Before releasing 'This Ole Boy' in 2012, Craig Morgan promised an album full of what fans expected from him -- and he delivered. Hits like the title track and 'More Trucks Than Cars' were in the style of 'That's What I Love About Sunday' and 'Little Bit of Life,' but other songs on the album reflected a new direction which the singer says is his future. 'Love Loves a Long Night' was never a single, but it was one of Morgan's finest vocal performances. His new single, 'Wake Up Loving You,' may be even better.

In an interview with Taste of Country, Morgan talked with enthusiasm about the new music, but also lamented not releasing a song like 'Love Loves ...' "This time, they have no choice," he said, referring to Black River Entertainment, his record label. "Everything they have to pick from is gonna be something that's similar to 'Love Loves …' and 'Wake Up Loving You' and that kind of a feel."

That means songs of the heart will make up half the album; the other half will include greatest hits not on his 2008 'Greatest Hits' album. 'Love Remembers' was his last true love song that was released as a single. One senses that while he'll always have songs like 'Redneck Yacht Club' in him, it's these more meaningful ballads that satisfy Craig Morgan's creative spirit in 2013.

ToC: The new single is really your first love song single in about five years.

Craig Morgan: And I think it's the biggest song of my career. Everybody is looking for the songs, the music that will help elevate your career, your profile. I don't think I've ever had a song that got a reaction and the attention that this song is getting instantly.

It's a great vocal performance, which we know is something you take a lot of pride in.

Thank you. That's what I love about this song. it's similar enough to the stuff I've done in the past and it's not gonna scare anybody, but at the same time allows me to sing in ways that I've always wanted to.

Who did 'Wake Up Loving You' make you think of the first time you heard it?

My wife, instantly. Twenty-five years with her, same woman. And I love her like we were teenagers. And that's kind of what I imagine what would happen to me. I would be that guy if something happened to my wife.

Before the release of 'This Ole Boy,' you mentioned how you were going to go back to giving fans what they expect from Craig Morgan. Do you think that worked, and is it the same strategy for this one?

I think it worked out well, but no -- we changed the strategy because that was my sixth or seventh or eighth album … that I had done. I think it was time for some change. I think it's time for people to see more of me, musically.

What's the beard situation currently?

I'm keeping it. My wife likes it, the women like it [laughs]. It was time for a change anyway in my career, you know. I think sometimes if you do it right, it can be a great thing and it seems to be working right now. New music, a new look, everything.

You've kind of tamed it. It was wild for awhile, but now it looks neat.

Yeah, if you keep it trimmed up. It starts getting bushy and you get that Duck Commander thing going on, and it's terrible [laughs]. And I can say that because they're my friends [laughs].