How many Row artists can you name, for instance, who have already sold more than 30,000 copies of their CD, not in the usual way by moving a couple hundred at a time at a concert or festival, but instead by selling two or three CDs at a time, after walking into a gas station or convenience store, and performing hundreds of these impromptu shows that way across the South and Southwest?
Morgan was just 7 years old when she wrote her first song, “Gates Of Heaven.” She still has a copy of the video of her singing the tune at that age stored in her phone, and it’s amazing that someone that young could already have such a mature-sounding country voice.
“I remember I sang that for my class project. I sang it in front of my whole first-grade class, and everybody laughed at me and made fun of me,” she says. “I came home crying, and I said, `I’m never singin’ again!’ ”
Then she smiles and says, “yeah, that worked out, didn’t it?”
Indeed it did work out, and Morgan is now signed with Curb both for her recording and her publishing. Top Curb executive Doug Johnson is producing her. But it’s truly been a long, strange trip from the oil fields of Texas to here.
“It’s a weird story,” she says.
“I was about 9 when I made my first CD, just me singing my songs. We hired a band from Branson, Missouri to come play on it,” Morgan recalls. “We ordered probably about 1,000 copies of the CD, and they sat in my living room forever.”
She grew tired of looking at that pile of her albums, so one day she had a conversation with her father.
“I want to get rid of these CDs,” she said.
“How?” he asked.
“Well, take me downtown and I’ll get rid of ‘em.”
“You can’t just give ‘em away, because we paid for them,” her Dad said.
Morgan said: “Well, I can sell ‘em for about $10 or something.”
She headed to downtown Breckenridge, a city of around 6,000 located between Fort Worth and Abilene. Like many towns in Texas, oil and gas are core industries there, and Morgan’s Dad has long worked as a welder on the pipelines.
“So I walked into every store in the square in our town, and I sold about 60 CDs that day,” she says.
That’s pretty amazing for a 9-year-old, or for a 29-year-old, for that matter.
“All I did was I walked into the stores and I said, `hi, my name’s Morgan Frazier. I’m 9 years old, I’m from here, and I was just wondering if you would like to buy my CD,’ ” she recalls.
The customers would often ask, “well, would you sing for me?” Little Morgan would then belt out an a cappella version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” or some other favorite, and the amazed customers would happily hand over the $10.
That first trip to the town square in Breckenridge was just the beginning.
“I ended up selling 30,000 copies like that,” she says. “I worked really hard. I went to every single town in between, I’ve been to Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, all over Texas.”
Hundreds of times, the little girl would walk into businesses, sing a song or two, and sell a CD or two. The novelty quick wore off.
“It was really fun for a while,” she says. “But after two years of being on the road like that, it was really hard. But I think that it made me the person that I am right now. It gave me a lot of opportunities.”
It also to a great extent meant she could not have a typical childhood or a typical high-school life, since she was rarely home. Morgan just graduated from home schooling a year early, and in late September she got to enjoy one of the few thrills she’s been able to experience that other kids her age achieve. She bought her first car, a used Mitsubishi, and the sense of freedom that gave her in countless respects was gigantic.
So when we hear one of her songs is called “To Be A Kid Again,” we begin to see exactly where Morgan Frazier is coming from. “I was literally supporting my whole family at age 9 and 10. It was incredibly stressful,” she says. “I get emotional, because it was really hard, but I thank my parents so much. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be here. I know that.”
Her folks recently returned to Texas, and Morgan is now hard at work co-writing in Nashville with top tunesmiths including Keith Anderson, Paul Overstreet, John Scott Sherrill, Randy Boudreaux, Dean Dillon and Doug Johnson.
“I love to write, ever since I was little I’ve loved to write,” she says. “Definitely co-writing is different. It was really hard at me at first. When I first came here, I was writing with all these great songwriters and it was so intimidating. But I learned so much. I was a sponge, I really learned a lot from those guys.”
Her songwriting process has quickly evolved.
“It’s definitely different sitting down in a room on Music Row and co-writing,” Frazier says. “I’m used to just sitting down in my room, playing some tunes, and coming up with words to it. And the first thing I thought, I’d just write it down. Now I’m learning the craft of writing.”
One of the joys of writing with Johnson is his magic with words. “He is a lyric guy, he’s one of the best,” Morgan says of Johnson, Curb’s Vice President of A&R and the writer or co-writer of huge hits including Randy Travis’s CMA 2003 Song of the Year “Three Wooden Crosses,” Ricochet’s 1996 hit “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” and Ty Herndon’s “I Want My Goodbye Back,” from 1995.
Both Doug Johnson and his wife have played huge roles in discovering and developing Morgan’s music and songwriting, and also in becoming mentors to the young artist as she navigates the unique ways of Music Row, and eventually country radio.
“That has helped amazingly. Doug himself has taught me so much about the music business, which I had not a clue about,” she says. “All I knew about was how to sing and to write what I felt, and he has helped me so much with things I need to know in this business.”
Another key figure in Morgan’s Nashville story is her manager John Northrup of Northrup Entertainment, another veteran Row songwriter with cuts by stars including George Strait, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.
Northrup’s firm has had great success both in Texas and Nashville, specializing in radio promotions and “grass roots radio DJ tours,” as the Web site states. Much of their success has happened on the Texas Music Chart, and in the fiercely competitive music, club, and radio scene in Morgan Frazier’s native Lone Star State.
She began coming to Nashville at age 9, and moved here about a year ago, with great encouragement from Northrup.
“My manager, John Northrup, heard me at a writer’s night on my 13th birthday at the Preston Lounge, in the Hotel Preston,” Frazier says. “Tommy Barnes was hosting it.”
Barnes co-wrote Tim McGraw’s breakthrough smash “Indian Outlaw,” as well as the Little Texas No. 1 “My Love.” In recent years, he’s worked a great deal with the fine Michigan vocalist Kalvin Wayne.
Tommy convinced Morgan to perform at that writer’s night.
“John Northrup was there, and it was kind of a contest for a label called Category Five Records,” she says. “I ended up winning the contest.”
Category Five is no longer in business, but that night the label offered Frazier a record deal. She had just turned 13.
“I just felt like it wasn’t right, so me and my parents went back to Texas,” she said.
A couple years went by, and then Frazier got a phone call from Northrup. She was 15.
“Do you still want to sing?” he asked.
“Absolutely!” she said.
“Well, if you come to Nashville I can get you a record deal in nine months,” Northrup said.
“How are you gonna do that?”
“Just give me nine months, no contracts or anything,” John said.
So Frazier came back to town, and Northrup introduced her to several people, including Doug Johnson’s wife.
She convinced Doug to go see Morgan perform, in College Station, Texas.
“I ended up singin’ four hours,” she says. “And Doug said from that point on, he thought that it was great and that he wanted to work with me.”
There are times it humbles her.
“The other night I was praying, and I honestly was so grateful,” says Morgan, whose strong Christian faith has helped her get through all the ups and downs. “I was thinking, `how does a little girl from Texas that just wanted to sing, get here?’ Golly! I’m so lucky to be here, where I am, and having Doug Johnson believe in me so much, and have his family open up their home to me and treat me like one of their own.”
There are also moments where she loves being a typical teen.
“I’m still a kid,” she says. “Me getting this car is like so exciting to me, just having that freedom and just being on my own.”
So with both the experience of a young music veteran and the joy of a talented 17-year-old, Morgan Frazier is in the perfect place in her music and in her life.
By: Phil Sweetland