(Editors note: Catch an exclusive performance of Craig Morgan’s “That’s What I Love About Sunday” in CMT.com’s new musical series, Studio 330 Sessions.)
After years of hard work and perseverance, Craig Morgan’s breakthrough came in 2003 with the Top 10 single, “Almost Home.” Topping that, he’s now enjoying a third week at the top of the charts with his first No. 1 single, “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”
In the middle of a hectic schedule promoting his new album, My Kind of Livin’, Morgan fielded questions from CMT.com visitors who were anxious to know more about his music, his distinguished career in the U.S. Army and a well-planned practical joke he once played on a former bandmate.
1. Your song “Almost Home” reminds me of hunting in Northern Wisconsin every single time I hear it. I play it all the time just to remind me of those memories we get to share with friends and family. How much are the songs you sing and write influenced by the outdoors and outdoor activities?
Most every song I write and perform is influenced in some way by not only the outdoors, but by my life. Because so much of my life takes place outdoors, it has that effect.
2. Where were you stationed during your military career?
It’s easier to say where I wasn’t stationed. I was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Panama; Korea and Fort Sill, Okla. I think that’s all.
3. How old were you when you first performed in front of a live audience — and where did that take place?
I was probably 10 years old at the Jingo Jamboree in Tennessee. It doesn’t exist anymore.
4. I noticed that you were once a deputy sheriff in the state of Tennessee. Being that I am a deputy sheriff and have been for 13 years, how hard was it to walk away from law enforcement for a new career in entertainment?
Law enforcement was just a job I had while transitioning from the military into the music. As much as it was just a job, though, it was an occupation I loved, as well. But the transition was not difficult.
5. After all the hard work to get a recording deal, how did you feel the very first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
It was cool. It’s what you strive for. And when it happens, it’s hard to believe that it’s happening.
6. With your song “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” does this mean you are a Christian — or is it just a song?
I am a Christian, but it is just a song. That’s the cool thing about our format. As an artist and a songwriter, my individual beliefs can sometimes occasionally be interpreted through the songs I write and sing. But the great thing about our format is that it can touch you regardless of your personal beliefs.
7. What country singers do you respect and what qualities do they have that make you admire them?
I respect almost all the country singers. This is a difficult occupation. Anybody that’s in this has to do a whole lot, so I have a great deal of respect for all of them. But in particular, individuals like John Conlee and Jim Ed Brown, some of the legends who have stuck with this for a long time and still have great, positive personalities. Those are the people I respect.
8. I know you’re a deer hunter. Have you ever killed a 12-point buck? If not than what’s the highest point you have ever killed?
Yes, I have. I’ve killed a 16-point.
9. Who were some of your musical influences when you were growing up?
Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin, John Conlee, Conway Twitty, Gene Watson, James Taylor, CeCe Winans, Luther Vandross. I could name hundreds of people that I’ve been influenced by.
10. These days, the majority of country acts are trying to appeal to the younger crowds with the way they dress and their pop sound. With all the pressure to cross over, what keeps you on the traditional side of the fence?
I didn’t know I was on the traditional side of the fence, to be honest. I’m attempting to draw the younger crowd as much as anybody. I am who I am, and what you see is what you get. I just hope that what I’m doing musically is attractive to all ages.
11. I am proud of you for serving in the military and what you do with the USO shows. If you could do it all over again, would you have served in the military — or would you have pursued your musical career sooner?
I wouldn’t change a thing about what’s happened in my life, except I think I would have spent a little more time — when I was in the military — working on my musical skills. I wish I had spent as much effort and time on my musical abilities and skills as some of the other artists I know who spent their whole lives doing it. For me, it was always something I did for fun. I just wish I’d given it a little more thought, but I wouldn’t change a thing that has happened.
12. Did anyone ever tell you that you couldn’t make it as a singer? How did you get through that?
My parents were always very supportive of any career I chose to follow. They were very supportive in my music. My dad actually tried to convince me to get out of the military long before I did to pursue the music. There have been times when people said, “You can’t do that.” But I think if you have the skill and the ability to do something, you should do it — if it’s what you want to do. The most important thing is to ensure what whatever it is you’re doing, you’re happy doing it.
13. What are some of the things you’ve had to give up in your career as a musician?
Because of my music career, I’ve had to give up more time with my family and in the woods. I don’t get to spend as much time in the outdoors as I’d like to. With my family, we take advantage of what little time we do have and make it quality time.
14. I appreciate and thank you for you military service. I respect anyone, especially our country singers, who can actually relate to the problems, trials and tribulations of the country’s finest men and women. How do you feel about other country artists who seem to be jumping on the bandwagon are making money on our nation’s current situation?
First of all, I don’t look at any of them as jumping on the bandwagon. If they do, it’s between them and God. I think anytime we can do anything as an entertainer or a celebrity — or whatever you want to call it — to bring a light to the men and women of the armed forces, the reasons they’re doing it is irrelevant just as long as it’s happening.
15. I saw you at Comstock, Neb., last year, and I was just wondering if you happened to remember the storm that suddenly came through the area. What went through your head — and what do you have to do when something like that comes up when you’re on the road?
Of course, I remember it. It was a tornado that came through. What went through my head was getting the hell out of there! (laughs) Actually, I was concerned because there were so many people at this show. We had to leave and go to another town, so we left as the storm was coming in. Clay Walker was there, and I was in contact with Clay the whole time. His show actually got cancelled because the stage was getting picked up by the wind. I was just concerned about all the people. I was wanting to make sure everyone was out of there and able to take cover or whatever.
16. How do you feel about women doing jobs generally associated with men? I am a woman who wants to be a professional carpenter, but I have been constantly shot down by other men telling me I have no chance of doing a real man’s job.
Just like anything else in life, if you have the ability to do it and can perform the functions that are necessary, more power to you. Any man who would stand in the way of a woman doing a job that she’s physically, spiritually, emotionally and personally able to do, then that’s his loss. That’s his ignorance.
17. I was raised on 100 acres in northern California and currently live in a suburb. However, when I hear “Almost Home.” I am home again and 10 years old playing Charlie’s Angels on my little Honda 50 with my sister. What song takes you back to 10 years old?
There’s not just one song. There are a lot of songs that do that for me. A lot of Clint Black songs do that for me.
18. My fiancée is a combat engineer stationed at Camp Dogwood, Iraq. I send letters and packages of supplies, but I don’t feel like I am doing enough to support him. Do you have any suggestions?
There are support groups that help. The main thing is staying focused on the relationship and knowing that what this individual is doing deserves the highest respect. There’s an organization called America Supports You that’s supported by the U.S. Defense Department. You can go to www.americasupportsyou.mil. There are all kinds of different things you can do to help support the individuals.
19. It seems you always make a food reference in your songs. Does this mean you’re handy in the kitchen — or you just love good home cooking?
I just love home cooking. I suck in the kitchen.
20. Besides being immensely talented, you are a very funny guy. What is the most successful practical joke you’ve ever pulled?
In Iraq with my drummer at the time, he was asleep, and it was 4 o’clock in the morning. We opened the door and sprayed a fire extinguisher in the tent. All of us in camouflage BDUs [battle dress uniforms] with chemical masks on came running in there with red lights yelling, “Gas, gas. Get your mask on!” It was a just a joke.