Aaron Swain: Most know you from your time with the Dixie Melody Boys, but can you give us a little of your background in Southern Gospel music?
Donald Morris: I grew up around music all my life. I come from a very musical family and remember sitting through several band practices and rehearsals at an early age. I was 16 when I actually started singing. Before then, I was only focused on learning instruments to play. I made my “debut” at the church Christmas play that year, and have been singing ever since. My church was filled with Southern Gospel. We had groups like The Greenes, The Anchormen, and The Dixie Melody Boys who would always stop by annually, as well as others. I met and spoke with Ed O’Neal there after a concert and gave him my number in case he was ever looking for a lead singer. He told me, and I quote, “I’ll keep it close.” I sang and traveled all over North Carolina with local groups for a few years, and when I was a senior in high school, Ed called. Devin McGlamery was leaving to join Karen Peck and New River, and Ed asked me if I wanted the job. I told Ed I really would like the job, but I wanted to at least graduate from high school first. He said he fully understood and would keep me in mind for the future. The next year, he called me and informed me that Dustin Sweatman was leaving for the Mark Trammell Trio, and I accepted the position. I left the group to attend college, and after a few years, Ed called me again and he needed a lead ASAP. I accepted again and remained with the group for almost four years.
AS: The last DMB project you were on (The Call Is Still The Same) had several cuts that you had written. When did you start writing songs, and have your songs been recorded by anyone else?
DM: I actually started writing songs a year or two before I started singing. Before then, I always dabbled in poetry. I won the school poetry contest in elementary school when i was in the 4th grade, and have been published in a few books since. One day, I just decided to put the poetry with the music, and things took off from there.
I have had several new artists record my songs, and The Inspirations recorded a few, but my dream was to have The Dixie Melody Boys record one. 80% of my time with the group was doing older quartet songs with just piano and bass, and I finally got the opportunity when we did our 50th anniversary album.
AS: How did joining The Hoggle Famly come about? While you’re at it, could you give us an intro to the group, since this may be a new name to a lot of people?
DM: I first heard the The Hoggle Family in 2010 while traveling with the Dixie Melody Boys. We were doing a concert together in central Alabama. I noticed a very beautiful female singer in the group… she would later become my wife! After leaving the Dixie Melody Boys to spend more time with my wife and newborn baby girl, we decided to move to her home state of Alabama. My wife rejoined her family singing, and I joined!
I’ll save the second part of your question for a later date. We will be launching a brand new website in January that will have all the details of the group history and introductions. We look forward to sharing this information with everyone soon!
AS: What can we expect from the upcoming project?
DM: You can expect ten new songs in a Progressive/Country music style, with a Southern Gospel backbone. This will not be a “Quartet Style” album. Though some of the songs may be a good fit for a quartet, I mean that you won’t hear the big building climax songs you would typically get in a traditional Southern Gospel quartet album. This is more along the lines of a mainstream country release. We are very excited about it.
Thanks, Donald, for a great interview! Be on the lookout for more details on the Hoggle Family in the coming months.