his podcast under his desk. He has many times had to apologize for being too drunk. Justin and his tour manager, JR, have often talked about nights after the show being hammered and calling legends like Brantley Gilbert, Tracey Lawrence, and more after a show. I wouldn’t expect to wake up in a ditch on a night out with Justin, but I don’t think their’s anything wrong with that.

5. Dustin Lynch

  Dustin is like Riley Green in terms of he’s a good-looking dude who can sing and all that crap that girls love. In the past, he has had a few smoke showgirls in his life, although he is single at the moment. He seems like a chameleon, and that’s why he ranks so much higher than Riley Green. My man has done it all. He’s partied on a yacht in Marina Del Rey and chainsawed and cut trees down on his farm. That’s the guy I want to chill with, the guy who has been everywhere. I met Dustin Lynch one time. His ability to make a 30-second conversation seem like he finds you interesting is incredible.

4. Buck Commander boys

You might be asking who exactly the Buck Commander boys are. That’s a valid question. Country artists Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tyler Farr, plus baseball players Tombo Martin, Ryan Langerhans, Adam LaRoche, and who could forget Willie Robinson make up the squad. First off, these guys have the highest net worth of anyone on the list. This means the best alcohol, the coolest experience, and the nicest stuff. Saying that I do have a caveat to that. I only have these guys this high if we are at deer camp. That eliminates the huge mansions, the nice cars, and all that shit. It forces these guys to be boys and chill with the boys. On their TV show, I’ve seen them pull crazy pranks like destroy rental cars, and often wake up hungover to get out to the stands. It would be a shit ton of fun.

3. Kid Rock

This man doesn’t need much of a description, does he? He’s Kid Rock. My man has out-partied the number 1 partiers on this list. He also put one of them behind bars unintentionally. Every celebrity ever has a wild story about partying at his house, or him partying somewhere. The rapper gone rocker gone country singer is someone I would expect to wake up cuddled up to like a tiger or some shit like that after partying with for the night.

2. Hank Williams Jr.

 Similar to Kid Rock, I would expect to die after one night with Hank. I would expect to walk up to the man, be handed a bottle of whiskey, and then wake up the next morning not remembering a fucking thing. But man, what a great few minutes of pounding that whiskey it would be.

1. Morgan Wallen/Hardy/Ernest

  So the boys get to number one because this is a combination of people I could actually hang with, plus the fun factor. Morgan Wallen’s parting habits have been well documented over the past few years. To be honest I don’t think he’s changed much since all the backlash, which is perfect. Hardy was arrested for smashing car windows not all that long ago. Ernest is out and about about his drugs and drinking habits. On the Theo Von podcast, “This Past Weekend,” he talked about how he spent most of the time hungover on the couch while the other two wrote “More than my Hometown.”

  I feel like most people would be in the same boat as me that these guys are the “party guys” on the current generation of country stars. Florida Georgia Line were the guys before, but since being wifed up they seem to have calmed down a little. I imagine these guys are fucking reckless, and will likely get you either arrested or very close to it.

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New Music Roundup

           Due to Covid, 2020 pretty much didn’t see any music released. Artists like Hardy still pushed an album out, and other artists like Dustin Lynch released music right before the pandemic that pretty much was just lost. 2021 has been the complete opposite, as everyone seemingly everyone has released new music. Alan Jackson, Chris Young, Clay Walker, Florida Georgia Line are among dozens of artists with new albums this year. The end of 2021 and 2022 will continue to see that trend, with many artists releasing new singles from upcoming albums. With that being said, let’s look at artists that should be releasing music within the next few months.

Brantley Gilbert 

           Sitting on his latest single, “Worst Country Song of All Time,” Brantley, Hardy, and Toby Keith are grinding up the charts as we speak. The single is the first off his upcoming project, and hopefully, we see it by the end of the year. “Fire and Brimstone” will be two years old in October, a good indication that it will be replaced with fresh music very soon. “Brimstone” didn’t reach the level of success of some of Brantley’s past albums, with songs like “Fire’s Up” not making it past the mid-’40s and “Hard Day’s” dying in the high 20’s. It did breed “What Happens in a Small Town” being a number one, but that song won’t go down as a favorite of Brantley Gilbert’s biggest fans. 

