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Photo by Andrew White Rising country talent Ryan Hurd -- who has penned songs for such names as Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton -- will perform at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on Friday, March 17, as part of Thomas Rhett's Home Team Tour.

HUNTINGTON - Thomas Rhett's Home Team Tour is the country music singer and songwriter's first-ever headlining trip around America.

In the past, after signing a publishing deal with Big Machine Records, Rhett opened up shows on the road for people like Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and others. Known for hit songs like "T-Shirt," "It Goes Like This," "Get Me Some of That" and "Crash and Burn," Rhett has stepped up and brought along other artists for the ride on this tour such as Ryan Hurd, Kelsea Ballerini and Russell Dickerson.

Like Rhett, Ryan Hurd got his start in Nashville as songwriter who moved onto the stage as a singer.

Hurd has written songs for artists such as Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton, including Shelton's No. 1 chart-topping duet with Ashley Monroe, "Lonely Tonight."

As for his own music, Hurd is currently riding high with his song "We Do Us" and is about to release his cut "Love In A Bar" to radio with a new album soon to follow.

Hurd hails from Kalamazoo, Michigan, although he now resides in Nashville, where folks aren't as used to the snow as he is, being from the North.

"The snow is cool, but it does shut Nashville down, man," Hurd said. "It is a little weird because they don't have the snowplows and the salt trucks to take care of it. So, when it does snow, it shuts everything down. I love Kalamazoo. It is halfway in-between Chicago and Detroit, and I grew up on the water. Lake Michigan is real close. To me, it is still a fun place to go back to, and it is still where I call home. I love living in Nashville, but Kalamazoo and the rest of Michigan is still close to my heart. It is a beautiful state and a beautiful place to grow up."

As a younger man, Hurd came up listening to all kinds of music. It was a certain artist, however, that hooked him on the country scene.

"I think my generation was one of the first ones that didn't listen to music based on genre," Hurd said. "I listened to a lot of indie rock 'n' roll and a lot of country music by folks like Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley while I was growing up. My favorite country artist is Willie Nelson, who I just love. But for me, I listened to a little bit of everything. I started to seriously write songs when I got out of college. I signed my first publishing deal in 2012, and it is kind of cool to have that foundation for my artist career. I got a lot of credibility because I had written so many songs for other artists. It at least gave me a talking point for when I talked about my new music."

Hurd initially found it difficult to change over from being known as a songwriter to a singer, who is up onstage, front and center. You can acquire a tag in the music business that can be hard to shed if you are determined to go in your own direction.

"I've been lucky in the last year with the opportunity to change people's minds about who I am and what I do," Hurd said. "I'm really lucky to have a record deal now and have a new album coming out soon and a single on the radio. All of that is stuff that I do not take for granted. We did a lot of touring, and for me it was about getting people to see me in a different light. I let them know that I was committed to being on the road and committed to making records. For a long time, I thought I was just going to be a songwriter. That is all I thought I would ever be. It took a while for people to come around. But, once they did, we are in a really cool spot right now, traveling to radio stations and touring all over the place."

The Thomas Rhett Home Team Tour arrives at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Friday, March 17. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $55, $50 and $25. More information can be found at bigsandyarena.com or 304-695-5990, ext. 3503.

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