By Pepper

Ryan Hurd is hard at work at his forthcoming album, including his official debut single, “Love in a Bar,” and he says that already he sees a pattern to the songs he wants to include on the project. “All the songs point to a new relationship and all the stages of that,” he reveals exclusively to PEOPLE Country. “I put a lot of thought into the whole album. I’m not just looking for hits. It really is a lot more than that.”

And who might the inspiration be? It seems that his girlfriend Maren Morris has had a lot to do with it. “[‘Love In a Bar’] is very much an autobiographical song about my relationship with Maren,” Ryan confesses. “I met Maren writing songs, and I met her when I was starting to have success. We wrote ‘Last Turn Home,’ that Tim McGraw recorded, and we would write, and then after we’d go over to a bar in midtown and have a couple beers. That’s when we started making a real connection, beyond a creative partnership.

“The imagery in ‘Love In a Bar’ — the cigarettes and a Corona — those are vivid pictures in my head and I’m giving the listener a version of that in their head,” he continues. “It’s such an expression sonically. That’s who I was at 28 years old and that’s the thing my heart was chasing and the thing my music was gravitating toward.”

The couple celebrated their one-year anniversary in December, and their professional connection has only increased their personal one. “There’s really nothing that can replace someone who knows what you’re going through,” Ryan shares. “It’s another thing to be supportive and know why this is difficult and what it means to make an album and put your whole self into it.

“We have really difficult calendars, and if one of us wasn’t supportive, it would be really easy to give up on that… This is a hard thing to do, and it’s not glamorous. Every time I want to quit, she tells me how close I am. She does my career with me and I do mine with her. In chasing my career, I feel like it’s part hers.”

Ryan will open for Maren on the last leg of her “Hero” Tour in Europe, and he supports her decision to continue with the show, despite the recent tragedy in Manchester. “We talked after it happened, all day, about why and there’s definitely an aspect of fear; it makes you nervous to go to the source of that,” Ryan says. “There’s a lot of adrenaline though, and we can go be one more Band-Aid in a way. We’ll give them one more night that is special and hopefully cathartic for them and victorious over that tragedy.

“It’s exciting to get to go over there and there’s another layer now to why it’s special. We’re both committed to going and excited about sharing that time with [the people of England]. It’s more than a show now. It’s a night where they continue to get comfortable going to shows again and can sing without fear.”


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