Single - Morgan Wallen - Cover Me Up
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‘Cover Me Up’ by Morgan Wallen - Lyrics & Meaning

October 19, 2023 8:56 am GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 11:10 am GMT

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Morgan Wallen - ‘Cover Me Up’

Label: Big Loud / Mercury / Republic

Release Date: April 5th 2019

Album: Dangerous

Producers: Dave Cohen & Joey Moi

Songwriter: Jason Isbell

Chart Performance:

  • No. 52 on Billboard Hot 100
  • No. 15 on Billboard US Hot Country Songs

Certifications:

  • Four-Times Platinum

The Background:

Originally written and recorded by Jason Isbell for his acclaimed 2013 album, Southeastern, ‘Cover Me Up’ has since blossomed into one of the brightest jewels in Morgan Wallen's glistening crown.

Morgan covered the track while out on the road in 2018, which resulted in a sea of fans clamouring for the Sneedville native to release a studio version of the introspective, soul-searching ballad.

He obliged in April 2019, and after releasing ‘Cover Me Up’ as a single, the vulnerable track was then confirmed as appearing on Morgan Wallen's record-breaking 2021 double-album, Dangerous.

Now, ‘Cover Me Up’ has become a mainstay of the ‘Last Nighthitmaker's setlist, with Morgan's stripped-back, intimate performance remaining one of the most moving moments in his live shows.

Nonetheless, the fact that Morgan Wallen - who is perceived by many as the face of modern mainstream country music - decided to cover a song penned by one of alt-country and Americana's ‘purists’ didn't sit well with some members of Jason Isbell's fanbase.

A few months after the release of the new version of ‘Cover Me Up’, Isbell tweeted his support of Morgan's decision to cover it, “Guys it’s really cool that Morgan Wallen is singing my song. That’s what I’m trying to say. Everybody just relax. You’re about to have to deal with your family at the holidays. This isn’t a thing to stress over”.

Jason Isbell underlined, “It’s strange to me when a songwriter’s fans get angry when a popular artist covers one of their songs. You can still listen to the original if you don’t like the cover! If you love somebody let ‘em walk out to the mailbox in peace.” He then expressed his gratitude to Morgan, “Thanks for singing my song, Morgan. You did a good job”.

However, after Morgan Wallen was caught on camera using a racial slur, Jason Isbell took to Twitter again to share that he'd be donating all the royalties he receives from the ‘Thought You Should Know’ songsmith's version of ‘Cover Me Up’ to Nashville's branch of the NAACP.

Now that Morgan Wallen has propelled ‘Cover Me Up’ to an entirely new level of popularity, with his take on the track having been certified four-times Platinum, fans repeatedly discuss and debate whose version should be considered the ‘best’.

This debate is taken more seriously by some than others, as Parker McCollum found out when he teasingly referred to ‘Cover Me Up’ as ‘the Morgan Wallen song’.

But as far as we're concerned, with a song as affecting and powerful as Jason Isbell's ‘Cover Me Up’, adding Morgan Wallen's stellar, inimitable vocals into the mix and giving the track a chance to reach swathes of new fans is never going to be a bad thing.

The Sound:

Following on from the party-starting, alcohol-soaked anthems that Morgan Wallen stormed onto the scene with, ‘Cover Me Up’ gave listeners a chance to see a different side to his artistry.

When speaking about the song, Morgan made it clear that he wanted to stay as closely to the original as possible, something that is evident from the atypically sparse nature of the composition.

Morgan Wallen's distinctive drawl meanders across a gentle but determined guitar strum, which loosely mirrors his intonation. As he launches into the first iteration of the hook, the increased intensity of Morgan's charismatic vocals is met with an atmospheric, deliberate drum-beat, which adds an extra feeling of gravitas to the track.

At various points, Morgan layers his voice with a haunting harmony, which heightens the emotionality of the lyrics. Around the three-minute mark, he lets the track breathe, with the gravelly nature of Morgan's voice being balanced by the longing cry of the steel guitar, which takes on a life of its own during the instrumental.

With the pleasing a cappella flourishes he injects into the final few lines, Morgan Wallen concludes a masterclass in navigating the emotional ebbs and flows of this intricate ballad.

As well as featuring noticeably sleeker and more polished production, Morgan Wallen's rendition is also a marked departure from Jason Isbell's original in terms of the respective artists’ delivery.

Morgan Wallen opts for a much more vigorous, weighty vocal style, while Jason Isbell gives the ‘Cover Me Up’ protagonist a softer, more tentative voice, perhaps to signify the underlying insecurity that lingers. The beauty of this is that, although the lyrics remain 100% unchanged, the protagonist of each version feels unique.

The Meaning:

“A heart on the run
Keeps a hand on a gun
Can't trust anyone
I was so sure
What I needed was more
Tried to shoot out the sun”

‘Cover Me Up’ is known for its metaphorical and at times obtuse lyrics, with Jason Isbell utilising a colourful array of images in order to tell the story of how his wife, Amanda Shires, helped him to overcome his previously insurmountable battles with addiction.

He opens the song by poignantly likening his heart to a bandit who always keeps his finger on the trigger, ready to take on anyone who betrays him. It seems Jason Isbell is suggesting that he had self-destructive tendencies, as he was always the first one to cut ties in a relationship, because he never allowed himself to fully trust his previous partners.

He then builds out this depiction of someone who attempts to fill the void in his heart by constantly striving and seeking ‘more’ - more pleasure, more alcohol, more drugs.

