Craig Morgan accepts his calling to perform “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost,” even when the pain feels too much to bear.
Speaking to CMT Hot 20 Countdown host Cody Alan, Morgan says, “This is where God placed me and now I have an obligation because I don't want to face God and go, ‘You know, I didn't do what you wanted me to do.’ So as much as it hurts, as difficult as it is, I feel like I have a responsibility now. It's a really weird thing and it's an odd balance. I feel like I should be doing it but I don't want to do it. Right now, it hurts. You know, it's a struggle.”
“The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost” was written by Morgan in memory of his oldest son, Jerry Greer, who died in a drowning accident in 2016 at the age of 19. In this interview, Morgan recalls the moment he had the idea for the song, the experience of performing it live, and the closeness he still feels from his son.
Cody Alan: As a dad, my heart broke for you the day I found out about Jerry. I think for so many fans, we wondered, “How are you going to cope with this? What do you do?” So, to hear you put it into song is so moving and so emotional. Thank you for bringing this song to us. Tell me about “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost,” and how it helped you cope?
Craig Morgan: I don't know. I wish I could say that it does help. I think that the true help, as far as coping, comes from seeing what this song is doing for the people. … As tough as it is for me, I know it's that tough and even more so for my wife. So it's really difficult. Even now, if you have a moment of joy for some reason you feel guilty. For a year I couldn’t even hardly kiss my wife and not feel uncomfortable, because that's a joyous moment when you share that with your partner.
You feel guilty, and she would cry, so it was really tough to figure out how to how to maneuver through all these emotions. But one morning, about 3:30 in the morning, I woke up literally singing that chorus in my head and I remember sitting up on the edge of the bed thinking, “I need to write this down or I'll forget it. And it feels like it's important.” …
So I went downstairs, I got a guitar and I started playing a melody that I felt like I heard in my head. I'm not the greatest guitarist in the world but I play enough to write to. So I started writing it. And then four hours later I completely finished the song, word for word, the way you hear it now. And it just happened. And I cried. I mean, I cried so much.
We saw some of those raw emotions when you performed it on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Tell me about that night.
It's tough. That was the first time I performed it on the Opry. It was only the second time that I'd ever performed the song in front of the public. So it's difficult. I would hope that I get better at doing it as I progress, as the song progresses, but I just don't know. I will say, there's days that that it's easier to perform. But it's never easy.
I have found that if I'm well rested I have the ability to control my emotions a little better. If I'm not, it's a lot harder to control my emotions. I'm sure there's some magical technical medical terms. But I do know that about myself. So I try to rest up as much as I can, because I want to perform the song. I want to deliver it. I want people that need to hear it to be able to hear it. …
In fact the other night I didn't do it and I had quite a few messages from people who came to the show to hear that song. There was one lady in particular who had a sign. And when I saw the sign I lost it. I said, “I can't do it.” Because I knew I wouldn't get through the song … but I try as much as I can to respond to people who have lost a child. And I responded to her and told her I apologize.
But what they didn't know, my youngest son was at that show and I didn't want him to hurt any more than he was already hurting. I knew by doing that song it was gonna make it tough on him before he went home that night. So I didn't do it. And I think she respected that and appreciated it. I know she did because she responded to my message to her.
We see how difficult it is for you to perform the song in the music video, which was filmed at Morgan Farms. The setting was really important to you and really special. Why?
That was a special place for my family. That came about after Jerry. I started that business not to make a living off of it, but I knew it was important that my family focused on something together. And so we did that. You see in the video there is a stained glass window of Saint Michael, and Saint Michael was Jerry's saint. His middle name was Michael. So that was an important element in this whole process for us. We depend on our prayer a lot to help us daily to get through this and Saint Michael was an integral part of that because of Jerry and his middle name.
You're the sole writer on the song, but you’ve said God really gave you the song.
I'm hesitant to utilize this analogy because I would never want anyone to think that I'm comparing myself to anyone biblical because I am not that guy. I'm not a Moses or Paul or Peter and in no way do I compare myself to any of them. But what God does do, and he did in all of those situations, he always took an individual that was not supposed to be the person. I've always considered myself a fair songwriter, I'm a fair producer, I'm a fair singer. So God took a mediocre songwriter, mediocre singer, and a mediocre musician and producer and did something miraculous.
If I’d brought in Dean Dillon to write that song for me, everybody would say, “Oh yeah. Dean Dillon,” or Phil O'Donnell. The guys I write with who are great phenomenal writers. There's a “Oh, it makes sense.” So now it's like there's a ‘wow’ factor because it was just me. And God.
Yeah. I think a lot of it came from my transition -- I've recently converted to Catholicism. I started doing a lot of study on our Christianity, our faith, and our son Jerry was going through the RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] program at the Catholic Church. He and my youngest and my wife were going through it at the time.
And before this you were a different religion?
Christian. I've always been Christian. I'm still a Christian. I'm just a Catholic, not a Baptist. I got educated on a lot of history. I think that's where the title came from. Knowing the Trinity and the importance of the Trinity -- the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost are all one and the same. So first I struggled with it, thinking, “I hope my priest won't say that was blasphemy in any way,” but I realized that it's not, because the Father and the Son are one, and the Holy Ghost is part of the Trinity.
But for me, I have God. And the story is so true. When I do have my coffee out at the house and I can see, you know, we have a family cemetery and I have him with me, in my presence. … My son is there with me. He's there. I don't physically get to touch him and hug him like I do my other children, but his heart and his love -- I feel that and that's where that came from. It's a bit of a play on the words, and to justify my son being a part there with me. He is in Heaven. I know that. I'm confident in where he's at and I'll see him again.