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Craig Morgan Talks New Music, Mullet Hunting and the War in Iraq

Craig Morgan
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Craig Morgan has been somewhat of a country music gypsy over the last 10 years. He’s now with his fourth record label since 2000, but there are two ways of looking at this Kardashian boyfriend-like turnover. He’s either A) a pain in the butt that no one wants to keep on their roster, or B) so valuable that whenever things don’t work out, there’s a lineup of suitors waiting to service him. Spend any amount of time talking to Morgan, and you’ll learn choice “A” is unlikely.

Now with the Black River Music Group, Morgan releases a five-song EP today, Nov. 1, in advance of his full-length album ‘This Ole Boy’ in early 2012. The first single, ‘This Ole Boy,’ is classic Craig Morgan: catchy, humble and little bit redneck. The singer and former U.S. Army Ranger is all of these things (with one of the best laughs in country music), but he’s also focused and passionate about what he does.

Taste of Country caught up with Morgan before a recent show in Akron, Ohio and asked him about the new music, revisiting his military career and why he’s so obsessed with taking pictures of people asleep on airplanes.

The President just announced we were pulling all the troops out of Iraq, and we wanted to get your thoughts and opinions on that.
It’s a good thing. It’s where we’re at. We will still have a presence there. We’re gonna have a presence there probably ’til the end of time. But as far as a show of force and a large group, it’s not necessary anymore, I know this for a fact. I’ve been there, I’ve been there recently and we don’t need as many people there as we had in the past, but we do need a presence and I’m confident that we will maintain a presence in that country in the same way we have in Korea since the Korean War.

Do you miss it?
Yeah, when you do something like that as long as I did it becomes a part of who you are … and it’s kind of like kids going off to college. When you go away it’s so much fun and you enjoy it, but when you come back home your realize just how much you miss home.

Was the main reason you got out of the military because of your music career?
Bill Clinton had a whole lot to do with me leaving the military. No, I’m kidding [laughs]. Kind of. The whole reason I left, 100 percent truly, was to pursue the music. I would not have left if it had not been for moving for the music career. And honestly, I thought I would be out for a year or two and I’d go back in. I didn’t really think it’d work [laughs].

What was it like returning for a couple of days for GAC’s ‘Day Jobs’?
It was fun. The part that was the most fun was hanging out with my buddy Jeff Jackson. He’s one of my best friends, and it was nice to be able to go through that obstacle course with all of those new recruits. When we went through that, they were actually going through their course for testing. So it was nice to know that we could still do that and actually smoke some of them.

Does the new music step outside of what fans have come to expect from Craig Morgan?
It’s 100 percent true to what they expect from Craig Morgan. I think I tried some surprises on my last Sony record, and it just wasn’t what people wanted to hear from me. So I went back and worked real hard and found songs that I absolutely love to sing that were in line to what people kind of expect from me, and made an album, and I feel like it’s the best album I ever made.

What is one song that above all others you knew you had to include on ‘This Ole Boy’?
‘Love Loves a Long Night’ — I had to have that song on this record. It’s a song I wrote — I think it’s a sexy song, and I’ve never really done a bunch of that. I love singing that kind of stuff, but I’ve never really found the one or written the one that I felt like was in line with the rest of the record, if that makes any sense. It’s hard to put a sexy song next to a song called ‘Corn Star.’

You’ve been married a long time. Is your wife still affected by this type of song?
She actually liked [it]. No, we ain’t been married too long for that. Heck, between being in the Army and being in this business, we’ve been married 23 years but it really seems like we’ve only been together about six.

You mentioned some chances you took on ‘That’s Why’ that didn’t work. Were any of those singles?
‘God Must Really Love Me.’ I love that song, I thought it was a big ol’ fat hit. I still believe in that song. And it did OK for me, but it didn’t do what I felt like it should have done. And I think a lot of it had to do with … vocally it was something a little different than I had done in the past. Making that transition to Sony, I think people — especially industry-wise — were wondering why I did that. You know, everything happens for a reason, and now I’m at the best place I’ve ever been.

Explain the challenge of switching record labels.
For me it wasn’t that big a deal. For me I related to the military, and in the military you get in a unit, you get used to people doing things a certain way, you understand the dynamic of the people within the organization [and] the personalities and you’re able to work with that. And when you change units all of that changes, and it’s kind of like starting over again. And it’s the same way for the record business. If you’re on one label you get used to your promotions reps and the way they do business and so on, or don’t do business. And you go to the new label and things are different.

Are you creatively more free to do things on Black River?
I can’t say any more or less than I was with Sony. [Former head of Sony Nashville] Joe Galante let me go make a record, I went and made the record and turned it in, and they liked it and we worked with it. Heck, I can’t complain. I had three Top 10 hits on that album. So we did well, it’s just that Joe left and things changed.

‘Fish Weren’t Biting’ is a great song from the new EP.
I love that song. That’s one I didn’t write. I heard it and fell in love with it. You know it can be a single later on or it’s just one of those songs that you gotta hear the whole thing to really appreciate it and really love it, but it’s a fun song.

What is with the SOP [Sleeping on Plane] Pictures on your Twitter page?
About six months ago, eight months ago, we were flying. Me and the whole band, we were doing a bunch of traveling. So the guys were falling asleep pretty regular, so when they fall asleep with their mouths wide open I take pictures. But then it turned into taking pictures of people that we didn’t know. Now here we are. We got lots of other people taking pictures of people sleeping on planes [laughs].

Have you ever gotten caught?
[laughs] Oh yeah. I took a picture of a girl, and she was out, mouth open, drooling and next to me. When she woke up she said, “You’re Craig Morgan aren’t you.” And she said, “I’m going to your show tonight.” I said, “Well, let me get you tickets and meet and greets [laughs].” She found out about it after the fact and she said it was funny, though. She was a good sport.

It’d be worse if she didn’t know you were Craig Morgan because then you’re just a weird guy on a plane.
[laughs] Yeah. It’s turned into quite a deal now because like I said, other people are doing it.

Then there are some other pictures. The guy with the rat-tail mullet is classic.
Yeah, me and the whole band, we’re mullet hunters. So we try to find as many people with mullets as we can and take pictures.

You were an adult during the mullet craze. Did you ever have a mullet?
No, never had a mullet. I was in the military. And my haircut’s almost back to where it was then [laughs].

You never wanted to look like your good friend Blake Shelton, did you?
Never. And thank God I never have. Blake Shelton is starting to do his hair more like mine.

Get a Preview of Craig Morgan’s New EP

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