Craig Morgan finds a home on Broken Bow
By Lorie Hollabaugh

"Almost Home," Craig Morgan's hit about a homeless man dreaming about returning home, paints quite a picture in a few verses. The images from the song are so vivid one can see them along with the main character. To Morgan, it's a key element of a good Country song.

"I think our format does that better than any other," Morgan said. "We tend to tell stories and attempt to do it in an image-driven way. That's what I strive to do with songs like 'Almost Home.' (co-written with Kerry Kurt Phillips) I want to be the guy who everybody says they can see my songs."

The former Army paratrooper moves closer to that goal with his latest Top 5 single and rising, "That's What I Love About Sunday," an expressive tune exulting the simple joys of the day of rest, written by Adam Dorsey and Mark Narmore. "When I first heard the song I felt like it was something I had written," recalled Morgan, who was raised in Kingston Springs, Tenn., a stones throw from where he shares a hilltop home with his wife Karen and their four kids, ages 7-16. "I was that attached to it immediately. I thought if I could attach myself to a song like that, anybody could. There were so many images in the song to relate to."

He knew it would be the perfect follow up to  "Almost Home," which helped propel sales of 250,000 copies of his last album, I Love It - his first on independent label Broken Bow Records.  Making the move to an indie after a few years on Atlantic Records was a gamble for Morgan, but he is happy with the result.

"Broken Bow is independent in the technical sense of the term, but the reality is they're as big as any of the dang majors. They have a full promotion staff, in-house publicity, marketing and it's getting to the point where it's kind of like dealing with a major," Morgan said with a laugh.

Broken Bow General Manager Brad Howell considers Morgan a major star in the making. "Craig surprises me every day with his writing, his production abilities, the way he handles the media. He is truly one of those special artists who can do everything. And now we're trying to make sure the Country consumer gets to know Craig on that level and says, 'Wow! This guy is really as talented as some of the artists who are selling Platinum right now,' because that's where we're trying to get him."

Howell said the label's plan for Morgan with his new album, My Kind Of Livin', which hit stores March 8, is to raise his visibility and profile among consumers through a carefully orchestrated national marketing plan.

"Craig has proven he can write hits and produce - he's multi-talented. The next step for him on the marketing side is to obtain higher visibility through national print, television and Internet media, along with getting him on a major national concert tour where he is in front of more people to see his dynamic live show. We'll put all those pieces together and we think those ingredients will take Craig to that next level."

The radio currency Morgan built with the success of "Almost Home" will help the effort. "He's really loved at radio - they've stuck with him and are championing his career and this new single is already moving five times as fast as 'Almost Home' did.  We've got some momentum with this single, a full staff and a machine in place to help bring awareness about Craig and his talent. We'll work it from so many more angles than just getting a song on the radio," Howell said.

Working with co-writer Phil O'Donnell once again on the production, Morgan co-wrote eight of the 11 cuts that show off his energetic spirit and way with a song vocally on the uptempo "Baby I Got You," the narrative "Cowboy and The Clown," the romantic "Rain for the Roses," the touching "Lot of Man (In That Little Boy)," and the vocal event with Brad Paisley and John Conlee, "Blame Me," the album offers plenty of diversity. Morgan feels he is just now beginning to find his niche as an artist.

"Without a doubt, this new record depicts who I am even more," Morgan said. "We had a lot of tempos on the last album and on this record I wanted to do the same, because I want people to enjoy the album. But I want there to be depth to it. And I think we've done that with this album. I wanted to dig a little deeper and have the songs be real solid, and I think we did that."

O'Donnell agrees.

"We've written tons of songs together, and this is some of Craig's best work. His voice has timbered and gotten better since the first record, and he is so easy to work with in the studio. If I give him a direction and open a door he goes in it and gives you more.  We like to write about things that we do every day . I'd say, 'OK, I've got my front yard view in the first verse, let's look in your back yard and write the second verse. It was refreshing to have someone have the same outlook on life as you do. He's really one of a kind," O'Donnell said.

Morgan feels the time could finally be right for him to break out. "I think that's why it's taken me so long, not having the radio success at first to go along with the touring and live performance success we had. But I'm thankful for it now because we have built a great fan base. I think people kept seeing me live and saying 'Oh my gosh we love the show, we want to hear you more.' And now people are hearing what they've been seeing and I have radio to thank for that. They've been extremely supportive. I kind of just do my own thing out there, and fortunately people have been responding. I always thought Garth Brooks put on a great show and I loved what he did, but so does George Strait, you know? And James Taylor. Put those three guys together and add in a little Luther Vandross, and I'm kind of what you get."  

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March 8, 2005
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