Maren Morris is not just a country singer. Like one of her heroes, Dolly Parton, with whom Morris shared a stage at the 2019 Grammys, the singer has forayed into pop. Like she sings on the titular song of her new album, GIRL, Morris doesn’t want to wear anyone else’s crown but her own.
“I’ve always kind of made moves in my career that were risky but my heart was telling me to do it,” Morris told NPR in March. “I think in my deepest soul, I am a little bit of everything.”
Morris’ powerful anthems and lyrics stem from her passion to stand up for what she believes in. She sings about relationships and independence and her experience as a woman in the male-dominated country industry. “I wanted to be the sassy voice of reason,” Morris told Playboy in June.
Armed with versatile vocals, the 29-year-old Arlington, Texas, native began playing in venues around Dallas when she was 11. For the next decade, Morris toured around Texas. Occasionally, she got the chance to open for singers such as Pat Green and Bob Schneider. “I couldn’t tell you all the ends of Texas I’ve seen. All the places you didn’t know existed; I played all over,” Morris told the Dallas Observer in 2017.
As she got older, she auditioned for competition shows such as American Idol and The Voice but was rejected from every one. Eventually, Morris moved to Nashville in her early 20s. She spent time as a songwriter, working with artists such as Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson, before releasing her first studio album, HERO, in 2016.
The album’s singles topped charts nationwide. “My Church” went Platinum, and “80s Mercedes” and “I Could Use a Love Song” turned Gold-selling.
Morris received even more fanfare after her electro-pop collaboration with DJ and producer Zedd and dance-pop duo Grey with the hit “The Middle.” The song broke the record for most weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart upon its release in August 2018. Morris was the first country artist to accomplish the feat. This brought more traffic to her solo music.
“It’s good for our genre to cross-pollinate, because it makes for better music,” Morris told Playboy. “It’s keeping everyone on their toes and not regurgitating the same kind of art on the conveyor belt.”
GIRL comes three years after HERO, shattering the record for the largest debut streaming week for a female-made country album with 23.96 million streams in its first week, and the title track, “GIRL,” wins the highest debut on Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart and the highest weekly streams by a female artist.
Morris has won awards at the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and Country Music Awards. At the 2018 Grammys, she received five nominations, including Record of the Year.
Through it all, Morris has tried to stay true to her musical roots. “I loved Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline,” she told NPR. “Then the ‘90s part of me is with Dixie Chicks, Shania, Lauryn Hill and the Spice Girls. I mean, there were all of these phases. So I just try to write a good song.”