Craig Morgan pores over his upcoming schedule and does the old double take. “Am I really doing all this?” he smiles in mock surprise. “I never realized how much I have going on until I started thinking about it and looking it over.”
That is no mere hype. Morgan actually does have the full plate of activity before him, much to his grinning delight. In late September, the singer/songwriter kicks off his American Stories tour, which will run through November. For this concert series, Morgan, a military veteran, is partnering with Operation Finally Home, an organization that will provide a mortgage-free home to a military family on select dates of Morgan’s tour. The American Stories shows are mixed in with Morgan’s regular tour dates, making for a busy fall traveling schedule.
The avid hunter and fisherman is also filming new episodes of his popular Outdoor Channel TV series, “Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors.” On top of everything else, Morgan and his wife Karen are opening a unique, family-centric store called The Gallery at Morgan Farms in Dickson, Tennessee where they currently live.
Of prime importance is the American Stories tour, which has Morgan excited and eager to explain. For each stop on the tour, which kicks off Sept. 29th, Morgan will be joined by a well-known songwriter and military activists like Taya Kyle, wife of slain military veteran Chris Kyle, the subject of the movie “American Sniper.” Naturally, Morgan will reprise such hits as “Little Bit of Life,” “International Harvester,” “Bonfire” and others.
“It’s a theater setting and just the coolest thing in the world,” Morgan says with enthusiasm. “It’s very similar to a songwriters in-the-round show. Mac Powell from Third Day opens and does about 30 minutes. Then, I do some songs and bring out my guests. We’ll have a military person, someone who has experienced the military in depth but who is also experiencing a bit of celebrity life. The songwriters tell stories about their songs and the military personnel share their stories. They are all great speakers.” With a wide grin, Morgan adds, “As we know, songwriters are some of the best storytellers in the world. It’s just a lot of fun.”
On some stops, including Nashville, one of those writers will be Morgan’s daughter Aly Beaird, who has her sights on becoming a professional songwriter on Music Row. ‘She is a monster songwriter,” raves the proud dad. “She is going to be in this business.” The charitable component of the tour is a key for Morgan, a 17-year Army and Army Reserves veteran. “This tour sponsor, Operation Finally Home, provides mortgage-free homes to military people who are struggling,” Morgan says. “Some have had injuries, others just need the financial help. It’s nice to know that there is a company that feels so driven to help the military. It’s very humbling for me to be a part of that. These people need our help and we’re so pleased that we can do this for them.”
The American Stories tour wraps, fittingly enough, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th, at City Winery in Nashville. “We’re back home and we’re at a winery,” Morgan, an avid wine collector and connoisseur, says with a laugh. “That is just an awesome thing. After that, we’re closing out our touring for the year.”
The conversation segues into his new venture, The Gallery at Morgan Farms. The shop will mainly sell goods handmade or grown by the Morgans at their farm-to-business operation Morgan Farms. The gallery will also feature items crafted by some of Morgan’s artist friends, including Zac Brown, Eric Paslay and Billy Dean. As Morgan notes, it’s not a farmer’s market or even a general store. Think of it more as a gallery of artistic, unique pieces. The Gallery at Morgan Farms will carry quilts, candle holders, wooden spoons, wine glasses, handmade furniture accessories, and paintings, among many offerings.
“We’re not just selling products,” Morgan says. “We’re selling products with a story. When you buy a centerpiece bowl, for instance, you’ll see a note that my wife wrote describing where that piece of wood came from. I have products made out of a tree that Jim Ed Brown planted. Even the spoons are hand carved. We also sell our honey from the bees we have on our farm.” No mass-produced commercial items here. “Every piece is a one-of-a-kind,” Morgan is pleased to note. “No two items are exactly alike.” Plus, it’s a green operation, as most of the available goods are produced from re-purposed or recycled materials.
Morgan unfolds a variety of reasons behind getting into the often-fickle retail business. As marketing people like to point out, it expands the brand, giving an entertainer one more way to engage with fans. “I know I can’t do this forever,” Morgan, a youthful-looking 53, concedes with an earnest smile. “So I’m trying to integrate this success into something else that allows my family to work together. And it feels like we’ll have a positive impact on the community. This will really help the local economy.”
Then, there is the therapeutic aspect. The smile briefly leaves Morgan’s face as he recalls the tragedy that hit him and his family in 2016: the death of his son Jerry in a drowning accident in Tennessee. The memory of that unspeakable day will never wane. But launching the family store, Morgan concedes, can help the family heal and cope.
“In this last year of our lives, through the most difficult time a family could ever have, we have managed to smile,” Morgan says. “And it’s not easy to do that. But this [project] has helped us move on. We have brought him with us. Every time we do something,” Morgan adds solemnly, “we think of Jerry. He’s not with us, but he’s not gone.”
During the media preview of The Gallery at Morgan Farms in September, he addressed the event again. “We still struggle every day,” Morgan said, his voice slightly quivering. “One thing we needed to do was find something we could focus on as a family. God and family have really helped us get through this.”
The Gallery at Morgan Farms is now open to the public. Craig Morgan’s American Stories tour will come to City Winery in Nashville on November 11th. For tickets and more information, visit City Winery.