Why Whitey Morgan Favors the 'Slow Uphill Climb' for His Career

Michael Mesfoto
Whitey Morgan

Hard Times and White Lines, the latest album from Whitey Morgan & The 78’s, represents somewhat of a creative shift for the highly-respected singer-songwriter. For the first time, Morgan tried his hand at co-writing. He tells Billboard that working with others was a little different, but it was something that he liked.

“I think it helped me not procrastinate as much. I found myself sitting on a handful of songs I had half way done, and with me being on the road and stuff, it became difficult.” Morgan also stresses that life got in the way. “I got a two and a half year old boy now and I spend a lot of time at home. So, I decided to see if some people could help me finish up some songs. I’m proud of the way it turned out. It got me motivated, as the songs came along pretty quick after I sent them out.”

Once again self-produced by Morgan, Hard Times and White Lines was recorded in the Neve Room at famed Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Texas, which he said provided a laid-back atmosphere for recording.

“Where we record it in Texas, it is so close to Mexico. It's right on the border -- literally the property butts up against the border. To me it's more like Mexico, a little tiny town. It's mostly Mexicans that live in this town that the studio is in. The biggest thing about that place is the solitude. You can actually concentrate and get things done as opposed to a studio in Nashville or L.A. or somewhere else where you can have so many distractions. Out there, it's so laid-back and the staff there is really cool. They make your dinners. They do your laundry. You spend some time there. You live there for a decent length of time so it's definitely a different vibe than most other places. It's like no other studio I've ever been in, for sure.”

Morgan feels that the new disc will definitely fall in line with what his fans expect from him. He tries to make sure he offers them no less than that.

“My audience is a bunch of guys like me out there for the most part and their wives that they drug to the show. We're starting to cross over a little bit and we've got some female fans but for the most part it's just guys like me that like good music. Maybe they like to have a good time and do a bit of drinkin' on their night off. They work hard -- I think they recognize that in me and the guys in the band. I think we’re like them in a lot of ways. We like to let off some steam on stage every night and they like to come and be a part of that with us.”

Some call Morgan’s music Outlaw…some call it Americana. He would prefer to leave the labels alone. “I think that labeling stuff is an easy way for people to group it in. Oh, you're over there on this side. You're over there on this side, but I think nowadays everybody is so spread out and more open minded, from the fans to the artists,” he notes, recognizing that his fans’ iPads have multiple genres represented. At the end of the day, he says he just tries to do what comes naturally.

“That was one thing I was worried about with this record was are people going to tell me that I'm just making the same record over and over again? If I change it too much, they'll bitch about me trying to reinvent myself, you know what I mean? You can't win. You just can't win with critics and whoever these days. I just do what I do and if people are still buying it, if it's still making a slow uphill climb like I've been doing forever, I'm happy with that. I'd damn sure rather be slowly going uphill than sitting in a rut or going downhill.”

One aspect of the business that Morgan feels is on an upswing is the reception that other artists are getting with a rootsy sound such as his.

“I think actually things have gotten better lately. My fans definitely have gotten to hear a lot more real - not just real country music - but real music in general. I feel like it's a lot better than it was when I first started hitting the road fifteen years ago; there wasn't a lot of guys doing this style. Now you've got guys like Cody Jinks and obviously, on the more mainstream scale, guys like Sturgill and Chris Stapleton. Whether it leans towards rock n' roll more or towards whatever, it seems to be more real. It’s guys playing their own guitars and singing their own songs and stuff like that. I think that’s a good thing.”

With the album out, Morgan and company are promoting it the only way they know – by taking the music to the people. “I'm looking forward to playing all the new stuff we rehearsed before this last tour. We got five of the ten songs on this record worked up and the new energy on stage is great. I can't wait to add more and more songs to the set and take it to the audience and see what they think about it. We're getting a lot of really good feedback in these first five days that it's been on sale. The consensus is it's better than the last record so that's all I can ask for. That's a feat in itself for an artist to be able to one up himself, especially when I'm 42 years old. I’ll take that!”

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s Tour Dates

November 2—Grand Rapids, MI—The Intersection

November 3—Detroit, MI—The Fillmore

November 7—Cleveland, OH—Beachland Ballroom

November 8—Indianapolis, IN—The Vogue

November 9—Des Moines, IA—Wooly’s

November 10—Springfield, MO—The Complex

November 14—Wichita, KS—WAVE

November 15—Colorado Springs, CO—The Black Sheep

November 16—Grand Junction, CO—Mesa Theater

November 17—Greeley, CO—Moxi Theatre

November 29—West Hollywood, CA—The Troubadour   

November 30—San Francisco, CA—Great American Music Hall

December 1—Chico, CA—The Senator Theatre

December 2—Petaluma, CA—Mystic Theatre

December 6—Seattle, WA—Neumos

December 7—Eugene, OR—HiFi Music Hall

December 8—Bend, OR—Midtown Ballroom

April 28—Indio, CA—Stagecoach Festival