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Interview: Craig Morgan Says New Album Is ‘All Really About the Music’

Craig Morgan new album music interview 2016
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Craig Morgan has changed plenty for his upcoming new album: In addition to altering how he writes, how he finds songs and even how he sings, Morgan is also co-producing the record with veteran hitmaker Byron Gallimore; it’s the first time that the two have worked together. But one thing that hasn’t changed since Morgan’s last project, 2013’s The Journey (Livin’ Hits), is his determination to put out the best collection of songs possible.

“This time it was all really about the music. It’s not about me going out and doing stuff to get attention. The music gets the attention, or I hope. That’s the objective,” Morgan tells The Boot. “Because if it’s not — if the music is not relevant — I don’t want to be that guy; I don’t want to be here fighting to make it happen.

“I’ve had a wonderful career. I’m still here 15 years later, and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, but I’m still here,” the singer adds. “Not only that, we’ve had hits. We’re still having hits, and I believe that the biggest hits of my career are on this album.”

In a volatile and always-evolving music industry, it is more important to the Tennessee native to stay true to his roots than to try to compete with what’s currently on the radio.

“I haven’t said this, and I don’t know how to say it, because I wouldn’t want people to think that I quit or give up, because I don’t,” Morgan muses. “But at the same time, I don’t want to be that guy who’s hanging on, trying to make something happen. I wanted it to happen on its own.”

The country star spent more than eight months writing for his new album and listening to songs from other writers before he put together what he believes to be his most cohesive record to date.

“[This album is] positive. A sonic masterpiece,” Morgan maintains. “There’s not one wasted word on this album. Every line in every song is a stand-alone line.

“As a songwriter, that was always, for me, the true test of a great song, when you could read a line and it stood by itself, it made sense,” he continues. “And that’s not always true with a lot of stuff, but this whole album is full of that. It’s very positive, even though some of the subject matter might seem dark or appear to be dark.”

Morgan cites his debut single from the project, “When I’m Gone,” as an illustration of the disc as a whole.

“… You might think, if you just heard [the hook of] “When I’m Gone,” it’s a sad song or a ballad or something like that, but the hook doesn’t dictate the content on this song,” he explains. “A lot of the material on the album is that way: The hook is the subject matter but not the true content. The song is not about being dead, it’s about all the stuff you should be doing before you leave.”

The 51-year-old last hit the charts in 2013, with his Top 20 single “Wake Up Lovin’ You” — and spending those three years off the charts has only inspired Morgan more.

“We have to work a little harder than some of the new guys, because I’ve been around a while, and it’s just the reality. We’re good with that; we understand it, and we accept it,” he acknowledges. “We just need to convince the people who might have doubts as to the longevity of my career, whether or not I’m going to stay with this for five more years.”

As he prepares to release this new album — his seventh studio project — Morgan says that, more than at any other time, he feels optimistic about the direction in which his career is heading.

“There’s a lot of things that have to happen that are beyond our control, beyond my control,” he notes. “But I also am a guy that has a lot of faith, and I believe that there’s a plan for this record that’s bigger than anything that this label and myself and management and radio and everyone else could put together. I believe it. I believe that there’s something going on.

“I feel like I’ve done it better than I’ve ever done. And for the first time, I feel like this was what I was supposed to do,” Morgan adds. “Maybe that’s what it is about this project: For the first time, I settled in the fact — even though I’ve been a member of the Opry for seven years, all the hits, 17 Top 10s and all the accolades — for the first time I felt like this was what I’m supposed to do. I sang, and I hear it and go, ‘Wow. This was good.’”

The title and release date of Morgan’s upcoming record have not yet been announced. “When I’m Gone” is currently available for download on iTunes.

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