A conversation with … Morgan Hale, newest voice of the Fraser Valley

Leia Larsen
Morgan Hale plays her guitar in Kaibab Park with her dog Spirit on Thursday, Aug. 15, in Granby.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

What is the Texaco Country Showdown?

An annual contest since 1982, the Texaco Country Showdown is a talent show looking to discover new country singers. Competitions begin at the local county level, then move to state and regional Showdowns. The final contestants compete at the national level in Nashville, Tenn., with the winner bagging $100,000 and a recording contract.

Grand County winner of the Texaco Country Showdown, Morgan Hale, is not your typical mild-mannered country girl.

She’s articulate, exudes confidence, and speaks not of “if” she wins her next music competition, but “when.” With her strawberry blonde hair, which she wears loose and natural, fringe buckskin jacket, colorful dress and boots, she seems to embody her self-described musical genre, “mountain indie.”

Hale’s spirited determination comes from a life filled with hard knocks. She began living on her own at 16. She reunited with her estranged father after nearly a decade, learned an appreciation for music and performance from him, and then lost him to a crippling disease just three years after.

She calls her father’s death her “single-hardest” life experience. After roaming the West and working in Yellowstone, Hale settled in the Fraser Valley in 2010 and began her musical career. Now 26, she’s performing at local venues and saving money to travel for future competitions. Next up is the state-level contest for the Texaco Country Showdown, slated for Sept. 1 at Copper Mountain. Hale spoke about her musical career, life in Grand County and future goals.

What was the local Texaco Country Showdown like in Grand Lake?

It was a little hairy, to be honest. I was pretty nervous. You only get one song to beat everyone. It’s pretty tough to make a song choice. I sang Angel from Montgomery. It’s an old Bonnie Raitt and John Prine song.

And how was performing at the Winter Park Beer Festival?

Intense. Probably the most terrifying thing I’ve done to date. I’ve never played on a stage that big and never played for that many people before. When I started playing, there were about 400 people there, which is actually a lot. By the time I was done, there were easily over 2,000 people.

You’ve got to turn the switch off and play for the sake of playing. You can’t focus on how many people are listening, or even how they feel about it. Then you’re not giving them what they came for. But I think it turned out well and a lot of people enjoyed it.

How did you get into music?

I’ve been involved in music all of my life. My father was a very devoted musician. He wrote, played guitar, played bass, played in bands, played a lot of bluegrass. He sang to me from the time I was in his arms until the day he died. I’ve always been a singer, and my music teachers have always supported me in school. As long as I can remember, it has always been a passion of mine. But his passing inspired me to actually do something with it, to try to find a way to get on stage and try to perform like my father. Music became my coping mechanism.

What’s your favorite song you’ve written?

A little song called “Rachel’s Song.” I wrote it when I was living and working in Yellowstone National Park. It’s just about the really simple, good things that people don’t take notice of or sing about, really. It’s about being outside and understanding that everything is beautiful and appreciating it. Basically, I sat on a hill and stared, and decided to put into words what I was looking at. It’s a very relaxing, calming, but moving song.

What brought you to Grand County?

When I was working in Yellowstone, Winter Park Ski Resort did a job fair. The girl who was up there as a rep., she was so incredibly in love with this valley. That’s what captured me. I figured I didn’t have any other place to go, I’d never been to Colorado, I’d just see what happened. I’ve actually been here longer than anywhere I’ve lived in the last 10 years. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

What are some highlights from your musical career so far?

The Winter Park Beer Festival is easily one of them. So is winning the Texaco Country Showdown. The first time I ever played on stage by myself and played my own music was at open mic night at Ullrs. That was terrifying as well, but after I got up there and did it, I was completely addicted to playing for people. The first gig I ever booked in this town was at the Crooked Creek Saloon – my first paid gig as a solo musician. Most of the highlights of my musical career to date were born in this valley.

What inspires you?

I take inspiration from absolutely everything, to be honest – from pain, from love, from the people I meet. I’m absolutely obsessed with people. Everyone has a story, and they’re so fascinating. A lot of them deserve to be shared.

Because I draw so much from so many different genres of music, my songs end up being a type of music no one can put in a box. I call it “mountain indie.” It’s inspired a lot by the mountains. When I moved to the mountains, my sound changed quite a bit.

What do you hope people hear when they listen to you?

I hope people hear my heart, because that’s what I’m putting out there.

What are your next steps? What do you think the future holds?

My dad always told me to plan my work and work my plan. As long as you go about it that way, you will always accomplish your goals. So the plan is to get my name out there, get my music out there. I want the support of the valley, because that’s where I want to come from. The whole reason I stayed here was because from the moment I played on the stage at Ullrs, I had a fan base here. I have people here who support me and love my music, sing the words to songs I wrote. I want to keep the music train going. I want to be able to share with a wider audience the mountain feel. I want to bring the love the mountains gave me and share it with everyone else that doesn’t get to wake up in the morning, walk out the front door and see them. It makes you feel good, it’s why we live here. It’s 360 degrees of awesome.

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