William Michael Morgan is an up-and-coming country music singer based in Nashville. Originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, Morgan grew up listening to and emulating the styles of traditional artists such as Keith Whitley and Merle Haggard at a very early age. Now at age 20, Morgan is signed to Warner Brothers in Nashville and has begun working on his first album. Expect a single to be released in the coming months.
Shane Fortner and Brad Bohannan, owners of Tavern on Vets (our sister bar in Kenner) recently invited Morgan to come play at the bar last Wednesday night. After the performance, we sat down for a little interview
When did you start becoming interested in music?
I guess the first song I remember hearing, I was about five or six years old, was an old Marty Robbins song. I just fell in love right then. I got my first guitar at about eight, nine years old and I just started playing from there.
Did you teach yourself?
I did. I looked up a lot of YouTube. After school I wouldn’t do anything. I didn’t play football or anything. I would just come home and lock myself in my room and just play old Keith Whitley and Mark Chestnut songs, look them up and just taught myself that way.
Why country music?
The realness of it, the realness of the real tradition of country music, the sadness, the feelings that’s put into the lyrics and the melodies.
When did you start to think that you could make a career playing country music?
I started off doing anything I could do, from karaoke contests to opening up for someone at a bar. I’ve just always wanted to. I’ve always felt that need, that drive to do it.
When did you first start performing?
I did my first show when I was about 12.
Who or what has influenced your playing style?
Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, Mark Chestnut, all of the real traditional artists; Singletary, the list can just go on and on.
How would you describe your particular brand of country music?
I would describe it as traditional definitely, but we always try to find a happy medium with what’s going on today and what the radio’s wanting and needing and what everyone else is wanting to hear. We try to keep our roots as much as we can, but try to blend in some of today’s music into our stuff.
How did Mississippi shape your vision of country music?
It was about eight years ago when Dierks Bentley was playing and he came down to Vicksburg and played the Riverfest down there. Me and my family went and that really opened my eyes up to what I wanted to do. That was an eye-opener seeing him play and feed off the energy of the people.
How do you draw inspiration for your songs?
Real life instances in my life. Writing everyday, you can kind of run out of ideas. I’ve been really hammering it up there in Nashville. We’ve just been writing every day, trying to get ready for this record. But you just watch the news and seeing what’s going on today, listen to the radio, listen to talk channels and you’ll get ideas.
Are you based in Nashville now?
Yeah. I was born in Vicksburg and stayed there my whole life until I was about 19, then I moved to Nashville last year in February. I turned 20 in May and I’ll be 21 on May 13 of this year.
Who and when did people start noticing your singing voice?
I met a songwriter by the name of Roger Springer when I was about 13 or 14, and we talked back and forth. When I was about 14 or 15, he invited me to come write with him a few times. I would come stay with him and his wife and he’d take me in and introduce me to a bunch of people. Through him I met another songwriter, and through that songwriter I met my managers.
How do you develop your voice?
As with any genre of music you just grow up listening to it and you find what you like to listen to and try to incorporate that into what you create.
Is there a song of yours that holds a special meaning for you? Why?
There is a song I wrote with two of my very good buddies in Nashville, Trent Tomlinson and Ashe Underwood, and it’s called “Neon Sign”. It’s just real traditional country. It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s real in that solid gold country pocket. It’s about this guy at a bar, his girlfriend left him and he’s just begging God, “I don’t know what I can do, can you send me a neon sign?”
Do established performers try to steer you in any particular direction? What advice do they offer you?
Nashville is a really small town, and if you know someone, you know everyone else. And of course everyone has their input, which is great because I love to hear everyone’s input. We take very seriously what people say and we try to incorporate that into the mix, but still keep what we do as traditional as possible.
What is traditional country music?
When I say traditional I don’t mean 60s or 70s, I mean more of when I grew up in the 90s, the Chestnut era and stuff like that. To me, that’s my favorite era of country music, the late 80s to mid-90s.
Who in the industry do you look up to for direction and advice?
I got a lot of great advice from Mark Chestnut. We’ve got the same producer. He was doing some vocals one night over at our producer’s house and my producer, Jimmy Ritchey, and Mark took me under his wing and told me the do’s and don’ts, what to say, what not to say, just stuff like that. I think that really helped.
Are you currently signed to a label?
Yes, I am signed to Warner Brothers.
Are you currently working on an album?
I am working on it right now. We should have five things done in a month or two and hopefully have a single out as soon as we can pick it. We don’t have a release date for the album yet, hopefully sometime next year, but that time could always change.