Craig Morgan Parachutes Into Country Music

Former Army paratrooper getting singing career off the ground.

NASHVILLE — With his chiseled, clean-cut looks

and piercing gaze, Craig

Morgan looks exactly like what he was for 10

years: an Army paratrooper.

But the Nashville native left the Army to fulfill his dream

of becoming a country star. And he's well on his way, with an

impressive self-titled debut album and a second single

release that has all the indications of becoming a hit.

Although he is from Nashville, the route to the country-music

industry has been a long and circuitous one.

"I actually left home and joined the Army for 10-and-a-half

years," said Morgan, who grew up in nearby Kingston Springs,

Tenn. "It was a sudden decision to join. I'd seen all these

advertisements — 'Be all that you can be' ... and I

thought it'd be neat to ride around in those tanks and shoot

the guns and get free hunting clothes.

"At the reception station, when I went in, they asked me if I

wanted to be airborne, and I said, 'Sure,' " Morgan

continued. "I thought they meant that I'd be flying planes. I

didn't know they meant that I'd be jumping out of them!"

Inspired By Army Experiences

Morgan said he started entering some songwriting contests in

the military and that his interest in music began to

increase. Then, like his idol George

Strait before him, he won a Best Vocalist of the

Year award in the Army.

Morgan saw action in Panama during the 1989 operation to oust

head-of-state Manuel Noriega, an experience that yielded a

song he co-wrote: his current single release, "Paradise"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Morgan,_Craig/Paradise.ram">RealAudio excerpt).

"I'm actually in paradise now," Morgan said. "I talk about

the military in the song, but it really leads up to what I'm

doing right now. A lot of people who have heard it and who

have had no affiliation whatsoever with the military say to

me, 'You know, my job ain't so bad. That song made me think

about how good I've really got it.' "

Before the Army, Morgan was an emergency medical technician

while attending college. "That was great training to be a

country singer," he said, referring to his time treating the

wounded and helping to save lives. "I saw a lot of the drama

in people's lives. There and in the Army, I've experienced a

lot of things that people only see on TV. That really

prepared me for country music."

A New Career

Morgan's first single, "Something To Write Home About" (

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Morgan,_Craig/Something_To_Write_Home_About.ram">RealAudio excerpt), which he also co-

wrote, also came out of his military experience.

"I sang as a kid, growing up around my dad's band," he said.

"I'd run around onstage, and once in a while they'd pick me

up and let me sing something. And I sang in church, but it

wasn't until after I got in the military and got away from

home that I realized it was something I wanted to do as a

career."

The decision to leave the Army, however, did not come upon

him with the same suddenness as did the one to join. "I was

stationed in Louisiana, at Fort Polk," he said. "My wife

talked it over and decided it would be good for us and the

family. We did some research and on weekends I'd come to

Nashville and meet songwriters and producers. After a year,

year and a half of that, we felt I had the contacts, the

opportunity and the potential to do it. I'd get the Sunday

paper and look for all the ads for writers' nights throughout

Nashville and see who was playing where. Then I'd attend and

introduce myself to people. And it worked." Contacts he made

led to songwriting sessions, to jobs singing demos for a

publishing company and eventually to a record contract with

Atlantic.

He never doubted that he would make it, he said. "I believe

that if a man wants to do something bad enough and he has a

good enough product, he can do it. I felt comfortable enough

— not confident, but comfortable — with the

material I was writing and with my vocals."