“We were working on selecting a single off of the project and then I wrote this song,” Morgan tells Billboard of his tribute to Jerry, who died in a boating accident in 2016. “After I wrote this, I played it for management and some of the people at the label heard it and collectively decided that we should put this song out. So I had to go in real quick and record it and add it to the project.”
The way the country community embraced the poignant ballad of loss was “absolutely mind boggling” for Morgan. He says it’s an important song that people needed to hear. “It is the most painful thing I've ever dealt with in my life,” he says gravely of losing his son. “Now more than ever, we need hope and there is hope and that's what this song is about.”
Calling Billboard from his home outside of Nashville several days after the “Safer at Home” executive order was announced directing residents to stay at home for 14 days for all but essential needs, the grim topic is a point of discussion. Morgan, who spent 17 years serving in the Army and Army Reserves, looks at the situation optimistically and shares why now, more than ever, music is needed.
“My hope is that when people hear this new music, they have hope, they see light,” he says. “All of the things that we've been through [as a nation], we have always come together and came through a better, greater, stronger nation. And I believe this is just another one of those times … By going ahead with this music, people that do want to listen to music, hopefully there's something there that will inspire them, motivate them and give them hope.”
God, Family, Country showcases Morgan’s powerful vocals on standout tracks like “Soldier,” an inspiring Gavin DeGraw cover, and the sweeping “Going Out Like This,” available today (March 27). Morgan says he selected “Soldier” for what the song says, explaining that he can stand behind every lyric of the song.
“It's easy for me to sing because I believe that every lyric in that song is truly reflective of the moral character and the personality of a soldier,” he says. “[It] was ironic hearing it because it felt like it was something that I had written, and knowing that Gavin wrote that song and [he] never served in the capacity of it in the military … it was like a soldier wrote that song. So I was really proud and honored and humbled and grateful to be able to record it, and hopefully more people will hear it and understand the appreciation that we have for our men and women that serve.”
Fittingly, a previous co-write Morgan had with his band leader, Michael Rogers, and active duty Army Airborne Rangers Justin Wright and Andrew Yocovone following a USO event in Washington, D.C. called “Sippin’ On the Simple Life” is also featured on the album.
“I just love that song,” Morgan says of the tune. “To me, it's a modern day version of ‘Redneck Yacht Club.’ It's a fun song. It's on the lighter side to some degree, a little tongue-in-cheek. I love that we can have a song on our record that is fun and light and lighthearted and then have a serious song as well because that's what country is and that's what the country lifestyle is today.”
Another highlight is “Going Out Like This,” which Morgan penned with his bandmates Rogers, Korey Hunt and Sam Banks. He chuckles as he recalls the day he overheard his band writing the song together.
“Three of my guys actually -- my stage manager, my keyboard player and my band leader -- had started this song. They were writing it and I walked in the room one day and I heard them singing it and I'm like, ‘Man, I really like this,’ which was unusual because usually they don't write anything that I like,” he says with a laugh. “Writing is what I really love. It's what I do. And I heard them playing it and I'm like, ‘Man, I really dig this.’ And they said, ‘Well, come join us on it and help us finish it up.’”
Morgan didn’t immediately take their invitation and instead told them to bring him what they had when they were done with the song. He wasn’t completely sold on the last verse, so they worked on tweaking it as well as the chorus before he went into the studio to record it.
“I love it because I feel like it's a really sexy song. In our society, we’re so quick to give up on relationships and we shouldn't,” he says. “We should fight for what we love. Even in those moments where you think you don't love; you shouldn't give up and that's what this song is about.
“As a nation right now, we're fighting and we love our nation, we love our country so we shouldn't give up. We should fight for what we have, and what we know we can get again,” he continues. “As this [song] is about a relationship between two people, it could also be taken in any other context about not giving up.”
God, Family, Country weaves countless emotions throughout its 10 tracks as well as features Morgan’s unyielding optimism and inspiring faith. It’s this uplifting message he hopes to share with the listener.
“My spirit is strong. My faith is the one thing that holds me up on a daily basis. And yet we still hurt. I keep relating it to where we're at and I'm generally not a guy who writes a song about what's going on in the country right now, but the reality is we're in a bad place,” he says, in reference to the coronavirus. “It's hard, but it's not the end and our faith should be so strong that we will overcome the hurt and the pain and heartache and the troubles.”
While Morgan is well aware album promotion is very different today than it was when he started his career 20 years ago, he had no desire to push back his album rollout despite having to move countless shows due to the coronavirus concerns.
“In spite of everything being what it is and as tough as it may be, I feel like as Americans, we have to do everything that we can to maintain some sense of normal life without allowing this to stop us completely from living,” he adds, further explaining his decision to release new music.
“We're not worried about hard product right now. We have moved shows and canceled shows in an attempt to try to pick up when this thing takes off, but I also feel like we have hope and we shouldn't completely stop living. We have to live in and around our circumstances at the moment and these are our circumstances,” he continues. “So we're going to release this record. Also, the fact that most people are home right now, they can download it. They don't have to go get it. So we're hoping they do and enjoy it and that hopefully the music on this record will inspire people to seek hope and have faith and not give up.”
Morgan will take part in a livestream today (March 27), at 4:00 p.m. CT on his Facebook page. The track listing for God, Family, Country is below.
1. “The Father, My Son and The Holy Ghost” (Craig Morgan)*
2. “Soldier” (Gavin DeGraw)*
3. “Going Out Like This” (Craig Morgan, Michael Rogers, Korey Hunt, Sam Banks)*
4. “Whiskey” (Anthony Smith, Sarah Beth Terry)*
5. “Sippin’ On The Simple Life” (Craig Morgan, Michael Rogers, Justin Wright, Andrew
6. “God, Family and Country”** (Craig Morgan, Craig Morris, Lance McDaniel)
7. “That’s What I Love About Sunday”** (Adam Dorsey, Mark Narmore)
8. “My Kind Of Woman”** (Craig Morgan, Phil O’Donnell, Jason Sellers)
9. “Almost Home”** (Craig Morgan, Kerry Kurt Phillips)
10. “Lotta Man (In That Little Boy)”** (Craig Morgan, Phil O’Donnell, Tim Owens)