It sure feels good to be around people like William Michael Morgan — the kind of rowdy folks he sings about in Vinyl’s opening barn burner “People Like Me.”
They’re the kind of party people who love God and country, live hard, love fast and who tell it like it is because they lack a filter in between their brain their mouth.
As for Morgan, the 23-year-old, Vicksburg, Mississippi, native could disarm anyone with a smile and a “Hey, baby. How’s it going?”
That was his greeting when he walked into the room for our CMT.com interview to talk about the music on his striking debut album. Including the title track, “Spend It All On You” and “Cheap Cologne,” the collection offers a mix of groovy love songs in the vein of classic Kenny Rogers with blue collar anthems “Beer Drinker” and “Something to Drink About,” as well as weepers, “I Know Who He Is” and “Lonesomeville.”
Sam Hunt co-wrote Morgan’s breakout hit, “I Met A Girl,” with hitmakers Trevor Rosen and Shane McAnally for 2013’s Between the Pines and the original is definitely a far cry from the Vinyl version.
But no matter who sings it, the song is full of poetic imagery starting with the opening lines, “She don’t laugh at everything, but when she does the planets swing around her/She don’t step on sidewalk seams, her teenage boyfriends all still dream about her.”
Who wouldn’t want thousands of fans singing those lyrics back to them live?
Morgan says his favorite lyrics in the song at the moment are “she’s a ponytail, no-makeup Saturday.”
“That’s when I feel a girl is most beautiful,” he says. “When they’re just sitting around the house in no makeup, I feel like that’s the most beautiful as they’re going to get.”
CMT.com: Talk about the significance of naming the collection Vinyl.
Morgan: Well, it’s just my favorite song because of what it says. I feel like it’s got that instant classic love song feel. Vinyl has been around forever and I feel like as strong as vinyl is and as long as it’s lasted, I feel like the love that we share is going to last as long. I feel like it’s a good message to get out there.
What’s your vinyl collection like?
Well, my favorite would have to be the Willie Nelson Stardust album. There’s nothing like it.
Many media outlets are quick to compare you to country legends. What do you think about your timing in music?
I feel like we’re coming in at a pretty dang good time. I feel like the fans and radio too are ready for a more traditional sound. I don’t want to be labeled as “this” or “that.” I just want to do good music. I just want to play the music that I love and that inspires me and incorporate all those influences like George Jones, Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley but be myself.
I think George Strait was the best at that. He’s the King of Country for a reason. He always picked great songs. That’s what we kind of want to model ourselves off of.
I imagine a lot of songwriters and hitmakers would be arm wrestling to get you to sing their songs. When did your voice change?
We all go through that change, baby.
It seems like you were born with it.
The good Lord gave it to me and a good support system followed it up. But gosh, I was a late bloomer, I guess I was about 15 or 16 — something like that.
Which songs did you write for the album?
I wrote “Lonesomeville” and “Something to Drink About.” We took a great deal of time picking these songs and we put our heart and our soul into finding them, and writing them because we just wanted to pick the best songs that we could pick. You only get one first impression. You only get one first album. I want to make it the best that we can make it.
What stories do you like to tell in music?
Well I like to write about real stuff. I like to write about love, heartache and everything in between. I feel like whatever is going on in my life is going to be written — not necessarily to a T — but if I’m happy during that moment, I feel like I’m going to write more of a happy song.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them what you wanted to do for a living?
I honestly would not be here without my parents. Once they saw that this was my dream and what I really wanted to do, it didn’t really take too much convincing after that. They really supported me. When I didn’t have a license, they drove me around to sneak me into bars and honky-tonks to play back in Mississippi. You just hold your chest up high and act 21. Stand up tall.
As your career goes on, what about you personally do you hope never changes?
The way I’m treated by the people I love most. The public can think how they want. But I always want to stay true to me. I always want to stay true to my friends. I always want to be able to be that guy, no matter how much success do have or don’t have, I want to be able to still call up my buddies and say, “Hey, let’s have a couple cold beers and chill out by the lake or the pool,” or whatever the case may be. I always want to be that guy still.
You mentioned George Strait earlier. He is the King of Country Music. Jim Lauderdale is the King of Broken Hearts. Wanda Jackson is the Queen of Rockabilly. What do you hope you’re the king of?
I just hope I can be a prince. I’m not thinking about the King. I’m just thinking about the prince right now. One step at a time.
Morgan is in Las Vegas this weekend for shows at the the Route 91 Harvest Festival and the Las Vegas Village. Vinyl is available now.