Topping the iTunes all-genre chart with his new song “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost” is a bittersweet experience for country veteran Craig Morgan. The poignant ballad chronicles his emotions in the wake of losing his 19-year-old son Jerry in a 2016 boating accident.
“It’s a song that creates emotions and for me, it was a way to kind of heal. It wasn’t really me. It was a God thing because I didn’t want to write a song,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville in a candid conversation. “I don’t want to be the poster child for this, but I feel like God had a plan and he’s doing it whether I want to or not. I might as well try to get involved where he’s working, so when the time comes he doesn’t say, ‘You ignored me.’ I want him to say, ‘Job well done.’”
Morgan says the song came to him at 3:30 in the morning and he immediately got up to write it down so he wouldn’t forget. “I said, ‘God is telling me something and I need to listen,’ so I got up, went downstairs about 3:30 and I started writing it,” he recalls. “I literally just worked out the melody in my head for the chorus and started working the melody for the verses. Four hours later the song was completely finished the way you hear it.”
At first he didn’t quite know what to do with it. “I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t play this for [my wife] Karen because I don’t want to upset her,” he says quietly. “Our days are already difficult, so I played it for some fans, played it for my daughter and they all and cried, and then I finally played it for Karen. It just hurts. It’s not good or bad. It’s not one of those things where Karen loves the song. It is what it is.”
In the lyric Morgan openly talks about the pain of losing his son and how his faith brings him comfort because he knows his son isn’t really gone and he will see him again in heaven. It’s a sentiment that is striking a chord with a multitude of people, including Blake Shelton and Ellen DeGeneres who have been championing the song on social media and helping drive it up the iTunes chart.
Morgan is thankful for the love and support, and is glad the song is reaching people, but he admits it’s a hard song to sing. When he shot the video, he says they had to take frequent breaks to re-apply his make for the camera because he kept breaking down in tears. “It’s difficult every time I sing it,” he says. “I’m doing better at getting through it because I really want to deliver it. I want people to hear the lyric and understand it, so I force myself to tough through the emotions. It’s so draining. An emotional song like that requires so much energy to maintain your composure that by the time I’m done with the show, I’m just whupped.”
Morgan debuted the song at the Grand Ole Opry and found Ricky Skaggs waiting in the wings to encourage him afterward. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sing that song again,’” Morgan admits. “Ricky put his hands on my shoulder and grabbed me and had big ole tears in his eyes and he said, ‘You have to sing that song. You have to sing it every chance you get. People need to hear that,’ and it just hammered me. I walked away thinking, ‘I don’t want to, but God would not have written this through me. He wouldn’t have done all the things he did if he didn’t want me to do something with it.’ So I’m just trying to encourage people.”
The song has prompted other people to share their stories. “I get a lot of messages, emails and Facebook stories where people talk about where they have lost a child,” he says. “They kind of had given up on their faith and this song ignited their desire to be faithful again, and if that’s all that becomes of it, that’s what is supposed to become of it. I’m just kind of riding the ride that God allows.”
Though Morgan is back on the road doing concerts and is working on an album he plans to have out before the end of the year, life is not back to being business as usual. “I don’t sleep a lot and I pray a lot,” he shares. “I take breaks every now and then. If I have three or four days off, my wife and I go somewhere and then I go back out [on tour] and she comes back home. Karen’s faith is stronger than mine. She is a theology major so religion is her world. She understands it and can grasp it. Her faith is strong and it’s made her a rock solid individual for this family, but it still hurts. Every day something happens and it’s just an emotional experience, but it’s our life and we just deal with it.”
Morgan says his faith is getting him through this heartbreaking chapter in his life, and he gives God all the credit. “I don’t want any acknowledgement or recognition for this. I want God to be glorified,” he says of the attention “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost” is getting. “I want people to know that it’s through him—it’s because of my belief and faith in him—that I have my strength, my will and desire to keep moving and hopefully to encourage other people because without that I would be nothing but dark. As it is, I have dark moments and I’m grateful for the light of Christ to get me through those dark moments.”