“Unquenchable curiosity.” That’s an apt descriptor for restless Craig Morgan (“I’ve got a touch of ADD,” he confesses) as he tries to unwind in his wine cellar during an early afternoon sit-down with Nash Country Daily to talk about his new album, A Whole Lot More to Me, which drops today (June 3).
“I went to Hawaii recently, and I hunted something that I didn’t know existed, and I pride myself on knowing everything there is to know about hunting—like a lot of hunters,” says Craig. “I hunted the wild Vancouver bull in the forest and mountains of Hawaii on the main island. It was amazing. A lot of history behind these bulls. They look a lot like a domestic bull but they’ve been wild in there since the late 1700s, since they were brought into the area. They devastate the property, but they are the most amazing animal. It’s like hunting an elk and cape buffalo mixed together. They are extremely aggressive, mean, territorial, but they are like ghosts, and they disappear in seconds. You never hear or see them. But when they are running, it sounds like Sasquatch in the background—it blows your mind.”
What else is mind-blowing? The duality of these two rooms—wine and trophy—only separated by a large bank vault-like door. Sip some very expensive vino or look at some dead animals. Or both. No one is putting on airs in this farmhouse, which sits on 500 acres in Dickson, Tenn., about 40 miles west of Nashville.
It’s nice to finally sit and chat with Craig, after a whirlwind morning spent tending to his five beehives (he has hundreds more); a dozen or so chickens (three eggs this morning); his greenhouse (herbs and potatoes); his garden (tomatoes and asparagus), his aquaponics (growing lettuce with only water and fish poo); his smokehouse (hams are hanging); and his bow-hunting room—yes he has an entire room dedicated to his bows. Finally, there was a white-knuckle ride in Craig’s Arctic Cat side-by-side all-terrain vehicle that he should make people sign a waiver to experience. And it’s wasn’t even noon yet.
“It’s important that we stay active and involved in society and in life,” says Craig. “There’s so much life around us, and if we restrict ourselves to one thing, we are missing out on a lot of opportunities to experience happiness beyond that element that you’re in. It keeps you young and active and healthy. It keeps me healthy. I celebrated a self-sustained lifestyle. I think it’s very important, and the main reason is so you don’t become dependent on other people and the government and everything. You can celebrate that healthy lifestyle.”
If Craig’s goal this morning was to demonstrate there’s a whole lot more to him than just country music—like his new album title proclaims—mission accomplished. But that wasn’t the goal. This morning was just a snippet into Craig’s “normal” day, when he’s not performing on the road or making country music in the studio.
Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear there’s a whole lot more to Craig Morgan . . . the same man who spent more than 10 years on active duty in the U.S. Army in the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions . . . the same man who has been married to wife Karen since 1988 and raised four kids . . . the same man who brought us past hits like “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home” and “Redneck Yacht Club.”
“I’ve spent my entire career trying to make a statement about us as country singers and country listeners and our format, our genre and the people of our format,” says Craig. “I’m always fascinated when I meet someone who doesn’t know much about country music or country people, what they expect. I’m always fascinated by that, in the same way people from the country have perceptions about people from New York City. It’s always been a bit of an objective to try and break those stereotypes for me. Having said that, I’ve had huge hits with songs like ‘Redneck Yacht Club,’ ‘International Harvester’ and ‘Bonfire.’ I do celebrate that lifestyle that we live, but there is so much more to us than people know. And that’s why I wrote this song [“A Whole Lot More to Me”]. I wanted to say, ‘Hey look, I know everything there is to know about a truck, tailgates, beer and dirt roads, but there’s a lot more to me.’”
In “A Whole Lot More to Me,” Craig sings about those assumed things that he loves—like trucks, tailgates, beer, dirt roads, tractors and worn-out jeans—but he juxtaposes them with his other interests, including Cabernet from Napa Valley, sushi by candlelight, long walks on the beach and Broadway shows. When Craig starts crooning the tune, you get the picture. It’s just like walking into his wine cellar from his trophy room.
But he doesn’t stop with the autobiographical title track. There are 11 more songs on A Whole Lot More to Me—five of which he co-wrote—that showcase Craig’s commanding vocals and artistic growth.
From the emotionally charged current single “I’ll Be Home Soon” to the poignant “Hearts I Leave Behind” (featuring Mac Powell) to the charismatic “I’m That Country,” there’s a renewed energy in Craig’s voice.
After all, this is his first studio album in more than four years.
“The material, more than anything, has reinvigorated me and the people around me,” says Craig. “Vocally, there are some things on this record that are a whole lot different than things I’ve done in the past. It doesn’t take away from anything I’ve done. . . I’ve been making the analogy that if country music was 12 inches wide, all of my previous albums—and most artists in general—we have two inches within that 12 inches somewhere, and I’ve bounced around from the left two inches, stay down here more traditional and kind of hinted just right of center sometimes. On the last album [This Ole Boy] I hinted at it, but on this album, I feel like I cover the entire 12 inches, going from the far left more traditional, with a song like ‘I’m That Country’ to the far right with a song like ‘I’ll Be Home Soon’ or ‘A Whole Lot More to Me.’ I really feel like this album covers that.”
On that note, Craig cracks a big smile. He’s got a closing zinger brewing.
- “I’ll Be Home Soon” (Justin Ebach, Steven Dale Jones, John King)
- “Living On Memories” (Craig Morgan, Scott Stepakoff, Josh Osborne)
- “All Cried Out” (Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher, Busbee)
- “A Whole Lot More to Me” (Craig Morgan, Mike Rogers)
- “Hearts I Leave Behind” feat. Mac Powell (Nick Sturms, Travis Meadows)
- “Country Side of Heaven” (Eric Paslay, Dylan Altman, Shane McAnally)
- “Nowhere Without You” (Michael McDonald, John Goodwin)
- “I’m That Country” (Craig Morgan, Mike Rogers, Kevin Denney, Tom Botkin)
- “When I’m Gone” (Justin Ebach, Steven Dale Jones)
- “Who Would It Be” (Dylan Altman, Will Hoge, Gordie Sampson)
- “Remind Me Why I’m Crazy” (Craig Morgan, Jim McBride, Phil O’Donnell)
- “Can’t Wait to Stay” (Craig Morgan, Phil O’Donnell)
“I could be peaking,” he says with a hearty laugh, just like many of the bottles of red wine that surround him. “It’s a good place. I don’t know how it could get any better.”
photos by Jason Simanek
video by Lec Garcia