Touring country singer/songwriter Sara Morgan aims to rebuild prepandemic momentum
Arkansas native describes herself as headstrong artist who rejects conventional wisdom while building her career
- Morgan performs at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27 in the Connie Gotsch Theatre on the San Juan College campus.
- Tickets are $15 for adults, and $12 for students and seniors.
- They can be purchased online at sanjuancollege.edu/events, in advance at the San Juan College bookstore at the door the night of the concert.
FARMINGTON — For anyone who aspires to make a dent in the country music business, the lure of moving to Nashville is an almost irresistible force — "the standard salmon route," as Sara Morgan puts it.
But it's one that Morgan, an Arkansas native, has managed to resist thus far as she continues to try to carve out a place for herself in the country hierarchy. Operating from her home base in the Kansas City area, Morgan — who will play this weekend at San Juan College — likes to keep a literal and figurative distance from the insular world of the country music capital, traveling to Nashville only when circumstances make it necessary.
Those visits to Music Row had become more and more frequent by the spring of 2020, when Morgan was recording a new disc, "Another Nail," and her single "Church in a Bar" was earning her radio airplay and the kind of attention that might have taken her career to the next level. At that point, Morgan said, she was spending approximately one out of every three weeks in Nashville, and the forces she had battled since launching her music career a decade earlier finally had turned from headwind to tailwind.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all that momentum Morgan had worked years to generate evaporated.
"Oh, my goodness," Morgan said, struggling to describe how big a setback the pandemic was for her personally. "I don't want to complain. However, when all this started, I was in Nashville finishing my first big Nashville record with some pretty well-known people and 'Church in a Bar' was getting played on WSM (the iconic Nashville radio station that has been the longtime home of 'The Grand Ole Opry').
"I said, 'Oh, no, this is going to be hard," she continued. "And it has been really hard for two years. To lose that momentum was really tough."
Morgan eventually finished "Another Nail" and released it last spring, but her focus these days is on clawing her way back into the same position she was in when the pandemic began. That means widening her touring footprint well beyond her normal stops throughout the Midwest — this will be her first excursion to the Four Corners region — and heading back into the studio to record some new material.
That doesn't mean "Another Nail" has become an afterthought. Morgan plans on performing a couple of new songs during her concert here, but she said she'll mostly be showcasing the material from her 2021 album.
"We're just now able to go out and push it," she said. " … I don't want it to just get thrown into the bin."
One new tune she'll be playing is her takeaway from the pandemic experience, a ballad called "The Old Ways," a song that was inspired by the era in which her grandparents lived.
"It's about missing a time period I wasn't even around for," she said, referring to a time when many Americans grew their own food and were far more self-reliant and independent than they are today.
Morgan said she was led to write the tune in response to the shortages of various kinds of food and other commodities that arose during the pandemic. As she pondered how she might become less reliant on the commercial world, she also had occasion to re-examine her music career and analyze how she might establish more of an independent footing there.
"I definitely did," she said. "There were so many things about the industry I could and couldn't control."
Unlike many of her peers, Morgan decided she wasn't interested in performing a lot of digital shows just to maintain a presence in the market and earn a few extra bucks. And as evidenced by her decision not to move to Nashville, she had never been a follower of conventional wisdom when it came to building a career in country music.
"I realized my approach has always been the opposite of what everybody else is doing," she said. "I guess my philosophy is, there are so many people in that camp already, why would I do that?"
So Morgan hunkered down and did what she always does — she started writing songs.
"I write all the time," she said. "I write all day. Even when I'm in a recording session, I'll have an idea, and I'll say, 'I need five minutes — I'll be right back.'"
Morgan spent much of the pandemic putting pen to paper and crafting tunes while sitting on the wraparound porch of the house she shares with her husband outside Kansas City.
"I tend to push back against everything else going on because I'm headstrong with my career and because I don't want to (be a flash in the pan)," she said. "Some people ask me, 'Why isn't your stuff on TikTok?' Well, why would I want to do that? I want a career that lasts longer than 15 minutes. I want a substantial career where what I have to say is not just surface level. So that means you take a very narrow road to where you're going."
Morgan performs at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27 in the Connie Gotsch Theatre on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $12 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at sanjuancollege.edu/events, in advance at the San Juan College bookstore at the door the night of the concert.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or email@example.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.