There may be a worldwide pandemic going on but Craig Morgan is staying busy. The morning Sounds Like Nashville talked to the singer, he was dressed up in a mask and gloves, looking for tomato plants for his father.
“I didn’t want him to get out so I came out to find the tomato plants he wanted,” Morgan explains.
The fact that he was out and about in the small town of Dickson, Tennessee, where he and his family live, is basic to Morgan’s upcoming album, God, Family, Country, which includes a number of songs with the theme of living the simple life and being there when someone needs you.
“It’s more important to help each other at any time, but especially now,” Morgan proclaims. “We have to be able to work together and do what we’re been asked to do as much as we can in order to get past it. No doubt when we get past all this (COVID-19 and its associated problems) we will be a stronger nation than we’ve ever been.”
It’s not unusual for the theme of loving your country, your family and your God to be among Morgan’s songs. “I think it’s always been inherent in me, but obviously as I get older it is even more so,” Morgan says.
The album, released on Friday (5/22) via Broken Bow Records, includes five new songs and four of his previous hits. His most recent sensation, “”The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost, ” which was written after his son Jerry died in a tubing accident in July of 2016, is one of the new ones. Among the iconic songs are “That’s What I Love About Sundays” and “Almost Home.”
One of the reasons Morgan chose to include the older hits on this album is he feels there are country fans now who may never have heard his older material. “I appreciate that there are a lot of people joining our format and I think they should hear staples of our format along with the new stuff,” Morgan explains. “This way they will get to hear my new songs as well as hear stuff that established me as an artist. I’m seeing people who don’t really know who Craig Morgan is put it together when they hear me sing the older material.”
One of the most touching songs of the year, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” wasn’t written to be heard by Morgan’s fans. He thought he would just play it for his family, but all that changed after he played it for his band, who insisted that he needed to start playing it live.
The first time he played it was at a show in Colorado, the second time was an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He was crying when he left the stage that night and felt sure he could never sing the song to an audience again.
“Ricky Skaggs was standing by the side of the stage when I came off and he put his hands on my shoulders and he said to me, ‘You have to sing that song. The world needs to hear it’.”
Morgan took those words of encouragement to heart and he did continue performing it, even though he says it is still very difficult to sing.
“It takes every bit of energy to perform that song and attempt to maintain my composure. I do it because I appreciate the impact that song has had in other people’s life. Especially when they have lost a child, they say it gives them hope. When I get to heaven, I don’t want God to say ‘You should have sang that song’.”
Morgan says when people hear the song on his album, they will know how hard it was for him to record. “There are no audio tricks in there, that’s real emotion and it happens all the time. We don’t hide it. People who have heard the album won’t be shocked or surprised when they see us do it live. I try to record music the same way that I’m going to do it on the road. Fans want to hear the song in our live shows the same way it was on the record and that’s what we should be doing. It’s not a dark song — it is very inspiring, but it is difficult to sing.”
Morgan is just finishing the lyric video to his new song, “Soldier,” first made popular by Gavin DeGraw. He has asked folks to submit a photo of their hero, whether it be medical, military or frontline worker, and a short description of why they are a hero, for a chance to have them included in the video. The song is basically about being there for someone when they need you, a theme that is often heard in Morgan’s music. He says it has special meaning for him because he was a soldier for ten-and-a-half years and continues to support the military as much as he can.
To that end, Morgan is involved with Operation Finally Home, an organization that builds homes for veterans. “In my opinion they do it better because they involved the community and that is so important,” Morgan explains why he supports them. “It is one thing to build a home and another to build a home that makes a soldier a part of that community. Builders, electricians and others donate time, effort and material to build these homes which makes it so much more of a community effort.”
And speaking of soldiers, Morgan made two soldiers very happy when he wrote “Sippin’ on The Simple Life” with active duty Army Airborne Rangers Justin Wright and Andrew Yocovone. Morgan also brought songwriter Michael Rogers in on the song.
When asked how he came to write the song with the Rangers, Morgan explained. “They are aspiring writers. We were in DC for a USO event and they were there. They were contemplating leaving the military and starting a duo but they didn’t, which was a wise choice based on what’s going on right now. They told me they wanted to write a song with me, and we sat down that night and wrote the song.
“I took the time to write with them because they were fellow soldiers. When it came time for the record, I realized we had written a good song. When I called them to tell them I was going to record it, they were super excited, just over the top. One of them is stationed in Germany, the other at Fort Campbell (on the Kentucky/Tennessee border).”
Morgan is coming up on his 12th year as a Grand Ole Opry member. He recently performed with Luke Combs in one of the Opry shows that had no audience.
“It’s brand new every time you play on that stage,” Morgan says, even though he admits it was a little strange to play without an audience. “It’s crazy that is has been almost 12 years … every time I go there it’s brand new. And it’s amazing and I’m humbled beyond words to be a part of that. Being considered being a part of that elite group of people, only 200 members and only 70 or so living members, I don’t know what else you can do beyond that.”
Fans will be happy to know that The Gallery at Morgan Farms, a family-owned and operated farm-to-home business in Morgan’s hometown of Dickson, TN, has reopened on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The store features a variety of artisan items handmade by Craig and his family from reclaimed, re-purposed and recycled materials. Items handmade by Craig include one-of-a-kind hand-carved wooden table centerpieces, bowls, spoons, cheese trays, bread boards, serving trays, candle holders and more.
Despite all that is going on around him, it is a great time for Morgan. Even though he is not able to go on tour, Morgan will reach his fans with the new album, God, Family, Country.
“I never really set out with a theme in mind, I just try to record and write great material that I think fans will like and at the end we go ‘Look what God did.’ I just try to write and sing great songs and in the end it all comes together.”