"I'm still waiting for someone to call me and say, 'Hey, you have to go back in the Army. You're not going to have a career in music or TV or anything," Craig Morgan recently revealed during an interview with CMT.com.
In reality, the unpretentious entertainer shouldn't have anything to worry about, though he remains "extremely humbled by every bit of that success."
Since the release of his self-titled album 12 years ago, the singer has garnered 14 Top 10 hits, including "That's What I Love About Sunday," "Redneck Yacht Club" and "Almost Home." Then, in 2008, Morgan was honored by becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. And after more than three years, he's back with brand new music.
Morgan's sixth studio album, This Ole Boy, serves as his first release on Black River Entertainment. Asked how it's different from his previous releases he quips, "It's better."
He continues, "When you do these interviews everybody says that, 'This one's better.' But the reality is we should get better at what we do, and I feel like this is the best project that I have ever done -- and not just by a little bit, by far."
The time since his previous album, 2008's That's Why, seems to have helped him fully prepare for his new project. Morgan co-wrote seven of the 12 tracks and co-produced the album with creative partner Phil O'Donnell.
"Going in the studio as a singer, I feel like I sang better than I ever had because I prepared for this record," he explains. "I took time to make sure I was in good voice where in the past, especially my last record, I would come in off the road, hop off the bus, run in, sing two or three times and then go back out."
Additionally, he feels his songwriting has developed.
"I'm writing better than I've ever written in my life," he says. "I've gotten better and learned a lot over the years in writing."
And the role of producer was one Morgan didn't take lightly.
"As a producer, this time I stayed in the studio," he explains. "No one was allowed to sing, touch a button or play an instrument unless I was there. I just feel like because of that energy that I have for this project, it's the best that I've ever made."
That energy is obvious as Morgan opens up about tracks from the album and the effect they're already having on him.
"I'm not the guy who walks around the house [singing], 'That's what I love about Sunday.' I just don't do it," he says. "I have a song on this record that I wrote that I catch myself -- I'm almost embarrassed by the fact -- that I'll catch myself singing my song."
As he belts out part of the chorus from "Love Loves a Long Night," he admits, "It's just fun to sing. I don't care who you are, it gets in you. And it's not a pure country song, but I think hardcore country listeners are going to love it. But I think people who don't listen to country will enjoy this song. ... It's real infectious."
Another single Morgan is eager about is the tongue-in-cheek track, "Corn Star." Describing it as "one of my favorite songs I've ever been a part of in my life," the singer says, "You hear this song, and you envision these good-looking girls and shorts and tight tank tops with a red mower on it.
"That's the great thing about this song and a lot of songs on this record. I feel like they're conversational. You could talk these songs and get your point across, so to put them to a melody and just come out there, I'm just so excited."
The title track from the album is steadily climbing radio charts, and the video pairs Morgan with well-known actress Angie Harmon. The singer playfully sings to his leading lady, while a cute four-legged friend tries to deter him.
Though Morgan and Harmon didn't actually meet until the day of the video shoot, the two were introduced through a mutual acquaintance and became "email, texting, Twitter friends" prior to the shoot.
"She's not one of these people that has to tell you about all of her movies and all of her successes," Morgan explains. "In her head, in her mind, her successes are her family, and it's a wonderful thing to be around and share that stuff."
The modest approach seems to be a trait Morgan and Harmon have in common. Regarding his television show on the Outdoor Channel, Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors, he still seems surprised by the success.
"I really thought we would do it for a season, and then I would say, 'Thank you,' and move on and start hunting for other people's shows," he admits.
Instead, it's the No. 1 rated Saturday morning hunting show and is going into its third season. The series gives fans a glimpse at Morgan at home, on the road and in the great outdoors as he does everything from hunting and scuba diving to skydiving and dirt bike racing.
As if a new album and a popular television series weren't enough, Morgan keeps busy with plenty of tour dates, his work with the charity Billy's Place and his continuous support of the military.
Having served active duty in the U.S. Army for more than 10 years and an additional nine in the Army Reserves, Morgan has made nine oversees trips to entertain U.S. troops and participates in multiple military support organizations including Jack Daniel's Toast to the Troops and Folds of Honor.
"There's nothing like being able to go out and do those shows," he says. "That may be the most humbling experience that I have because they're so grateful, and the reality is we're grateful to them. That's what we're doing is telling them 'Thank you.'"
That same appreciative attitude is evident as Morgan talks about keeping his career fresh after being active in the country music industry for over a decade.
"I really, really enjoy singing and writing songs and entertaining," he says. "I like being onstage and telling jokes and having fun with the people. My life is that way, so really the stage is just an extension of my life for me, and it's a great opportunity. It's easy for me to stay [energetic] because I know how fortunate I am to be doing this."