As always, the New Faces Show will bring the Country Radio Seminar to an end this Friday night (February 24). All this week, we will take a look at the five acts that have been voted onto the show by their peers in Country Radio. One name on the bill that admits he’s had to pinch himself since hearing of his inclusion onto the show is Warner Brothers recording artist William Michael Morgan. “It’s still kind of sinking in, really,” he confesses to Billboard.
“I found out not too long ago — I think right before the break. I was on the bus with my manager. I remember them telling me, and just thinking ‘Holy Cow.’ We started jumping up and down, and I remember saying ‘Let’s just give it one second. Let’s call Warner Brothers and make 100 percent sure before we get too excited about it. This is a big deal for the industry to vote five people out of 2016 as the top new artists. That’s a blessing, man. There’s so many great artists out there, so to be in that group is a huge honor.”
The 23-year old Mississippi native hit the charts for the first time in late 2015 with “I Met A Girl,” which climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Country Airplay chart last year. He says he’s grateful for the airplay, but most important to him are the relationships he’s made along the way. “We’ve made a lot of friends out at radio. I think that’s what it’s all about. There’s people that I talk to if not everyday, then every other day. We didn’t go out there in hopes of just making business relationships, we went out there in hopes of making friends and family. That’s what I’ve always wanted to get across.”
Morgan says that there are a couple of programmers that he feels played an integral part in the song’s success. “There’s a lot of people that have been there since the beginning, and have been influential in my career. Johnny Chiang (KKBQ) in Houston, and Mr. Bob (WOGK) down in Ocala, people like that stepped out in front,” he says. “They really believed in me, and gave me a shot when nobody else had ever heard of me yet. One of the best memories that I still have is of me and Brandon O’Brien in Norfolk, Virginia at WUSH.”
As Morgan recalls, he and O’Brien met on board a renter van — Morgan still didn’t have an official bus at the time — when O’Brien quickly found out his new pal was a huge Michael Jackson fan. “Before I know it, we’re karaoke-ing, singing at the top of our lungs and going back and forth to ‘The Girl Is Mine.’ I got to be Paul McCartney that night. I’ll always remember that.”
Making the radio tour rounds offered a lot of same cuisine at his in-station visits, but he’s not complaining at all. “Doughnuts and pizza are the go-to, maybe a bagel sometimes, that can be a little bit of a change-up. That’s never hurt my feelings in the slightest way. I love doughnuts and pizza. Who doesn’t?’ he jokes.
Morgan is thankful for the exposure given to him by Country Radio that has allowed him to live out his dreams — such as having audiences sing his songs back to him. “That’s an experience like none other. 2016 was really a great year for us. I can’t even put into words how that feels,” he gushes. “You start off in these barrooms, singing these songs, and you’re just trying to get your voice heard over the hustle and bustle of the bar. Then, a year later, people are coming to the show to see you singing your songs at the top of their lungs – not only ‘I Met A Girl,’ but other songs off of the album. That means so much to me. You put so much work into your project. I think that shows me that we’re not wasting time. We’re actually doing something that has taken a hold of them.” Radio continues to take hold of Morgan, with his second single, “Missing,” currently charting at No. 48 on the Country Airplay chart.
Morgan also credits his management and Warner promotion team for taking his music to the fans. “I have the best team in the world behind me. From the best promo team to the best management team. They’re not just my team. They are my family and friends. That’s what has always amazed me about Warner Brothers. They embrace and support you for you, and that means a lot.”
(Special thanks to Jim Asker, who contributed to this story. Tomorrow, we take a look at the continued rise of Jon Pardi.)