Craig Morgan smiles as he thinks back on his recent concert tour with Carrie Underwood. As the opening act, he had under an hour to perform onstage, and that was hardly enough time to pack in all of his hits like “That’s What I Love About Sundays,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “Little Bit of Life,” “Love Remembers,” International Harvester,” and “Bonfire.”
“I woke up every day laughing,” Morgan remembers. “I can’t believe it. Every night after that show, I’d walk off stage going, ‘man, we’re doing 45 minutes of hits. When did that happen?’ There are songs that are hits that we’re not doing just so that we could break it up a little bit. It was a great mix.”
Since breaking into hit-making status in 2003 with the Top 10 single, “Almost Home,” the former military man has played a variety of venues from small honky tonks to mega-seat arenas. The Play On Tour with Underwood put thousands of people in the seats every night.
“It’s not bad–I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” says Morgan. “Trace (Adkins) and I did that same similar venue for about two or three years together. We played for as much as 80,000 people. So, we’ve been in front of the large crowds. I personally love that size crowd–I love those venues. My favorite is probably a theatre of about 3,000-4,000 people. I love that setting. It seems comfortable, and people are there for one thing and one thing only– to listen to the music. You can goof off and joke around and have fun with the show. It ain’t like a fair festival where the energy needs to be kept up, which I love. I’m a pretty high energy guy, so the venue we played–Carrie and I–was in my opinion, was perfect. It was a lot of fun.”
As much as he loves jamming before the crowds, Morgan also relishes the moments he has with his guitar when the inspirational songwriting juices are bubbling whether he’s solo or working with others.
“I’ve written a lot by myself. But two heads are better than one,” says Morgan. “Three heads are better than two, so on and so forth. You get too many, and it starts getting muddied up. You find out who you write well with. I have a few people that I spend most of my writing time with that I write well with.”
When he was still in school, the Tennessee native tried songwriting, but the maturity wasn’t there yet.
“I started when I was a teenager in high school. I thought I was writing songs, went through college, and again thought I was writing songs. I don’t think it was until I went into the army. I left college and went into the army and left home, that’s when I really started writing I think, ’cause the Lord put me in a position where he made me think.”
Now, songwriting has become second nature to him with his musical muse triggered by the simplest things. “Like everyday stuff. Sometime it’s little stuff. Sometimes it’s things people say or something I see that strike a nerve and sometimes it’s a memory. Sometimes it’s just a hook, something somebody says that I go wow, that’s a good idea for a song.”
Morgan has scored huge success as a co-writer with BMI award-winning songs “Almost Home,” “Love Remembers”, and “I Got You.” So, now the 45-year-old singer/songwriter feels confident with his power behind the pen.
“Finally…it took a long time. But yeah, that’s what I do now. I’m not a soldier full-time anymore. Once you’re a soldier, you’re always a soldier, but as far as making a living, I’m a songwriter and singer.”
For Morgan, he finds the lyric or hook of the song comes easiest for him.
“I have to have both. Both happen at the same time for me, which is why I have to be careful who I write with. Some guys are more lyrically driven. Some guys are more melodically driven, and they have to understand and appreciate that I have to have both. The people that I write with know me well. I’m a real fast writer. I’ll write two or three songs at the same time. We’ll be writing a song and we’ll say something, and it’ll be [the idea for] another song. And I’ll start writing that song. I have ADD, OCD, all that stuff, hyperactive.”
Morgan turned reflective for some of the songs on his latest album, That’s Why-Collector’s Edition, which is available exclusive at Cracker Barrel. It includes two previously unreleased cuts–“Evel Knievel” and “You”–along with “Lookin’ Back With You” that he co-wrote.
“The Cracker Barrel rockers…we don’t long to dye the gray out of our hair.” Morgan sings from one of the verses during the interview. “Yeah, true story. Every line in that story is absolutely true. I wrote it. It’s one of the few songs I’ve ever written for my wife. I’m just at a point in my life where I just feel so blessed, and we’ve been married 22 years. Really, what we have to look forward to now is looking back. We still do a lot of fun stuff, but it’s fun to reflect.”
And as Morgan looks ahead to more hits in his future, he offers these words of advice to aspiring songwriters.
“Make sure it’s something you’re meant to do. Songwriting is not just a skill. I’ve learned that. It’s a talent, just like singing. There are a lot of things that can be learned, but you must first have a skill. And it’s a tough, tough business, and there’s so many people that think that this is what they want to do. They come to town, and they don’t realize how much is required. So, make sure it’s something that you have a gift to do and two, make sure it’s something you really want to do. Then , if those two things are there, then don’t give up.”
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, GACTV.com, Bluegrass Music Profiles and ParentLife. He can be reached at [email protected].He is also on Google+