Maren Morris has done her best to change country music from the inside, but she’s tired of fighting a losing battle — and she’s ready to move on.
“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over,” Morris, 33, said of country music in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Friday, September 15. “But it’s burning itself down without my help.”
Morris has long advocated for greater diversity in the genre, which has traditionally been a branch of the music industry dominated by white male heterosexual artists. “But the stories going on within country music right now, I’ve tried to avoid a lot of it at all costs,” she explained, noting that she’s benefitted from the dominant system as well. “I feel very, very distanced from it.”
Her new songs “The Tree” and “Get the Hell Out of Here” — released on Friday as an EP called The Bridge — are about her decision to leave country music behind. “If you truly love this type of music and you start to see problems arise, it needs to be criticized. Anything this popular should be scrutinized if we want to see progress,” she said. “But I’ve kind of said everything I can say.”
Morris has been outspoken about LGBTQ+ issues throughout her career, most famously last year when she feuded with Jason Aldean and his wife, Brittany Aldean, over gender-affirming care for young people. The drama culminated with Tucker Carlson calling Morris a “lunatic country music person” during an interview with Brittany, 36. Morris later sold T-shirts bearing the phrase to benefit GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program and the Trans Lifeline.
Many fans think Morris’ new video for “The Tree” is partly a reference to Jason’s controversial song “Try That in a Small Town,” which some critics believe promotes violence. The clip shows her walking out of a small town where there are signs reading “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Go Woke Go Broke.”
“Try That in a Small Town” recently crossed over to the Billboard pop chart, hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100, but Morris doesn’t think that means people actually like the track.
“People are streaming these songs out of spite,” she said. “It’s not out of true joy or love of the music. It’s to own the libs. And that’s so not what music is intended for. Music is supposed to be the voice of the oppressed — the actual oppressed. And now it’s being used as this really toxic weapon in culture wars.”
Morris, for her part, is busy creating a new album with super-producer Jack Antonoff, who’s worked with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, St. Vincent and The Chicks. She didn’t specify whether that means her new music will have more of a pop vibe, but she’s excited to have “freedom” now that she doesn’t have to worry about fitting in with the rigid formula of country radio.
“I’m still writing, so the record’s not done. But there’s a lot of things going on musically in it — quirky jam-band moments to, like, prog rock,” she teased. “It’s so fun, and I feel like my old self back in this space of writing songs I love with people I love.”