Interview: Whitey Morgan Builds on His Punk Rock Ethos With Co-Writing, ‘Bucket List’ Shows
Whitey Morgan, the leader of Whitey Morgan and the 78's, brings a DIY, self-helmed approach to every project he touches, and the group's latest album, Hard Times and White Lines is no different.
"I've produced every one of my albums," Morgan explained to The Boot during a recent interview. "I don't know any other way than to be 100-percent involved with something from the beginning to the end."
What was different this time around, Morgan goes on to say, was his experiences co-writing for the new project. Collaborating with writers such as Travis Meadows and Ward Davis helped Morgan find a new perspective on his craft, offering the songs more variance and breadth than he might have thought of on his own.
"A lot of times, I write things in the moment," Morgan says. "Things are happening in the present in the song, instead of maybe being more reflective. I feel like a lot of these songs are more reflective ... in the way the lyrics are written and the way the story's told. It's not as much about who I am now as it is about who I was five or six years ago."
Plus, he continues, collaborating with writers he admired lends additional eloquence. "I mean, s--t, I'll be honest, I know on my past albums, the lyrical content is a little elementary," Morgan admits. "A guy like Travis Meadows definitely is a little bit more of a deep thinker. He has a more poetic way of getting his stuff across."
Working with someone who challenged him lyrically pushed Morgan in his own songwriting, too: "It made me re-think the lyrics that I wrote for the record and make them better," he continues.
The release of Hard Times and White Lines meant a packed live schedule for the singer, including an appearance at Cody Jinks' summertime Loud and Heavy Fest. For an artist like Morgan, whose self-driven ethos and outlaw approach means he can't depend on traditional outlets to support his music, the live show is everything -- and Morgan says he prefers it that way.
"I've never needed that, or wanted a song on the radio," he says. "I know it's not in the cards for us, and I'm fine with that. Just because that's the type of music we play, and that's the kind of world I come from and grew up in."
Morgan grew up in Flint, Mich., playing as much punk rock as he did country music. He learned disdain for commercial success early on.
"While I was playing country with my grandpa, I was also playing punk rock with my friends, and we hated the radio," he explains. "Anything that was popular was uncool when I was 15 years old. Even if I like it now, when I was 15, I hated it, because you hate everything when you're 15.
"I did!" he adds with a laugh. "I mean, growing up in Flint, that's what the world looked like."
Morgan may have no interest in in commercial popularity, but there are still plenty of milestones he views as sacred. He checked one such item off his bucket list in August, when he headlined the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
"I've been working toward that goal forever," he comments. "I always told myself that if we ever played that place, I didn't want to open. I wanted to wait until it was our show, to prove that we could play and sell 200 tickets in Nashville, a town that has, for the most part, never done anything for us. I mean, I love that town and I love a lot of people in it, but as far as the business side of things goes, that town doesn't really even know we exist. So to be able to play the Ryman and get that many people in the Ryman, it felt good."
Surrounded by friends, family and fans, Morgan tried to make the evening onstage last as long as possible. "It went by so fast," he recalls. "I tried to take it all in, but it was a short day that I wish would have lasted a little bit longer. It was a great night."