Very few people really know what they want to do with their lives, much less from the time they’re only children. William Michael Morgan is one of those rare exceptions who had decided what to do, well, even before he knew he had decided.
A native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Morgan has been listening to and singing country music – real country music – for as long as he can remember. Today, still only 17, Morgan has opened for the likes of Tracy Byrd, Mark Chesnutt, Darryl Worley and others, and has been making frequent pilgrimages to Nashville to meet with various music industry executives and songwriters who have taken him under their wings.“I was singing even before my mom and dad knew I did,” Morgan said. “When I was in kindergarten the ladies in the school cafeteria kind of gave me up – they asked my dad, ‘So you’re the little boy’s dad that sings Marty Robbins songs everyday to the lunch room?’ My dad was like, ‘My son doesn’t sing.’ So when I got home my dad asked me to sing and I sang for him. That was my start in music.”
Today Morgan seems to be on his way to becoming a full-blown country star, with a voice and cowboy image that instantly draw comparisons to one of his heroes, George Strait. “I love Merle Haggard as much as I do George Strait, though,” he said. “And Tracy Byrd, Mark Chesnutt, those types of artists are who I really look up to. I grew up listening to traditional country music and I love it and love what those guys do.”
It’s a rare weekend when Morgan isn’t on the road to a gig somewhere. Morgan has played for countless people at festivals, nightclubs, resorts and corporate parties throughout the southern states over the years, attracting a following and street team support reserved for acts far older than he is. Normally accompanied on the road by his father, Morgan is getting an education in what the artists he sometimes opens for experience on the road before he even graduates from high school.
“It was news to me when he said this was what he wanted to do with his life,” his father, Mike Morgan said, “but I said okay, let’s go! I’ve been into country music my whole life anyway so I’m really enjoying it. And he seems to be getting Nashville’s attention, so I’m definitely happy to be helping him in any way I can.”
Roger Springer is a Nashville songwriter who has had dozens of cuts by such artists as Chesnutt, Clay Walker and Love and Theft, among many others, and has been Morgan’s songwriting mentor over the years. “I met him when he was 12, and I’ve been helping him along and watching him grow ever since,” Springer said. “In all my years in the business I’ve never been involved in finding a new singer and helping develop them before, but working with this young man has been a pure pleasure.”
Morgan said that writing is just one more facet of being an artist that loves, especially since he’s been able to attract the support of writers like Springer and Robert Ellis Orrall (Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift). “Writing a song and then recording it is like no other feeling to me,” he said. “I have been so blessed so far to have written with some of the best writers in Nashville. The last four songs we recorded I wrote with Roger and Robert.”
“He’s not only a great talent,” Springer said, “but he’s the nicest young man you’d want to meet. He’s everything a young man should be. I love working with him. I’ve been in this business for 21 years, and I have to admit that he’s given me some energy again that I’d lost.”
Like the singers he admires most, Morgan accompanies himself on guitar, but is trying to expand his instrumental horizons beyond simply one instrument. “I also play mandolin and Dobro, but it’s not like I have some great gift to play,” he said. “I practice at least four hours a day and am always trying to get better.”
Morgan has been profiled on news stories about young musicians with rising careers on CNN, Fox News, MTV and ABC. With more than 2,000,000 MySpace plays, Morgan says that, in terms of listening preferences or career choices, country music is all he cares about.
“I’m probably the only teenager you’ve ever met that has never heard a rap song from start to finish,” he said, laughing. “I’m 100% pure country. I guess traditional country music is just a big part of my life and I hope it always will be.”
Story by Rick Moore