           I’m not sure if Brantley will still try for radio success or if he might transition to just making music for his fans. I’d like to see him go back to his rock roots a little more, making music that sounds closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd than George Strait is his bread and butter. I’ll always buy his shit, though, so I’m excited to see what happens with his next album whenever it comes out. 

Cody Johnson

           October 8th is the day! “Human: The Double Album” will finally be released. To date, nine songs from the album have already been released, ranging from classic Cody Johnson jams such as “Til You Can’t” to slower, more meaningful songs like “God Bless the Boy.” It also features the legend Willie Nelson on “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” Like Brantley Gilbert, Cody’s last album “Ain’t Nothin’ to It” came out in 2019 and spawned three singles, with “On My Way to You” reaching the low teens, “Nothin’ on You” and “Dear Rodeo” both dying in the ’40s. 

           Like Brantley Gilbert, Cody Johnson isn’t out there trying to make radio country music. If Gilbert is Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnson is George Strait. He makes very traditional country music, proudly repping his Texas roots and mixing traditional country sounds with modern-day storylines and relatability. I would argue that Johnson is the most underrated artist in modern music. Hopefully, “Human” can be Cody’s huge radio breakthrough, and he can start country music’s renaissance. Still, even if not, it will be a fantastic album that his fans will truly enjoy.   

Cole Swindell

           Cole Swindell, for me, is something of a guilty pleasure. I admit that he is basically just a Jr. version of Luke Bryan, but I just like the guy for some reason. I get excited when he releases new music, and a new album has to be coming soon. “Single Saturday Night” finally topped the charts recently, after about a year and a half. His new single is “Some Habits,” a slow ballet where he talks about how some habits can’t change from being single to being in a relationship. It’s a good song, not my favorite, but it seems like it’s trying to be the opposite of “Break Up in the End.” Two singles recently usually mean that an album is on the way. I’m willing to bet early quarter one of 2022 will be the release of it. 

Dierks Bentley 

           This will be an interesting case; what will Dierks Bentley do with his new album? He basically is on record saying that he released “Gone” to stay relevant in these weird musical times. “Beers On Me” is his current single, featuring Hardy and Breland, and will probably make its way to the top of the charts. What makes this interesting is that I don’t think Dierks cares to release a radio country-friendly album; I think he wants to do another bluegrass album. He released the live album “Live from Telluride,” which features “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which he does as bluegrass. 

           “The Mountain” was released way back in 2018, so Dierks is due for a new album. With his second single climbing, I would expect any day for a preorder to come up. I just hope that he makes the album he wants, not the one that the record label tells him to make. Dierks Bentley has grinded to being one of the top names in country music very quietly. I think Dierks will fade much better than artists like Luke Bryan will; he makes more timeless music that mixes relevancy and reflection of who Dierks really is. 

Hardy

           Hardy is about to change country music. 33 artists, 14 songs, 14 weeks, one album. Mixtape Vol. 2 is here. Almost every artist who is remotely relevant is on this album. Highlighted by Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Dierks Bentley, David Lee Murphy, Jon Pardi, and of course Ernest and Morgan Wallen, this album is going to be fucking insane. Hardy is literally taking over country music right now. My man has fifteen songs on country radio that he wrote, two features with Dierks and Brantley, and his own single climbing. He writes everything for everyone. 

           Hardy has to be on cloud nine right now. He recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Caleigh. He is opening for Jason Aldean on his “Back in the Saddle” tour, and everything he touches turns to gold. I don’t think he’s going to slow down either in 2022, as he will get his second number one with “Give Heaven Some Hell” and hopefully a third with another song off “A Rock.” 

Jason Aldean

           “If I Didn’t Love You” with Carrie Underwood is going to be a smash. Aldean knows that he can pretty much release anything and have it be a number one, but he also knows what his fans want. He usually stays in his lane with a big guitar sound and rocking songs. I would expect more of the same on this next album. The next album will also be his tenth career album, a massive accomplishment for the artist of the decade for the 2010s. I think the artists that came out in the late 2000s are doing something cool and teaming up a little bit more. Aldean, Underwood, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert are all a part of that generation who know they are the cream of the crop and taking advantage as they know their best days are probably behind them. 

