Craig Morgan is a man of many hats. At one time or another he’s been a soldier, construction worker, Walmart employee and motorcycle racer. Of course, he’s also the country singer who scored hits with “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club” and “International Harvester,” as well as the songwriter who penned “Almost Home” and “Bonfire.” BMI spoke with Morgan in the days leading up to the February 28 release of This Ole Boy, his latest for Black River Records.
1. Much of your success as an artist comes from songs with an easy going vibe, and your new single “This Ole Boy” has that going on, too. Do you think there’s more room for lighthearted-ness in country music than in other genres?
I don’t know that there’s any more or any less. I think it’s just a part of what we do. You don’t wake up in a great mood every day, so you need those songs that aren’t those happy moments. But we’d like to think we’re a happy society, so the music reflects that.
2. It seems like today there’s this popular myth about country’s founding — how it was meant to be very serious. Why do you think there’s such a debate over traditional vs. contemporary country?
I think it comes in cycles. People make choices. They make the choice to sing and represent themselves and their style, and that’s their choice. For me, my style of music and what I do is about the people that I represent and the person that I am. I’m a country boy. I’m not a redneck, a cowboy or a hillbilly. I’m not a rebel, I’m not an outlaw. Not trying to pretend to be anything that I’m not. I’m just writing and singing music about the lifestyle and the state of mind that I think the majority of our listeners have. I’m the guy next door who’s gonna sing and talk about the things that we live and do every day. I think the music reflects your personality and if it’s not a true representation, eventually the listeners figure it out.
3. What made you choose BMI?
Clay Bradley, if you want the truth. Clay Bradley was there when I first came to town, and I’ll never forget, I sat down to talk to him and I played him a few songs and he said “Man, you’re gonna make it in this business someday.” He said “Go spend some more time writing. Let me hook you up with some great writers,” and I’ll just never forget that. Clay was the guy that took me in.
4. What’s your favorite live music venue?
I love playing the Grand Ole Opry. To me there’s nothing more special than the Opry house, in particular the Ryman. But I don’t go to concerts. The only time I get to listen to other people sing is when I’m on the road with them.
5. You live out in Dickson, Tenn., are there any live music venues out there?
Oh yeah! The Grand Old Hatchery. It’s a little place where I guess back in like 1930 or 40 they raised chickens. It’s since turned into a little music deal. They call it the Grand Old Hatchery. It’s awesome.
6. What’s your favorite song to make out to?
[Laughs] I don’t know man, I don’t listen to music like that. People listen to music while they make out still? Not me buddy. I can’t deal with the interference. It messes up my timing.
7. If you were going to write a song for a movie, what movie would it be?
Believe it or not, and this is gonna sound completely opposite of what people would probably think, but I’d like to write a song for a movie like, oh, what is that dang love story with the guy who went to see his wife everyday and she had lost her memory? ‘The Notebook!’ I would love to write a song for that.
8. There are different kinds of songwriters, how do you like to write?
I’ve usually got a good idea of what I want to write about, and probably 95 to 99 percent of the time I’ve got a hook. And I just run with that. I just spit stuff out. It’s kind of funny, I go through spells. I’ll write three songs in a day or two, and then I won’t write a song for three weeks. So when I feel like writing I try real hard to take advantage of the way I’m feeling right then.
9. Do you remember what it felt like when you had your first taste of success as a songwriter?
Oh yeah. Lord yeah. It was freakin’ insane. I got that $23 check and I thought “I’m on a roll, this is awesome!” It was a Tracy Lawrence cut. 1997. We went to Shoney’s to celebrate [laughs].
10. For new songwriters, what do you think is the most important quality or skill that they could develop?
Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself. And be attentive to those that are here to educate you. Listen to every great writer. You might not even think of them as a great writer but they’re writing and doing it for a living. Take advantage of those opportunities because it takes an education. It’s a learned process. I think there definitely is a skill set that is a blessing. The real prolific and sure-enough-making-a-living songwriters are guys that have a gift. But they’ve taken that gift and enhanced it with education and a lot of that education came through the process of elimination and spending time with others. So take advantage of those relationships whenever you have them and learn from them.