When you get hired, you might raise a toast. When you get fired, you may chug a beer or something stronger to drown your sorrows. Celebrate a birthday, wedding, anniversary, anything – and tradition dictates it be done glass in hand. But how to celebrate when you achieve U.S. country chart domination? Well, when you’re a humble bloke from Newcastle who’s been slogging away in the USA for over a decade, you make sure everyone feels the love.
Morgan laid on the tequila shots for the crowd at Tootsie’s, Nashville but admits he was fortunate not to be back on home soil. “If I had shouted a bar in Australia, I’d be broke!” he laughed. Morgan was in Chicago when news circulated that ‘Kiss Somebody’ off his appropriately titled album, Things That We Drink To had hit number one. On a night off from performing, Morgan had flown to watch his wife, Kelsea Ballerini in concert and soon ended up onstage with her, performing his new No1 track for 20,000 music fans. Added to which Kelsea was opening the show for buddy, Keith Urban, who came right over to Morgan to congratulate him on his international breakthrough.
“He came offstage, held off his police escort for a moment and came over, gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m so proud of you’,” Morgan told News Corp Australia. “He’s been hugely supportive and he’s the only one who really knows what it feels like.”
Since his teens, Morgan has idolised Keith’s seamless blending of country, pop and rock, and comparisons have been noted over the developing years but they are coming thick and fast now due to his recent global hit. The popularity of ‘Kiss Somebody’ has seen him become only the fourth Australian act to ever reach U.S. number one status.
“Any time you see ‘number one’ written beside a song you write, and especially one that you also sang, it’s a pretty incredible feeling. But there’s definitely something about it hitting number one in America,” Morgan admitted to Country Update. “I feel like it was the first time ever in my career I could really stop and take a breath…moving over here to Nashville and getting to call it home, being able to sign a record deal and putting out my first song, they were all the start of the next step up.”
While there’s no doubt that his hero, Keith has inspired enough amateur guitarists to fill a stadium, Morgan has taken that guitar artistry and “looped” it to make the faithful six-string and the pedal loop the signature elements of his act, as in the vein of Ed Sheeran. He hasn’t played onstage with a band for almost three years.
“I miss the pre show and post show moments [with the band] almost more than the show itself. The moments of, ‘Alright guys, let’s give it all we’ve got tonight’ and getting in the zone with them. I feel like I’m still kind of finding my way on how I do that. Sounds silly, but I just make sure I keep a guitar in the dressing room and play songs – old songs, songs I’ve heard play on the radio, ones I’m digging at the time – to warm up. And then I always make sure to take a moment right before I walk on to remember how lucky I am to be playing that stage and that that moment is what every person in the crowd has been working towards to escape from reality, and that’s the atmosphere I try to create and leave them with every night.”
Labelled the ‘Best One Man Band at CMA Fest 2018’ by Rolling Stone Country, Morgan is electrifying venues in the States just as he has done for years over here. Confident in his own creativity, he hurls riffs and lyrics together like sonic acrobatics, mashing up the songs he loves with his own material. His nimble fingers pick out chords as he spins a yarn, taunting us with familiar melodies so that just when we think he will launch into a certain song, he switches it up and plunges into something else. The energy of Morgan as a showman is astounding, and who knows if forgoing the backing band is cheaper or not, but it’s not a deficit!
“Whether it’s 500 people in a club or 14,000 people in an arena, you definitely get the same connected feeling [with the loop pedal],” Morgan said, but explained that he is always careful to explain to audiences the what and how of using the loop pedal during a show, to clear up any suspicion or speculation of backing tracks.
…read the rest in Issue 91.