Ernest on His Friendship With Morgan Wallen + Hardy: ‘We Inspire Each Other So Much’
You'd be hard-pressed to find a tighter band of brothers in country music that Morgan Wallen, Hardy and Ernest — three solo artists who frequently appear on each other's tour lines and album futures, and have worked together on some of the biggest hits in their respective catalogs.
The title track on Ernest's Flower Shops album is a duet with Wallen, for example, and when Wallen drops his upcoming One Thing at a Time album in March, Ernest will return the favor by lending his vocals to a track called "Cowgirls."
Hardy also has a guest spot on One Thing at a Time (with "In the Bible"), and both Ernest and Wallen are frequent flyers in the tracklistings of Hardy's Hixtape duets projects.
"We just inspire each other so much," Ernest tells Taste of Country, pointing out that musically, the three acts all cover different ground.
"Our records are all so different. Especially now, with the Hardy album [The Mockingbird & the Crow, a half country, half rock project]," he says. "I love it, because yeah, if you do take a step back and look at it, it does look like we're the three amigos. But we are so different."
One thing they've got in common, though, is that all three men's careers are rooted in prolific songwriting. Ernest is a writer on all 24 tracks on the deluxe version of Flower Shops. Hardy had a hand in creating every song on The Mockingbird & the Crow, which consists of 17 tracks. Comparatively, Wallen wrote a mere 14 of the 36 songs on One Thing at a Time.
But much like Ernest and Hardy, Wallen counts his songwriting skills as a big part of his rise to fame: Early on, he co-wrote No. 1 hits like Jason Aldean's "You Make it Easy" and Florida Georgia Line's "Up Down" as he launched into an artist career of his own.
Now, the three singer-songwriters are at the forefront of a new movement within country music, which isn't afraid to borrow stylistic cues from other genres, but always keeps sharp, fresh songwriting front and center. It's a formula that works: Songs recorded or written by these three artists are some of the most commonly-played hits on country radio.
"The one thing that is a common theme among us is that we like to write songs. And the songs that we write happen to resonate at this point in time," Ernest sums up. "I'm thankful. I don't know why, but it's happening, so we'll keep writing until that's not the case."
When it comes to genre-blending country, Ernest goes on to say that he's continuously inspired by his friends. "I love, love, love that I can rock out to a Hardy record as hard as I would rock out to — I mean, yeah, it's rock," he says. "... I texted him whenever it came out and said, 'I admire you for being able to push this genre ... you really pull [off] rock and not half-a--ing rock, also not half-a--ing country and not sacrificing the integrity of the song."
Wallen has frequently taken cues from the hip hop genre in his country, and he's hinted that One Thing at a Time will continue in that direction. Ernest — whose Flower Shops is a master class in traditional, solid-gold heartbreak country — says that if he were to put out a dual-genre album like Hardy did, he might lean in the hip hop direction, too.
"If I ever did that, then my back half would be rap," he states. "Straight rap. I would go from the most traditional country to banging-a-- rap songs."