Pat Green & Cory Morrow
Pat Green has finally come full circle — and all the way back home.
After rising through Texas’ college-town and dancehall scene years ago, Green earned himself major-label support in Nashville and became the poster child of Texas music for a whole generation of fans. His list of achievements includes over 2 million albums sold, three Grammy nominations and a sold out Houston Astrodome.
But after releasing six albums in eight years, sending singles like “Wave on Wave” and “Let Me” up the charts, touring with powerhouses like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban and dealing with accusations of “selling out,” the meat grinder of mainstream stardom proved to be too much. He was spent.
“I felt so much pressure during the years I was with the big record labels to put out a record almost every year,” he explains. “There was a constant loop of having to be creative with new music, and that’s just not my style. I like it to happen when it happens.”
Now, after breaking the cycle for a three-year recharge, Green is back in his comfort zone and playing by his own rules again. His is new independent album Home is his first set of originals in several years, and directly speaks to the hardcore fans that have been with him since the beginning.
Featuring a mature country sound that is both modern and exposes his roots for all to see, his new tunes are full of ringing acoustic guitars, slippery steel and dobro, wailing fiddles and heartfelt, personal lyrics, making Home the return to form many fans have been waiting for.
“I’m very comfortable with this record, it came out exactly as I wanted it,” Green says.
Produced by the all-star team of Jon Randall Stewart, Justin Pollard and Gary Paczosa, the album captures some of the unbridled energy of his first three self- released projects.
“It’s not too over-the-top produced, and it’s not bare bones,” says Green. “It grooves well, you can turn it up or you can leave it down. It’s a very comfortable spot.”
Of 13 new songs, Green co-wrote seven with big names like Scooter Carusoe, Liz Rose and Chris Stapleton, while six more were pulled from A-listers like Jessi Alexander, Brett and Jim Beavers, Chuck Cannon, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
The album begins with the title track, boldly tackling the singer’s contentious mainstream rise and any lingering naysayers right off the bat. Green doesn’t regret taking his shot at the big time — and says he had a lot of fun doing it — but he does understand why some fans felt left out in the cold.
“I was blind to the game, I sang the wrong songs, and disappeared for way too long,” he sings. “But I’ve finally found my way home.”
“That song was very, very easy to write,” he says. “I was writing with Patrick Davis for a couple of days here in Ft. Worth, and that song was really fast, just because I could hear those lines so easy — ‘Yeah it was fun, we were drunk as sailor’s sons’ — we were heroes in our hometown, we were all those things.”
With that out of the way, Green gets down to business, laying out a series of songs aimed straight toward his core fan base in the Lone Star state, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The album’s first single, “Girls From Texas,” is a prime example, and also features the first of Home’sstellar guest appearances. A sugary, grown-up lullaby that explains why Texan girls are just a little bit better than the rest, the track spent 10 weeks on top of the Texas Music chart. Green calls recording the song face-to-face with Lyle Lovett a highlight of the whole project.
“That’s a Jon Randall song,” he explains. “He sent it to me and I’ll never forget it. I was on the plane coming home from Louisiana, and he goes ‘What do you think about this?’ and I literally had chills all over my body. I was like ‘I’ll cut that son of a gun right now!'”
“While I Was Away,” the project’s second single, will strike a chord with anyone who leaves his or her family behind to travel for work. Written by Zane Williams, it’s a tearjerker of the highest caliber — one that even Green has trouble getting through. “It’s just such a ringing truth,” says the father of two. “Everyone says ‘That got me. This thing made me cry. God dang, why’d you have to do that?'”
For lighter fare, Delbert McClinton and Lee Roy Parnell guest on “May the Good Times Never End.” With a twisting, generation-spanning storyline, it features a hot- rod beat and Parnell’s burning slide guitar, as well as McClinton’ rabble-rousing vocals and harmonica.
“Break It Back Down” speaks to Green’s new outlook on life and music, while “No One Here But Us” brings in Sarah Buxton to tell a steamy tale of desperate romance. Meanwhile, “Right Now” is a broken-hearted duet with Sheryl Crow that tells the unflattering-but-true story of Green dumping his now-wife on Valentine’s Day. “I was 22 years old and she was 21, I was ready to move on from Texas Tech and get to Austin and whatever was next,” he says. “It was the biggest mistake of my life, but at the same time it paid off, because once I realized it was a mistake, I knew our love was the real thing.”
And finally, “Good Night In New Orleans” ends the project on a high note, featuring a celebratory storyline and Louisiana-native Marc Broussard for added Cajun authenticity.
“I kind of have a standard rule to start and finish strong,” Green laughs. “The story behind it is great, and everything about that song is cool and fun and funny to me. Everybody around here loves a trip to New Orleans.”
According to Green his time off was very much needed, but even though he always intended to return, it still feels like a risk.
“There’s a lot of fear, of course, and a lot of ‘Is anybody interested? Has the landscape changed so much that I can’t have an impact?'” he admits. “It’s a mix of excitement and fear, but it’s a welcome challenge.”
Mainstream country may have changed, but Green is back in his groove, back to loving and making music on his own terms and happier than ever. And that’s a recipe for a comeback of epic proportions.
“I think I’m having the best year of my life,” he says. “I feel happy and I feel smarter now. I look back and I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to slow down a little bit, but the truth is life is just enjoying the passing of time, as James Taylor says. There’s a lot of drama and there’s mistakes and you’ve gotta get through all of it to get to what you’re looking for.”
