"Hard Days" is based on the sentiment that if bad times didn't exist, the good times wouldn't feel so sweet. During the inspirational ballad, Gilbert alludes to how "the downs and scuffs, scars, the ruts" in life make you appreciate all the more "the wins, the ups, the rise aboves."
Gilbert released the song as a standalone single on June 5, 2020 at a time when many were experiencing hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before he shared "Hard Days," Gilbert explained on social media that his wish is for the song will bring some hope and healing during a tumultuous time. "I hope it reminds you that the hard days never last very long," he said. "There's always hope just around the corner."
Gilbert co-wrote the ballad back in 2018 by Brantley, Jimi Bell, Brock Berryhill, Jay Brunswick, and Logan Wall. Dann Huff's production provides a mellower backdrop than Gilbert's usual rock-tinged material.
Gilbert usually insists on having a major role in the songwriting process, but when Berryhill sent him the track, he felt it was something he needed to record. "I don't really like the idea of there being a finished product and then trying to come in on the end of it and write on it," he told American Songwriter
. "Everybody who knows me well knows that's just something I don't do. I don't cut outside stuff, but this was the exception. I heard it, and it was something that stayed in me forever. If I passed it in my inbox, I'd always stop and play it."
When Berryhill sent Gilbert the "Hard Days" demo, it was pretty much done. "What they already had was absolutely amazing," the singer said. "For me, instead of really being in the development phase, I made the story mine and changed some things to where it was in my language, but I didn't really change the narrative or any of that."
"Hard Days" didn't fit the theme of Gilbert's 2019 Fire and Brimstone album, but when the world started locking down because of COVID-19, he knew it was the right time to release the track. "I just felt like people need to hear this song," Gilbert said. "I do believe that everything happens for a reason and this just felt special. It had been written for a long time, and I didn't change anything that we had originally written to fit the narrative. Anything else that we're dealing with right now is really just written about hard days."