Country music has its fair share of common themes. Drinking, cheating, speaking to the downtrodden … even murder is a fair bit more common than it should be. Plights of the homeless and dream sequences aren’t quite as common, but they came together beautifully on Craig Morgan’s breakthrough hit, “Almost Home” back in 2002.
Another common theme of country songs is capturing the feeling of life on the road. While it truly takes something unique to tug at the heartstrings with this kind of song these days, we have to see things from the artists’ perspective. If country music really is about real life as they say, then spending the bulk of the year on tour away from home is certainly a feeling artists know all too well (especially in an age where touring is the dominant source of income for artists).
“Almost Home” almost began as one of those types of songs. The idea came to Morgan while out on tour. His wife phoned him saying she hated that he was out on the road so much. Morgan simply replied that it would all be over soon and he’d almost be home. The idea was planted there.
Written by Morgan along with Kerry Kurt Phillips whose also written songs such as “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” “She Let Herself Go” and Morgan’s 2010 hit “This Ain’t Nothin’,” the idea came into full fruition while Morgan was driving into Nashville one day. He saw a homeless person standing on the Demonbreun Street Bridge near Music Row holding a sign. Ironically, he was driving into Nashville to meet with Phillips to talk more about the idea for the song, but the idea had already come to Morgan. Morgan knew that person was “almost home.”
If you’re confused as to what that last sentence means, both writers meant that on purpose. They wanted the listeners to draw their own interpretations. In regards to the actual song, Morgan said “To me, I just thought he was going back home in his dream, but in Kerry’s mind, he was ready to pass on.”
Taking a page right out of Porter Wagoner’s “The Green, Green Grass Of Home,” sadly the images conjured in the homeless man’s mind are just that – images. We never really know who he is and that’s the point. He was a regular person who got dealt a bad hand somewhere down the line. At the end of the day though, that’s still a person just like you and I. It’s also ironic that in his quest to save this man and “drive him to the mission,” the protagonist accidentally causes unintentional harm to the homeless man. In other words, this man was happier with mental healing than he was with physical healing
For Morgan, the references to grass being mowed, chasing honeybees and walking down old dirt roads came from his childhood, whereas for Phillips, the line about Calico Creek was easy since that was an actual creek near where he grew up.
Morgan hadn’t even planned to cut it himself at first. George Strait had it on hold until Morgan called his producer telling him about the song he helped pen. He thought it was so good that he offered Morgan an outrageous deal in exhange for publishing on that song. Morgan thought at that point he better hold onto it.
Prior to the song’s release on November 4, 2002, Morgan had signed with Broken Bow Records after his previous label, Atlantic Nashville, folded (it was their actually just their country music division that folded). After hearing the news, Morgan couldn’t help but pick his head back up and march on. “It’s no big deal. I’m a firm believer that God has a plan for everything. I knew I could make money writing songs” Morgan told CMT in 2003.
That wouldn’t be Morgan’s first speed bump however. The song eventually went on to become Morgan’s first top ten hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, but it didn’t look that way for awhile. After an initial peak at No. 33 for the chart dated March 8, 2003, “Almost Home” fell of the charts. Billboard had a rule that said any song below No. 20 that had been on the charts for more than 20 weeks had to be removed. Strangely enough it increased in airplay afterward over the next three weeks, allowing it to re-enter at No. 25 on March 29. Billboard said at the time it “relaxed its policy and allowed it to reappear.”
The great thing about music ultimately is that it can bring us together and help us think about who we are, especially when we hear about the person in the situation of this song. For Morgan and Trace Adkins, this song didn’t bring them together. Adkins was furious that Morgan, still a relatively new artist on the block was able to get his hands on that song (Adkins didn’t know Morgan helped write it). They almost came to blows at the Grand Ole Opry one night when, standing in Morgan’s dressing room, Adkins awaited the answer of why he couldn’t cut the song. Things cleared up when Morgan explained he helped write it, and him and Adkins cleared the air afterward. I’ve heard of the concept of wishing you had written a certain song, but that’s the equivalent of taking it to the next level.
Then again, it’s easy to see why Adkins was mad. It’s one of the finest country songs of the past two decades and easily deserved to be the hit that put Morgan on the market, even if the odds were against it for awhile. I guess it too was on its journey home.
This post was written thanks to the following sources:
- Billboard March 23 Issue. Retrieved from <https://books.google.com/books?id=Qw8EAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&lr=&rview=1#v=onepage&q=%22almost%20home%22&f=false>
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music: The Inspirational Stories behind 101 of Your Favorite Country Songs by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Randy Rudder (2011)
- Gilbert, C. June 23, 2003. “Craig Morgan Beats the Odds with ‘Almost Home’ .” CMT. Retrieved from <http://www.cmt.com/news/1473212/craig-morgan-beats-the-odds-with-almost-home/>