What he was looking for was right at Home all along.
Happiness has always come naturally to Cory Morrow. With his rollicking, soulful, feel-good Texas country, he has made thousands jump on tabletops, shimmy, scream, and suspend worries for almost two decades, like a honky-tonk pied piper––and he shows no signs of stopping. But these days, Morrow is also devoted to something more.
“I’ve always been able to find happiness and help others find happiness,” he says. “But there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Now, I feel like there’s a deeper sense of joy that’s not circumstantial.”
That deep joy courses throughout The Good Fight, released June 16, 2015. The 15-song collection was recorded at East Austin’s 12th Street Sound and polished at the Zone Recording Studio in nearby Dripping Springs, Texas. Reflecting on the process from his home in Austin, Morrow says, “I want it to be right. Looking back on other albums, I feel like I’ve settled on certain things. And this time, I really don’t want to settle.”
Listening to The Good Fight, it’s immediately clear that this is a record brimming with guts, truth, and growth––not compromises.
Morrow sings hard, proving his smooth, fiery drawl has only gotten better with age. The music revels in a life full of love and purpose, drawing on gritty rock, thumping gospel, and Morrow’s signature juke-joint country. Many of the songs address faith and relationships, both human and holy, with urgency, gratitude, and wonder. “I think there has always been a thread of spirituality in everything I’ve done––I’ve always been searching for something more,” he says. “But in the last five or six years, I’ve started to actually find it. And in the last three or four years, I’ve begun to come into really deep contact with it––to walk in it.”
As a songwriter, Morrow has retained his token wit and self-deprecating humor, two traits that play well with the album’s loftier themes. His circle of collaborators continues to expand: Nashville aces Brian Keane and Mando Saenz, along with Texas troubadours such as Carter Beckworth, joined an existing cast of favorites that includes the sagacious Owen Temple.
Written with Keane, “I Don’t Mind” captures the bliss of submitting your will to that of a higher power with piano-fueled, tent-revival panache. “I love the way that it speaks and the truth that it speaks,” Morrow says of the song.
Another track that Morrow tackles with a gospel-worthy aplomb, “Dreams” was penned with friend Matt Davis, who runs beloved Tomball, Texas venue Main Street Crossing. “I think we’re all dreaming to do more,” he says. “I find my dreams changing. They’re getting bigger in that they’re focusing less on me and more on what I can do for others. And that can be a really scary concept for me, because I’ve spent most of my life doing for myself––and that was pretty easy. And pretty fun,” he says, laughing.
When asked what “doing for others” looks like for him, Morrow doesn’t hesitate: “Serving. It’s little things all the time.” He mentions his band, and the urge to care for them as people and friends. He brings up his wife, Sherry, and his dedication to her, as well as their shared commitment to supporting organizations such as the Salvation Army in new, concrete ways. “It’s looking around my community and just seeing where there’s loss or grief or suffering. Is there any way I can be there for somebody?” he says. “Even if it’s for me to just be in the room, quiet and available.”
His newfound dedication to seeking out hurt and need around him emanates throughout the album. “In and Out of Light” explores the ideal balance between consistency and change, and serves as a call to see the downtrodden we so often choose to overlook. He sounds a similar cry on the soaring “Let Us Love,” a chest-pounding anthem pleading for open hearts, and “Hiding Anything,” in which he encourages listeners to “fall into arms that you can’t see.”
“Old Soul” is signature Morrow, gleefully mixing profound and silly to create a song that’s introspective, enlightening, and playful. “I’m an old soul, searching for a new way to rock and roll,” he sings over a flush band with standout guitar and Hammond B-3. A jubilant rock breakdown pays homage to early Morrow heroes like Led Zeppelin, and it’s clear he’d be hard-pressed to have more fun.
Pickup lines are turned on their head in “Old with You” as Morrow celebrates settling down. He penned the poignant “Little Man” for son Bear, his oldest. A four-year-old, two-and-a-half-year-old, and six-month-old twin boys fill his house with a different kind of crazy these days, keeping the Morrows perpetually on their toes.
Morrow laughingly refers to “Running After You” as his “blanket song”––a song that covers all of his boys. “It’s the idea that they’re each individually unique and beautiful in their own way, but all loved exactly the same,” he says. In the vein of “Love Without End, Amen,” written by fellow Texan Aaron Barker and immortalized by George Strait, “Running After You” is a masterfully delivered ode to fatherly love, both earthly and divine. “I want my sons to know that truth and love from the moment that they can actually speak so that when they get older, it won’t be such a far distance from them to travel––to come back home,” he says.
When asked if love serves as a unifying theme for The Good Fight, Morrow brings up the parable of “The Prodigal Son,” and the story’s precarious conclusion: Does the angry, older son ultimately follow his father into the party to celebrate his lost brother’s return?
“I think that’s what the record is for me,” Morrow says. “Everybody is the prodigal son––they’ve gotten lost and experienced love and redemption. And everybody is also very jealous of anybody else who’s gotten the kind of love they think they deserve. I think that the point of that story is that love is there, no matter what. You can’t earn it, you can’t make it greater, and you can’t do anything to make it smaller.” He pauses before adding, “Yeah. I’d love for the record to be about that kind of love. Perfect love.”