Craig Morgan on ‘God, Family, Country’ Memoir & Album: “It’s All Truth” 

Craig Morgan experienced a particularly special moment during his headlining performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Veterans Day. He was performing one of the first singles he released to country radio, “Paradise,” which he wrote about his time in the Army stationed in Panama in 1989 and 1990, but he wasn’t onstage alone. He was joined by eight of the men he served with in Panama, listening to him as he sang, once I was a soldier and not afraid to die / Now I’m a little older and not afraid to cry/ Everyday I’m thankful just to be alive / When you’ve been where I’ve been any kind of life / Is paradise. “It was a pretty cool moment for me,” Morgan recollects to American Songwriter. 

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Serving in the military is among the many memories Morgan chronicles in his memoir, God, Family, Country, released in September 2022. The book finds Morgan opening up about the people, places and experiences that have shaped him both as a person and as an artist.

“I wanted to keep it interesting, things that I felt like would impact people’s lives,” Morgan says of his writing approach. “All of it is real. It’s all truth.”

One of the ways he captured this truth was by going straight to the source, sitting down with one of the Army vets he served with to recount specific details about what happened in Panama. Additionally, he spent time talking with his wife, father and other family members to ensure that the past memories he was writing about were accurate. Morgan also shares about the death of his 19-year-old son, Jerry, who died in a tubing accident on the Tennessee River in 2016. In the book, Morgan details recovering his son’s body from the river.

“I went down in the water,” he writes. “Jerry’s hands were clasped and he had a peaceful look on his face. He gazed upward, as if glancing toward heaven. Karen kissed him on the head. We placed him in the ambulance and said our goodbyes.”

It’s a painful moment to relive, but one that he addresses with honesty and vulnerability. “That hurts, but it’s also a truth,” Morgan expresses of writing about the loss of his son. “I know other people have experienced loss and hopefully when they read this, it might make them feel in some way inspired to try to find anything that God’s expecting from them. It was a difficult thing to write down, but it’s part of my life.” 

Morgan condenses this story into a three-and-half-minute song, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The singer recalls how the lyrics woke him up in the dead of night, feeling called to take his guitar into the living room, the lyrics streaming out of him. Go outside, sit by myself but I ain’t alone / I’ve got the Father, my son, and the Holy Ghost, he sings in the chorus, asserting that he processed his grief through prayer and that the song is the outcome.

Morgan originally had no plans to release “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost,” but when he debuted it live at the Grand Ole Opry in 2019, it was clear by his emotive performance that earned a standing ovation that the song was resonating. “It was very emotional. I realized at that moment that God was doing something so much bigger than anything that I wanted to happen,” Morgan recalls of the performance. Ricky Skaggs pulled him aside later that night and urged that he continue to sing it. “My hope is that in sharing that story and in that song, that someone else will find some sense of comfort,” Morgan adds.

“The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” became a top 30 hit, Morgan’s first since “Wake Up Lovin’ You” in 2013. The song’s success compelled Morgan and his record label to put out a new album, God, Family, Country in May 2020. Now, he’s released the deluxe edition that includes four new songs that the Tennessee native asserts is “some of the best material I have ever had.”

“These are songs that I think will be here long after I’m gone,” he professes. The hitmaker particularly points to the lyrics of “Sounds Like Home,” which reference a buckshot stop sign and rusty barb wire, knowing that fans will be able to relate to that imagery as much as he did growing up in the countryside.

“You can see those things, and I know that our fan base will have memories that they will go to because of some of the lyrics in this new material,” Morgan says. He also admires the message of his current single, “How You Make a Man,” which conveys the various growing pains of life that ultimately shape us. Morgan cites the song’s message, you run, you crawl, you rise, you fall / You hit your knees ’til you learn to stand / Yeah, that’s how you make a man, as the most compelling lyrics on the album. 

“That right there is so impacting,” Morgan affirms. “I think it’s stuff that some people in today’s society need to hear. They need to understand that you’re going to experience difficult times, you’re going to have heartache, hardships. But it’s in those times and it’s those things that make us better people and stronger people.”

Becoming a better, stronger person is something that Morgan strives for every day, translating his story into the written word and song in hopes that it will inspire others to operate from a place of compassion.

“It’s just me telling my story,” Morgan reflects. “I hope it does inspire people. I hope it inspires them to know that regardless of what they go through in their lives, they can utilize every aspect that is good and bad to hopefully have a positive influence on other people.

“We’ve gotten so far away trying to help each other. We’re so worried about self that we’ve gotten away from that. So my hope is that people read this, that they know that there are ways that they can serve and there are ways that they can try to be better people.” 

Photo by Nate Griffin, Courtesy Monarch Publicity

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