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Morgan Johnston Jokes She Doesn't Want to Be the 'Sad Girl' of Country Music: 'Swear I'm Happy!'

Morgan Johnston portrait
Morgan Johnston portrait

Julianne Drake Photography Morgan Johnston

Born and raised on a farm in a small town situated on the right side of the iconic bridge going into Cape Cod, country artist Morgan Johnston started singing and playing guitar when she was just 13 years old.

At the very same age, she also began songwriting.

"I was always in my bedroom, writing about boys and heartbreak, even though I didn't know anything about either of them," Johnston, 27, says with a laugh. "It was a crazy dynamic, that's for sure!"

At the time, Johnston was lacking not only in the boyfriend department but also in the confidence department.

Morgan Johnston
Morgan Johnston

Julianne Drake Photography "Circle of Love" Covert Art

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"I had always loved to write and sing, but I was really shy, and I had no idea of the path that the average person would need to get to do something like becoming a country music artist," she remembers. "And I had never known anyone who was actually doing it, so it felt very foreign."

Nevertheless, Johnston left her home in Massachusetts to attend the University of Findlay in Ohio, majoring in Western Equestrian Studies with a minor in English. But then, at the age of 21, she took a trip to Nashville — and everything changed.

"I was just hooked by the contagious magic of the city," she tells PEOPLE of the life-altering trip she took in August of 2016. "And that's when I made my decision. I dropped out of college, and I moved to Nashville two months later."

Morgan Johnston portrait
Morgan Johnston portrait

Julianne Drake Photography Morgan Johnston

And now, six years later, Johnston has released her new single "Circle of Love," a melodic merry-go-round through the trials and tribulations of love that serves as the final single from Johnston's highly anticipated debut album There's No Going Back, to be released on Oct. 21.

"It was about how we're kind of all falling for someone who wants somebody else," says Johnston of the song she co-wrote back in October of 2021 alongside Lydia Dall and Chris Sligh. "I truly believe that writing that day was such a huge healing point and a moment for me in my emotional maturity where I realized that you don't have to hate anyone. If it didn't work, it just didn't work out. It's not personal. It's just kind of the way that it is." She pauses. "We're all just stuck in this circle of love, doing the best that we can, trying to figure out where we're meant to be."

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Surely, Johnston is the first to admit she speaks and sings from experience, having dealt with "two really big breakups" during her life thus far.

"I think this song was just a moment of peace for me, where it's like, you don't have to hate the people it didn't work out with and they don't have to hate you if you didn't feel like they were right for you either," says Johnston, who has already shared the stage with artists such as Lainey Wilson, Dustin Lynch, Sawyer Brown and Madison Beer. "I think that was really what the song was for me. And then, it turned into the center of the project."

And as her professional life continues on an upswing, so does her personal life.

"Love is feeling good right now," she says with a slight chuckle. "I tend to be a sad girl when it comes to songs. Not all my songs are sad, but it seems like the ones that people latched onto are sad, so I get this reputation that I'm sad. And I swear, I'm a happy girl."