Craig Morgan Biography
Last updated: 06/23/2013 01:07:03 AM
"I'm a fan of country music. Just like the guy who has nothing to do with this industry ," says Craig Morgan, "Believe that."
No convincing is necessary. When Morgan talks about country music, he's a human exclamation point. Whether referring to a track from his new album or praising the talents of a fellow songwriter or artist, melody and lyrics seem to burble up from inside and take him over. He bursts into song, obviously reveling in the vocal hitches and twang of an old-time country tune; lovingly crooning a tender ballad or joyfully ka-chunking out the rhythm of a merry toe-tapper. No wonder he calls his album I LOVE IT.
The follow-up to CRAIG MORGAN, his critically praised debut album, I LOVE IT gives Morgan a chance to let it rip. Taking on producing duties alongside friend and frequent co-writer Phil O,Donnell, Morgan had a clear goal in putting together the record. "I wanted this album to be better than the last one, to improve on some things. It's bigger, has more uptempo songs than the last one. Every song on there is from my heart. Whether I wrote it or not, I know it. I can relate to it. I appreciate it."
Seeing the passion he has for music, it's hard to believe that Morgan spent a good part of his life away from it. He grew up just outside Nashville, where his father was in a band that regularly played on Ralph Emery's Pop Goes The Country TV show. As a child, he went along with his dad's band to the Jingo Jamboree, a local Saturday night country music show. "I was six or seven years old. Dad would pull me up on stage to sing "Raindrops Keep Fallin, On My Head." They'd give me a quarter and I thought that was pretty cool," Morgan remembers with a smile.
And while he loved singing, Morgan didn't consider it as a career when he got older. "It wasn't that I didn't appreciate it, but music was every day for me," he says. "There was a time when I said, I don't want to do that. I want to get away from it.," So he enlisted in the army, where he joined the airborne division, became a rappel master and jump master and helped train elite combat units. He participated in Operation Just Cause, the U.S. military operation that removed Panama's Manuel Noriega from power.
Married, with children, Morgan was well into a serious military career. At ten years of service, he was halfway to retirement, and thoroughly enjoyed the work he was doing. But music snuck up on him again. "Singing was something I always did," he says. "Writing songs was something I always did." He used those talents to entertain his fellow soldiers at times, and at some point it hit him that he needed to change direction - that his calling was to make music. Once that realization hit, he had a long discussion with his wife.
"When you make that kind of career change, that's something we had to sit and think about. I was being told that there was a good chance that I'd be a Sergeant Major in the army," Morgan says. "But I have a deep faith in God, and I said, I don't believe that God would lead me this way and lead me to feel this way so strongly about singing if it wasn't something He wanted me to do. And my wife felt the same way."
While finishing out his service, Morgan had four free days a month to come to Nashville and pursue his career. Determined to accomplish that mission, he started attending the local writer's nights in town, waiting until everyone was packing up, then approaching the participating songwriters to introduce himself. Eventually writer Steve Dean took Morgan under his wing - they began writing together. As Morgan's skills became more polished he became a full-time writer.
"I don't think I could be the artist that I am without being a songwriter," Morgan says, and he wrote six of the eleven cuts on I LOVE IT. "The greatest thing is to sit down with a guy like Bill Anderson or Dean Dillon or Steve Dean or Harley Allen and have these guys say you have become a great writer. Because as an artist that's one of the things you struggle with the most - the validity in your writing." He also started singing on demo records, which led to a record contract with Atlantic.
His self-titled debut album brought critical praise, and some chart success with the songs "Something To Write Home About" and "Paradise." Just as his next single was to be released, Atlantic shut down. "When the label closed it was like I was about to walk across a bridge, and I could see a door on the other side that I would walk through to get to the next place in my career," Morgan says. " And the bridge fell out in front of me. Not out from under me. Just in front of me."
Knowing that to get onto another label, he'd have to present them with new music, Morgan got to work, writing and finding the songs for I LOVE IT. He landed at the BBR label (Broken Bow Records), bringing with him a full album of solid country songs. "Almost Home" is a wrenching story of a homeless man, asleep on the street, but finding peace and comfort as he dreams of being back at his childhood home. "Friday Afternoon," another heart-tugging tale, delves into the pain of a divorced father whose ex announces that she is moving to another state with their child. "Money" a lighthearted, swampy bop extols the pleasure of cold, hard cash, while "You Never Know" offers a winking look at the odd turns life can take. "God, Family Country" is his nod to the military he continues to have ties to, regularly entertaining troops wherever they are stationed, including a holiday USO tour of Afghanistan and the Middle East in 2002.
Each song feels immediate and real, whether burrowing into an aching sadness or joking and dancing about less serious matters. They're songs that come from a true country music fan, who wants to elicit one reaction from his listeners.
"I want them to want to hear these songs again and again," Morgan says. "