Craig Morgan Shares How Jelly Roll, Blake Shelton, and Lainey Wilson Became Part of New EP, ‘Enlisted’

Craig Morgan released his anticipated new collection of songs. On the new EP, Enlisted, Morgan shared a couple of new tracks, along with a handful of re-recorded hits from his decades-long career. The album includes guest appearances from some of the hottest names in the genre, including Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson.

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American Songwriter caught up with Morgan to ask him about the genesis of the new record. How did one idea lead to the next and then lead to the new EP? Morgan gave insight into the recording process and also talked about what he loves most about country music.

[RELATED: Blake Shelton, Lainey Wilson Appear on Craig Morgan’s New EP]

American Songwriter: What do you love most about Country music?

Craig Morgan: I love the fact that I think country music is most representative of the majority of the people of this nation. Middle America. Those dots on the map, those farmlands. Even those cities where people celebrate a sense of freedom that isn’t celebrated in any other country.

And I think country music represents that better than any other format. And I also believe that country music is a lot more kind and loving than I think some of the other formats can be. It’s just really Middle America. I really believe that. I believe that country music represents the majority of the people of this nation.

AS: What was the genesis of your new EP? It obviously features a number of guests and some of your biggest songs. But how did it come together?

CM: Yeah, it all started—my managers tried to get me to re-record “Redneck Yacht Club” over a year ago and I said I’m not re-recording “Redneck Yacht Club.” I’m just not going to do it. I’ve got too many good songs that are new songs that I want people to hear. And I’m at the point in my career where I felt like I could do that. And I had written a song—I had just finished writing a song called “Raise the Bar” with Billy Dean. And I went into the studio to record it for a new project for the label that we were going to pitch to them and in the process of doing it, me and Phil, my co-producer, we were like, man, this is a big song. I said, “We should pitch this to Luke [Combs]. I might not do it myself, let’s pitch it to Luke.”

And then, like I said, after I finished all the vocals, I said, “You know what, I am keeping the song. But let’s see if Luke will do it with me. That would be a cool thing.” Luke Combs. Love him, a good kid, and, a good friend. You know, just everything about this would be perfect. So, we did. And Luke agreed. And that’s what started it off. So, then the manager re-approached me and said, “Hey, instead of just re-recording ‘Redneck Yacht Club’ what if you do it with another artist like you did that song with Luke.” And I said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. I’m going to call Blake [Shelton].” Because Blake was in the video of the original recording.

So, I called Blake and he said yeah and that’s kind of where it started. And then we thought, “Hey if we’re going to do one, we might as well do a couple or three more hits.” At this time Jelly Roll and “Almost Home” had become a big deal. Everybody talks about what it meant to Jelly but they fail to realize what that whole scenario meant to me, as well. Hearing that story that Jelly shared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. So I called Jelly, and he said yes. “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” I knew Gary LeVox, we’ve been friends for a long time, and I knew that song—he had always loved that song. In fact, there were times that he told me he wished Rascal Flatts had recorded it before me. So, I called him, and he said yes.

And [by now] we were down to the song, “International Harvester,” and we were talking about it and I said, “Y’all might think I’m crazy but I think Lainey Wilson would be perfect on this song.” Just because that she can give a perspective that no one has ever seen before. A female up on a combine. And there’s a lot of ‘em. So, I called her and of course, here we are now. She said yes and, man, it’s just turned into one of my favorite projects. It was all done, mastered, and turned in, and I wrote a song with Phil O’Donnell, Trent Willman, and another guy called “That Ain’t Gonna Be Me.” And I said, look, I want to put this song on this project. I know it’s just me singing it but I think it would be a nice touch, even if we do it as, like, a hidden track or something like that.

So, I went in and recorded it and in the process of being in the studio, I said, “Y’all, what if we get Trace [Adkins] to do this?” And everybody thought it was great and we called Trace and he came in and did it with me. In fact, when Trace got into the studio, he started singing the first verse and I said, “Y’all going to think I’m nuts but I think Trace should start this song not me.” Even though it’s my song, my project, I think he needs to be on the front of it and that’s where we ended up. Now the rest hopefully will be great history.

AS: The EP is going to do great.

CM: And we’re doing vinyl!

AS: Like many, you’ve experienced serious tragedy in your life. How does music and perhaps this EP help you cope, and move forward?

CM: I’m not like most folks. I do appreciate that music has a big impact—on my coping and all the things that I get, I get from God, and my family. I do appreciate that music can be and is very healing. I mean, for God’s sake, I wrote a song called, “The Father, My Son, And The Holy Ghost.” But I tell people, I did not write that song, God wrote that song. And I did not release that song for my benefit, I just felt like I was really driven and forced, basically, I felt like that was something that God wanted. And it happened. Because, like I said, I never intended to write anything like that.

God just woke me up one morning and He wrote that through me and here we are. A song that was never played on the radio for the most part. I mean, it got some airplay. But it wasn’t a No. 1. But it became the No. 1 most downloaded song of all genres, not once, twice or three times. But four times! That’s what God can do. That happened because there were people who needed that.

Photo by Nate Griffin/Courtesy of Monarch Publicity

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