The fact that Craig Morgan’s favorite Father’s Day gift is a toolbox says a lot about him as a man and a father. When he’s not on the road, the singer/songwriter loves fixing and building things on the 400-acre farm in Dickson, Tenn., he shares with his lovely wife, Karen, and their four kids.
Craig likes to stay busy, and his kids are usually involved in his projects. For daughter Aly, 26, that means co-writing songs, and for sons, Kyle, 23, Jerry, 18, and Wyatt, 17, it means helping around the farm. One of their latest projects was building a smokehouse.
“We probably could have done it in a week, but we would do a little bit at a time when I was home,” Craig says of the smokehouse they built from wood and metal reclaimed from an old tobacco barn. “We wouldn’t spend the entire day working on the smokehouse, because that just drives them away. So we would work three, four, five hours and then go swimming or goof off or do something else.”
Watching Craig interact with his children, it’s easy to see the love and respect they share. When asked what makes Craig a great dad, Karen smiles and replies, “Because he’s here even when he’s not. With his job he’s gone so much, but he’s always on the phone with them. He always checks on them and lets them know he’s there, even when he was in the Army and was gone so much. There are some dads that get home at 5 o’clock every day and they’re not there. Mentally, they are not there. Craig has never been that way.”
Married 27 years on July 30, Karen and Craig have always made family a priority. “Early on, I was the enforcer,” he says when asked who is the stricter parent. “It’s tough on moms, especially moms whose husbands travel, whatever their job is, because they’re the ones that have to not only ensure that the kid’s being disciplined, but they also have to be that buddy. That’s tough, really tough. So in the beginning, I was the enforcer.
“As our kids got older, Karen and I swapped roles. It’s kind of funny because we talk each other off the fence, not to beat them to death,” he says, laughing. “I might walk in the kitchen and I’m ready to beat one of them and she’s like, ‘Will you settle down? It’s not that big a deal.’ Five minutes later I’m telling her, ‘Hey, just settle down. It’s not that big a deal.’ It goes back and forth.”
Right now their two youngest sons are the only ones who live at home full-time. Craig has an older daughter from his first marriage who lives in East Tennessee. His daughter Aly is married and living in Murray, Ky., but at press time, she and her husband were buying a house in Clarksville, Tenn., to be closer to Nashville to pursue her burgeoning songwriting career. Son Kyle travels extensively for his job. He also makes frequent trips to Arkansas to visit his fiancée.
Aly is the only one of Craig’s kids who has expressed an interest in music. “Jerry can sing really well,” Craig says proudly. “Kyle can’t carry a tune in a bucket. He can’t even whistle. Wyatt’s the same way. None of the boys have any desire to be in music whatsoever. Alex [Aly] is a great little singer, but focusing more on her writing. She’s a phenomenal writer. Early on I knew she had an interest in it and I told her, ‘Go get your education and if something happens in the meantime that’s great, if not you’re working on your education.’ When she got her education, she got a job and she’s been working on [music] a little bit at a time. Now she’s writing with other songwriters like Marla Goodman and Phil O’Donnell. She’s turned out some great stuff. I’m really impressed.”
In addition to music, Aly also inherited her Dad’s appreciation for the outdoors. “My daughter loves to hunt and fish,” Craig says. “She carried everything that we did with them as kids into her marriage. And it’s still a big part of her life. We still go to the lake. We still go hunting together as a family. Both of my older boys are the same way. Kyle works now for an outdoor company, so he took his passion that I unintentionally instilled. We’ve never forced our children to do any of those kinds of things. If they want to do it, that’s great.” The youngest, Wyatt, prefers watching movies to hunting and is planning to attend college at NYU. “He would much rather have his feet on concrete than dirt,” says Craig.
Craig is never idle when he’s home. He’s raising vegetables using hydroponics and is raising bees for honey. “I just got my first spinach coming up right now. I’m so excited,” says Craig. “And I have seven active beehives. I love bees, and honey just tastes so good. And when bees swarm in people’s homes, in the walls, in their barns, and different things, I’m on
the list people call [to remove them].
I took all the bees out of a guy’s house and I transferred them into a new hive on the other side of the property.”
Now that Father’s Day is here, Craig says just being home and spending time with his family is all he really wants. “Our objective now on Father’s Day is really just to try to get together with the family,” he says, explaining that it’s harder now that the kids are older, but he’s willing to be flexible. “I can do it the day before, whatever’s convenient for everybody, but I do want them all together,” he says. “We want to sit together as a family just so I can see their faces. At this point in my life I’m happy just to see them and know that they’re healthy and happy.”
With two children already out the door and two more nearly grown, the empty nest is looming. How is Craig going to handle it? “I’m going to run naked in every room! What about the kids? I’m going to send them pictures of my naked butt on their bed,” he says with a mischievous laugh. “It’s going to be harder on Karen because she is such a mother. She epitomizes what a mom should be . . . but we can’t wait for [Jerry and Wyatt] to go to college. We look forward to that phase of our lives. It’s exciting.”
Craig is also looking forward to his fans hearing his upcoming album. He’s been recording for the first time with producer Byron Gallimore, who has steered projects for Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Sugarland. “We’ve had a lot of success. I still can’t believe people still come and watch us. It blows my mind,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there’s still people coming up to my show that have never been to our show before. I just want to be relevant now and I feel like this music is probably the most relevant music I’ve made in a long time.”
Safety Is No Accident
As an outdoor enthusiast who has raised his children to have fun shooting guns and driving ATVs, Craig Morgan knows how to have a good time, but safety is always the first concern. When does he think it’s a good age to introduce kids to such hobbies?
“The earlier the better,” he says.
“I don’t want my son, who is 17, jumping out of an airplane yet. I didn’t want him as a 3-year-old shooting a gun, but I did take him with me while I did it. When they were babies, and I would clean the guns, I wanted them there with me to see it.”
Just the exposure to responsible outdoor fun has taught Craig’s kids how to handle the outdoor toys, so they would be prepared when they reached the age to do them on their own. “It’s hard to take a 21-year-old who’s never been on a buggy before, a four-wheeler, and put them on it and tell them to go around the bottom of a hill, but if you’ve had that 21-year-old that’s been on one sitting in your lap when they were 3, and then when they were 12, doing it themselves, they can teach people,” he says. “So, we started early on introducing them to all these things we just didn’t allow them to do themselves until they became able to.”
main photo: Craig Morgan with daughter Aly and sons Wyatt (left) and Jerry and dog Sam
photos by Tyler Andrews