Hardy's country music career is rapidly heating up. On tour with Morgan Wallen, the songwriter-turned-artist says he can see the momentum in his fanbase build every night.

"It's amazing," he tells The Boot. "It's so rewarding now that people are singing "Rednecker" back every night."

Of course, with greater stardom comes greater backlash. With song lyrics that celebrate a small-town, blue-collar lifestyle, Hardy is the target of the same kinds of comments that also affect his tour boss. The two singers both sport mullets and down-home accents that catch them their fair share of redneck flak.

"You just have to laugh about it. You can't even consider letting that person get to you," Hardy says, cracking a grin. "I'm guilty of reading comments, because you never know when you'll find something that's just really touching. But, yeah, you have to take [the negative criticism] with a grain of salt, because that stuff'll drive you crazy."

Fortunately, Hardy has a friend in Wallen, who knows firsthand what it's like to come under social media fire for being a redneck. The pair have similar tastes in music, too -- and the artists they like to listen to the most aren't necessarily what listeners might expect.

"We actually have very similar taste. I know his favorite band is the War on Drugs," Hardy continues, adding that, especially for artists whose job is to make country music all day, every day, other genres can be a welcome break. "Obviously the classic stuff, but not every artist continues to listen to country music. They wouldn't in their spare time, because it's your job. On your own time, you try to find new music."

As for Hardy, he grew up listening to rock more than anything else. "Well, and Waylon Jennings, and John Prine," he adds, citing two more artists that country fans might not necessarily associate with his music.

In fact, the singer is a bona fide Prine fan, with the bumper stickers all over the back of his truck to prove it. Hardy's had plenty of experience meeting famous country stars, and has worked closely with artists such as Florida Georgia Line, but it was Prine who left him starstruck when he unexpectedly saw the legendary singer-songwriter after a writing session.

"I came downstairs to leave, and he was in there, and I was like, 'Holy s--t!'" Hardy recalls. "I guess it was his publicist or manager, and two other people, standing there talking to him. I was like, 'I don't know if I'll ever see him again. I have to say something.' And so I awkwardly just stood there."

Eventually, Prine and the group of people he was talking to took notice. "Literally, they were looking at me, and finally I was just like, 'Dude, I'm a huge fan.' My old truck had Prine stickers all over the back, and so I pointed and was like, 'That's my truck right there.' He was like, 'Oh, that's cool!'"

Although the Americana giant may not seem like a natural influence for Hardy, he points out that songwriting is his bread and butter, and in the world of songwriting, no one looms larger than Prine. Hardy may write in a different style, and about different subject matter, but at its foundation, the craft is the same.

"I just love the lyric, you know?" Hardy adds with a shrug. "I guess it comes from that."

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