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September 3-7, 2019
William Michael Morgan has only just arrived in his mid-twenties, but with a love of country music deeper than The Big River itself, the Mississippi native is the very definition of an old soul. His pristine Southern vocal, timeless sound and honest lyric represents a new generation of hit-makers in Music City – modern day descendants of artists like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson and George Strait. After signing his major-label deal at the tender age of 19, Morgan began by hitting the top of the radio charts, landing at No. 1 on Mediabase with the Gold-certified “I Met a Girl.” He then released an acclaimed EP and earned a Billboard Top 5 with his 2016 album debut, Vinyl. He has performed more than 50 times on the Grand Ole Opry and was featured by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as a highlighted artist in the 2017 American Currents exhibit. But now that he’s a few years older – and few hundred shows wiser – this old soul is looking toward a new horizon. “I thought our first album was a very good representation of what we do and what we like, so we set the bar really high,” says Morgan of his next batch of country tunes. “My whole message with this project is that I want to show growth – not only musically, but also personally. … I feel like now I understand myself, and I understand the music I want to make.” Produced once again by Scott Hendricks and Jimmy Ritchey, five new tracks show off the man Morgan has become. A hard worker and big-time dreamer, a single father and hopeless romantic, and a pure-country stalwart who’s not afraid to embrace the here and now. His new music is still drenched in twang and tenderness, but also infused with fresh energy from across the musical spectrum. “We tried to diversify on this project,” Morgan says with an easy grin. “That can sound scary, like ‘Oh no, Willy’s changed,’ but it’s not that at all. … I’m from Mississippi, so I’ve got a lot of that rhythm and blues in my soul. I’m influenced by a lot of music. I could be listening to Frank Sinatra and switch over to Barry White, or go from Pink Floyd to the Isley Brothers and AC/DC to Merle Haggard. … We were trying to find a happy medium between what’s current and what we love.” That happy medium shows up in full force on “Tonight Girl,” a grooving anthem about living in the moment that drips with the same casual-country soul Morgan grew up around. Think of it as the steamy second chapter of the “I Met a Girl” saga. “Where I’m from in Vicksburg, a lot of the casinos down there get packed out every night with blues music and soul,” he says. “It’s everywhere, and they play right from the heart, so I wanted to put some of that sound on there.” With plans to release a video alongside every new track, Morgan will paint pictures in fans’ minds to enrich each story. But according to him, the foot-stomping country rocker “Workin’” doesn’t need any help. He first heard the track while traveling through Mexico, and it immediately struck a chord. “It was just a rough work tape, but I saw those pictures,” he says. “I saw the guy out there working and the girl with her feet up, drinking some red wine and waiting on me to call quitting time.”
Special guest Austin Burke & Halley Kearns
Austin Burke has been swinging for the fences since childhood. At age three, he fearlessly sang the national anthem for not one but two major league franchises in his hometown of Phoenix – the Diamondbacks and the Suns.
An avid fan of both baseball and music, Burke experienced the thrill of a lifetime when he met his musical hero, Garth Brooks, at a San Diego Padres spring training game. The chance meeting led to an invitation to cover “Friends in Low Places” on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, where Austin told Rosie he dreamt of becoming a “singing baseball player.”
Austin pursued baseball through college, but he ultimately decided he wanted to step up to the plate with his music. He moved to Nashville at the age of 19, where he spent four years tirelessly waiting tables, writing songs and saving just enough money to record his debut single, “Sleepin’ Around.” Right off the bat, the song caught the attention of WME, who signed him to their roster and booked him as a support act for the likes of Vince Gill, Cole Swindell, Casey Donahew and William Michael Morgan.
The song “Whole Lot in Love” catapulted Austin to Spotify stardom. The track currently boasts over 49 million streams and has earned Austin the reputation of being one of the platform’s most successful independent country artists. Both “Sleepin’ Around” and “Whole Lot in Love” have also been prominently featured on Sirius XM’s The Highway.
Austin is currently touring the U.S., and in the past few months alone, he has played Country Thunder Arizona, Country LakeShake, Watershed Music Festival, The Willamette Country Music Festival and Faster Horses Festival. Recognizing his immense talent and potential, Pandora and NYCountry Swag both named Austin an “artist to watch” in 2019, and the Grand Ole Opry invited him to make his debut on March 23, 2019.
Poised to become a heavy hitter in country music, Austin has all the bases covered – humility, talent, drive and passion. He’s only going to continue knocking it out of the park as an artist.
Halle Kearns is a Nashville singer/songwriter who was born and raised in Columbia, Missouri. At the age of six, Halle began putting on “shows” for her family and friends, singing along to her favorite country stars.
As the years went on, Halle’s love for singing and performing only grew. She taught herself how to play guitar by looking up different chords, and played hymns for her Bible study. She played her first open mic when she was 15, and became sure of her path. Throughout high school, Halle led worship for her local YoungLife organization.
After graduating high school, Halle moved to Kansas City, and immediately began pursuing a career in music by accepting internships through other performers, managing radio tours, and taking frequent trips to Nashville to write songs and gain knowledge about the industry.
Halle then began performing all over the Midwest, and has since played over 250 shows, including opening positions for national acts such as Eli Young Band, Tracy Lawrence, The Oak Ridge Boys, and many others.
Since moving to Nashville in March of 2019, Halle has spent countless hours crafting her music into a perfect representation of herself as an artist. Her ultimate dream is to reach people through music in a way words, alone, cannot do. She wants to pass her story along through her lyrics and melodies, in hopes it will impact someone else the way music has impacted her life.
Grateful for her start, Halle looks forward to her future in entertainment.