When Morgan Evans sings about throwing yourself into love “like your heart ain’t ever been broke” in his U.S. debut single ‘Kiss Somebody’, they’re not just words from an inventive day in a songwriting session. They’re straight out of his increasingly remarkable life.
Evans has met every tough decision in his life and career head on, emerging more driven and optimistic as a result. No decision was tougher than letting go of everything he knew in his Australian homeland to live halfway across the world in Nashville in order to chase a dream – without his family, without the friendships he’d built, without any concrete guarantees about what might, or might not, be around the corner.
“That was a big deal,” Evans says about making the move to the U.S. “It was daunting at times. I really did feel like I had to let go of everything. But that’s what people do when they dive into love, whatever it is they love.”
Evans loves music, and it’s a good bet that as new fans discover his sound, they’ll develop an affection for the guy making it. His songs are coolly melodic, relentlessly hopeful and wholly infectious, none more so than the irresistible ‘Kiss Somebody’. He delivers it all with a genial confidence, anchored by an earthy sensitivity.
His birthplace demanded he develop both patience and a strong work ethic to follow his dreams. If you want to become a country singer, it’s practically a requirement that you move to Nashville. It’s challenging to do that if you’re from Texas or Georgia. It‘s a monstrous undertaking trying to navigate the immigration system from the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
“There’s such a high bar to clear,” he says. “You really have to prove that you have something unique to offer as an artist. As soon as I got my visa and made the move, I was thrown into the deep end of the Nashville life. You’re surrounded by the best songwriters and musicians in the world and you almost need to make a choice to be intimidated or inspired.”
The inspiration led to a creative rebirth for Evans. Collaborating with hit Nashville writers took his songwriting craft to new heights daily, but he soon realized it wasn’t just about being ‘better.’ To write the songs that would land him a record deal and define himself as an artist, Evans had to tap into something deeper, more personal.
“I spent a lot of time writing what I thought other people wanted to hear,” Evans says. “Now I know I need to write about what I feel, what I can’t express by just talking. Being truly honest in a song can be confronting, but when I get that feeling, like I’m saying something so real it’s uncomfortable, it usually means I’m onto something worthwhile. That’s when I’m writing the songs only I can write.”
Evans comes by music honestly. He grew up in Newcastle, a beach town two hours north of Sydney, built around the BHP steel plant in another era, and around coal today. His parents listened incessantly to music with a blue-collar tint reflecting the values of their town. Garth Brooks, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Led Zeppelin were in high rotation. His mother encouraged Evans and his two siblings to pursue music as a hobby, and Morgan ended up playing piano at home and baritone horn – an instrument that resembles a small tuba – in his school’s band. At age 13, a classic motive led him to pick up the guitar.
“I wanted to start a band so I could meet girls,” he says with a chuckle. “But then when I got a guitar, I couldn’t stop playing it. As soon as I learned four chords, the first thing I did was write a song. I didn’t even know that was something you had to learn how to do. I just did it. It was a natural thing that I didn’t really think about at the time.”
It wasn’t long before his musical inclinations were crystalized in 2004, when fellow Australian Keith Urban performed an intimate show in Newcastle for about 140 people.
“It was just the best thing I’d ever seen,” Evans recalls. “I grew up listening to country music and rock music, and he was the first artist that combined all those rock & roll and pop elements with the country sound in a way that made me think that’s exactly what I needed to be doing.”
Evans raw talent and undeniable on-stage charisma led to some big early opportunities while still in Australia, opening for Taylor Swift on her first tour there and for Alan Jackson’s 2011 arena shows. Touring with country’s biggest stars motivated Morgan to take regular trips to Nashville, stoking the fires of his Music City dreams even as he released his first full album in Australia through the Warner Music branch.
On his first trip to Nashville, he performed on a showcase of global country acts at the CMA Music Festival. An impressed CMA board member offered Evans the opportunity to play a two-song acoustic set at the stadium in front of 50,000 people.
“Every time things have gotten tough and I’ve thought about giving up, I flashback to being up there in front of that insanely huge crowd, and the incredible energy I felt. Having a taste of my dreams so early in my career is a big part of the fuel that’s kept me going.”
By 2017, Evans had developed an impressive catalogue of strong, distinctive songs, and an engaging live show, built around a loop pedal setup that allowed him to play solo with the presence of a full band. Building a relationship with songwriter/producer Chris DeStefano (Carrie Underwood, Brett Eldredge, Dan + Shay, Luke Bryan), Evans found a layered acoustic-driven sound that was the perfect vehicle for his warm, sandy voice.
Warner Music Nashville president/CEO John Esposito and A&R execs Scott Hendricks and Cris Lacy recognized Evans’ talent and his accessible sound and were impressed by the potential of his songs to connect with the country audience. By May of this year, they signed Morgan to the label, a little less than two years after he arrived on American soil for good.
As the new music finds its way into the world, Evans is optimistic about his future. His first U.S. album Things That We Drink To finds him embodying the breadth of his personality, from crisp and carefree to soulful and tender. But Evans isn’t just upbeat about the music. He’s also grateful for the winding road that led him to this point.
“It’s been a long journey,” he concedes, “but without it, I wouldn’t be as ready as I feel now. I couldn’t have written these songs and I wouldn’t be as sure about who I am. The other thing is, I appreciate everything more now. I appreciate every single day that I get to wake up and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”