Justin Moore

           2021 will go down as a massive year for Justin Moore. He now has ten career number ones as “We Didn’t Have Much” topped the charts. He released “Straight Outta the Country,” an absolute smash record, even if the numbers don’t necessarily back that. He already announced a new single from a new album that will probably drop in 2022 as well. Moore is touring arenas right now all over the country. While I don’t see him jumping up to the level of popularity as Luke Bryan, I think he has a chance to have even longer-term success if he stays in his lane and keeps doing what he’s doing right now. I could see him going down as someone on the same level as Tracy Lawrence, someone who had an excellent career with a few all-time great songs but maybe overshadowed by George Strait and Alan Jackson for most of his career. He just got onto “Mixtape Vol. 2” with Hardy, which speaks to the state of his career right now as well. He can be the “country guy” in a time where pop is ruling the country airwaves. 

Thomas Rhett

           Another guy with a double album on the way, Rhett, released “Country Again (Side A)” was released early in the summer. He hinted that “Side B” will be out before the end of the year, and “Redneck Be Like” has been released as a single. “Side A” was his best album ever, so hopefully, “Side B” is more of the same. “Be Like” is much poppier than anything on the first side, but if you can get over the fact that it isn’t the next great country song, it’s actually fun to listen to. I think “Side B” will produce more great music, and Thomas Rhett might be angling himself to be one of the faces of country music for a long time with Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs. 

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The Best Mullet in Country Music Bracket Results

           First off, thank you all for voting. Round one of this bracket saw something like 50 people vote per poll, and by the end, over 80 people had voted per poll. Listen, 80 isn’t a lot, and I understand that, but it’s a start, and I truly am thankful for everyone who takes time out of their busy day just to vote. With that being said, here is how each round went. Who do you think has the best mullet in country music?

Round 1

Ricky Skaggs 56%  vs. Hardy 44%

Riley Green 81% vs. Justin Moore 19%

Joe Dirt 42% vs. Tracey Lawrence 58%

Joe Diffie 75% vs. Billy Ray Cyrus 25%

Travis Tritt 62% vs. Blake Shelton 38%

Marty Stuart 53% vs. Jade Eagleson 47%

Alan Jackson 92% vs. Theo Von 8%

Ernest 8% vs. Morgan Wallen 92%

Takeaway: I would say that six of them went how I expected out of the eight matchups, and one of them I wasn’t really surprised by. I agreed with and voted for Joe Diffie to beat Billy Ray Cyrus, but I expected Billy Ray to make it more interesting than he did. When I asked people for opinions, Billy Ray and Morgan Wallen were the two most popular names I got. Maybe it’s just a result of my following that people picked the true country singer over the pop-country cross-over, but the 75-25 breakdown shocked me.

Also, shout out to Ernest for voting on the poll. If you noticed, he only got 8% of the votes over his boy Morgan Wallen, but he voted for himself over Morgan Wallen, which he was one of only three to do that. He also voted for Theo Von over Alan Jackson, which might be a homer vote because the two are friends but put him on the wrong end of the two worst votes in the round. Despite that, I appreciate the effort and attention from Ernest.

Round 2

Alan Jackson 70% vs. Riley Green 30%

Morgan Wallen 85% vs. Ricky Skaggs 15%

Joe Diffie 87% vs. Marty Stuart 13%

Travis Tritt 53% vs. Tracey Lawrence 47%

Another round of minimal surprises, in my opinion. Riley Green getting 30% of the vote was a pleasant surprise since I figured Alan Jackson would totally dismantle him. Also, Tracey Lawrence was ahead of Travis Tritt for probably 20 out of the 24 hours possible, but in the end, Tritt was able to take the lead and move on.

Round 3

Morgan Wallen 61% vs Joe Diffie 39%

Travis Tritt 23% vs. Alan Jackson 77%  

      I’m not really surprised by either of these, but I will say that I thought that Joe Diffie would’ve beat Morgan Wallen out. Personally, I voted for Wallen; if we are talking mullet for mullet, he is famous for it and deserves to go rounds due to that. That brings us to an exciting finale, between the biggest name in country music of the 2020s and the biggest artist of the 1990s (in my opinion.)

Round 4

Morgan Wallen 29% vs. Alan Jackson 71%

           Is anyone shocked by this result? I expected it to be a little closer of a result, but overall I would’ve bet money on Alan Jackson winning. That will unfortunately wrap up the end of the mullet bracket. IF you want to read something else like this, HERE is the barfight bracket I did last month. What should be next? DM me suggestions and let’s get this deal rocking!

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