“The days when we raged, we flew off the page
Such damage was done
But I made it through, 'cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone”

The song's protagonist recalls moments where he took it too far, and allowed his anger and his desperation for ‘more’ get the better of him (“The days when we raged / We flew off the page”).

Heartwarmingly, he then hints at how - thankfully - the story has a happy ending. Isbell outlines how he believes it must've been divinely decided from the beginning that he'd end up with Amanda, endearingly describing their love as an instance of destiny.

“So, girl, leave your boots by the bed
We ain't leaving this room
'Til someone needs medical help
Or the magnolias bloom
It's cold in this house and I ain't going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good”

The song takes on a warm, comforting feel as Morgan Wallen sings tenderly about his desire to stay in his lover's arms until the end of time. Jason Isbell's trademark sense of humour shines through here, as rather than using another vivid metaphor or poignant piece of lyricism, he dryly quips that the couple won't leave the room “until someone needs medical help / Or the magnolias bloom”.

‘Cover Me Up‘ is given a Wintery ambience, as Morgan stresses to his lover how it's cold, but that he refuses to leave the room to chop wood for the fire. The bed appears to represent the sanctuary that the protagonist finds in his partner's love.

“I put your faith to the test
When I tore off your dress
In Richmond on high
I sobered up, I swore off that stuff
Forever this time”

Isbell again reminisces about how poorly he treated his partner in the past, detailing one particularly aggressive encounter. This is brought to life in the moving music video for Morgan Wallen's version of ‘Cover Me Up’, which tells the tale of a veteran returning home from overseas, and contending with PTSD and alcoholism.

Isbell keeps it deeply personal, as he emphasises how his wife, Amanda, stuck by him despite his actions, and ultimately helped him overcome his addiction, with the artist now being 11 years sober.

“And the old lovers sing
‘I thought it'd be me who helped him get home’
But home was a dream
One that I'd never seen 'til you came along”

The song's protagonist imagines his ex-partners wondering why they couldn't help him swear off the bottle, and Isbell again credits Amanda as the one who showed him what ‘home’ truly meant.

“So, girl, hang your dress out to dry
We ain't leaving this room
'Til Percy Priest breaks open wide
And the river runs through
And carries this house on its stones
Like a piece of driftwood
So, cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good”

Here we get another variation of the chorus, with Isbell using the visceral imagery of Nashville's Percy Priest Lake reservoir bursting and sweeping away their house. This underlines once more how it would take something as extreme and biblical as this for the ‘Cover Me Up’ protagonist to leave his partner's side.

The phrasing of the titular line - “Cover me up, and know you're enough / To use me for good” - has always felt somewhat strange, with Isbell giving his wife assurance that she can ‘use’ him for good.

The impetus behind the line, though, is Isbell simply highlighting to Amanda how he no longer lusts after anything, such as alcohol, and instead is entirely content being with her.

What has Morgan Wallen said about ‘Cover Me Up’?

In an interview with Grady Smith, Morgan Wallen explained how his rendition of ‘Cover Me Up’ came to be, “I've always loved the song since I heard it, that was the first Jason Isbell song I heard... something about it just struck a chord with me. I think some of it is because of my parents’ story. My parents have known each other since they were kids, and [my dad] was really wild and not making good decisions. My mom was like, ‘Get yourself together or I'm leaving’, and he did...I thought of that when I heard this song”.

Morgan went on to reveal, “I learned the song and then me and my guitar player, Dominic, would be in a room like this...a lot of times backstage the doors are open and everybody can kind of hear what you're doing. Me and him would warm up and sing ‘Cover Me Up’ and people would peek their heads in and be like, ‘What is that?’”

He outlined, “I was like, ‘Man, people really like to hear us sing this’, and they don't know the song [and] that's sad that they don't know it...We just decided to do a version of it ourselves...At first I was kind of sceptical about it, but man, we ended up doing it and obviously the response has been overwhelmingly positive”.

Morgan Wallen stressed one of his main aims with ‘Cover Me Up’ was to pay homage to Jason Isbell, “I'm sure there's going to be [criticism from] some of the ‘purists’ or whatever you want to call them, and I get that, I respect that...I tried not to stray far from the original...[Jason Isbell] is a great songwriter, one of my favourites, and I've tried to give him the respect he deserves every single step of the way”.

For the full lyrics to Morgan Wallen's ‘Cover Me Up’ see below:

“A heart on the run
Keeps a hand on a gun
Can't trust anyone
I was so sure
What I needed was more
Tried to shoot out the sun

The days when we raged, we flew off the page
Such damage was done
But I made it through, 'cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone

So, girl, leave your boots by the bed
We ain't leaving this room
'Til someone needs medical help
Or the magnolias bloom
It's cold in this house and I ain't going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good

I put your faith to the test
When I tore off your dress
In Richmond on high
I sobered up, I swore off that stuff
Forever this time

And the old lovers sing
‘I thought it'd be me who helped him get home’
But home was a dream
One that I'd never seen 'til you came along

So, girl, hang your dress out to dry
We ain't leaving this room
'Til Percy Priest breaks open wide
And the river runs through
And carries this house on its stones
Like a piece of driftwood
So, cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good

So, girl, leave your boots by the bed
We ain't leaving this room
'Til someone needs medical help
Or the magnolias bloom
It's cold in this house and I ain't going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good
So cover me up and know you're enough
To use me for good”

For more on Morgan Wallen, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
Author - Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen
Artist