After a career of writing hits for Brett Eldredge, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and more, Heather Morgan is ready to plant her flag as an artist in her own right.
The singer and BMI 2015 Songwriter of the Year will release her debut album, Borrowed Heart — whose “Your Hurricane” premieres exclusively below — on Oct. 5. Produced by Paul Moak and featuring co-writes with Lori McKenna, Trent Dabbs, frequent collaborator Ross Copperman and others, the 12-song set allows Morgan to deliver a different, more personal kind of song than she’d usually compose for somebody else.
“I kind of took the long way home to get back to it,” Morgan, a Texas native who moved to Nashville after graduating from Texas Christian University, tells Billboard. “I’ve always in the back of my head had this idea that if I could get to a place where I could have the resources to be able to do it on my own, and the songs, that would be the time to do it.” And having those right songs was crucial, she adds.
“I had to have the songs that felt like my soul and my artistry,” Morgan explains, noting that producer Moak, who she met during the fall of 2015 at his Smoak Stack studio in Nashville, was key to bringing her to that point. “We were set up on a regular writing session,” she recalls, “but when we started working on something and I said, ‘Wait a minute — this is a different writing than my everyday writing. This is what I do by myself, but now I’m bringing it to somebody, and it sounds like it always sounds like in my head. I think I want to share this.'”
Borrowed Heart really kicked into gear, however, after the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards. Recovering from heartbreak, Morgan made an impromptu decision to head from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree, stopping to visit Jason Mraz near San Diego to borrow a guitar. She wound up writing five songs in the desert, including “Your Hurricane.”
“I had been in a relationship where I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Morgan says. “I had just traveled in Europe and was in all these gorgeous places, drinking wine with my friends, and I was just so frustrated that (the relationship) was still there and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The only thing I could think about was, ‘I’ve got to write this song. I’ve got to write it out of my system.’ So I did, and I’m not in that place anymore but (the song) reminds me of how painful it was, and how good it felt to be in Joshua Tree. When I finished it I knew I’d really gotten the emotion of what I was feeling. I’d play it for people and I had one grown man cry when he heard it, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that’s pretty special…'”
Morgan plans to continue to write for others; She has a hit right now with “Love Someone” for Eldredge and a track called “Stranger to Myself” on Bentley’s new album, The Mountain, among others. But she plans to shift her artist career into high gear, including live dates in the fall to promote Borrowed Heart.
“Paul (Moak) asked me before I did the project, ‘Why now? Why do you want to do this at this time in your life?'” Morgan says. “I’ve really checked a lot of boxes with songwriting; I’ve done some amazing things I never dreamed would happen — and still have a lot to go. But I felt like I’ve found my voice. Hearing my own singing voice do these songs is different. They’re more connected with how I feel. I feel a confidence I’ve never experienced before, and I want to follow that, wherever it takes me.”