After writing songs for heavy-hitters like Kelly Clarkson and Tim McGraw, Maren Morris burst onto the country music scene with her 2016 debut album Hero. Met with widespread critical acclaim, the musician had seamlessly blended country, pop, and hip-hop into something uniquely Maren Morris. However, this firebrand hasn’t stopped at music — she’s also kept busy bucking the trend that country music stars are either die-hard conservatives or choose to remain politically neutral so as to not upset their fans. « I should be allowed to speak up when I’m passionate about something, » Morris once told Playboy. « It’s always to increase awareness. It’s to let my fans know where I stand. I don’t want to be one of those head-in-the-sand artists who’s only worried about keeping the money in my pocket … Not many country artists speak up. »
Basically, Morris has long-planned to shake up country music, and if her career has proven anything so far, she’s doing just that. So, fill up the truck and have the dog hop in the back, as we take a ride through the untold truth of Maren Morris.
Maren Morris faced major reality TV rejection
During a 2019 appearance Watch What Happens Live, Maren Morris revealed to a shocked Andy Cohen that, prior to hitting the big-time, she’d been rejected from American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent. « There were a ton that I didn’t make it to, thank God, » the country hitmaker said, but went on to explain that she’s totally okay with contestants covering her songs for the exact reasons you might expect.
« People cover my songs for their auditions on those shows, so it’s like, not only is it really nice to have my song on a national television show, » Morris continued, « But [I also] get to collect the check and have some sweet revenge. » While speaking with Rolling Stone three years earlier, the musician elaborated on this with, « I think about all of the freaking talent shows I’ve tried out for in my life and I’m so glad I didn’t make any of them. It’s full circle … I’m happier for it now. »
Getting international exposure and direct deposits in her bank account from shows that rejected her? That’s a country song in the making right there.
She’s an awards show queen
In the years since the release of her debut album, Morris has taken country music by storm — and has racked up countless nominations and wins for her song-crafting prowess to boot.
At the 2016 Country Music Association Awards, for example, she nabbed an impressive five nominations. It was an impressive feat in and of itself. As E! News put it, « How many artists can say that they were nominated for Single, Song, Female Vocalist and Album of the Year, as well as New Artist of the Year, in their first year on the country charts? » Indeed, not even country starlets Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood had managed that. The following year, Morris won the Music Business Association’s prestigious breakthrough artist award, and received four Grammy nominations, winning for best solo country performance. Her sophomore album, Girl, dominated the awards show circuit once again with five Grammy nods.
« I feel like all the nominations that I received this year were on songs that were risks, and I feel like they paid off, » Morris told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. « It’s really encouraging for me to keep taking those risks in my career because if it’s not scaring me, it’s probably not a thing worth doing. »
No, Morris is not in couple’s counseling
Maren Morris married fellow country music singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd in 2018 — but later revealed how their marital bliss didn’t get off to the best start. « It was probably the hardest part of our relationship, » she told Esquire in March 2019. « We went on our honeymoon, and then I immediately went on this gigantic [international] tour opening for Niall Horan … I was gone more than I had ever been on any other tour. » While Morris was open and honest about the couple’s « tough summer, » she admitted that the experience drew them closer after « some tough talks » about the future.
While this admission led some country music publications to claim the pair were in couple’s counseling, Morris shot back on Twitter to set the record straight: « I’ve openly talked about therapy and so has my husband and blogs turn my quotes into ‘THEY’RE IN COUPLES COUNSELING.’ Which even if we were, it’d be beautiful, but it’s turned into complete clickbait BS and we’re like, the D List of celebs. » If you’re still worried about them, have no fear … Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are here to help. « I’ve learned so much from [them], » Morris told Us Weekly. « They’ve got the two week rule; he’s got his kids out on the road. They just make it look so normal and it makes me and Ryan feel like this could be normal as well. »
Maren Morris is coming for this country tradition
Amid critical acclaim, awards show love, and her solid marriage, Maren Morris has attempted to shatter the traditional image of the woman country singer. « The stereotype is you’ve either got to be this religious, virginal conservative, or the wronged woman burning the house down, » she told BBC News in 2019. « People in pop and R&B are confident and sexy and sexual, and they’re celebrating it — so why don’t we, in country, write these songs? »
She’s got a point, and Morris did just that with her track « Make Out with Me, » which was inspired by the « drunk voicemails » she’d leave husband Ryan Hurd while he was out on tour. « It’s just a really fun, sexy song about wanting to jump someone’s bones, » Morris quipped. « Real life stuff! »
According to 2019 study by Song Data, women artists made only 11.3% of the music played on American country radio in 2018. However, Morris has found a silver lining in that depressing statistic. « You listen to the radio and there’s 10 dudes and they all sound the same, but when the girl comes on, you probably know who it is because it’s so distinct, » she previously told The Guardian. « There are guy artists that instantly get No 1s because someone heard it on the radio and thought it was a bigger artist because they sound so alike. »
She’s not here for the whole ‘shut up and sing’ thing
Texas country-trio the Dixie Chicks were superstars in 2003, but that all came crashing down when they criticized then-President George Bush for leading the efforts to invade Iraq (via The Guardian). The band faced immediate backlash, including death threats and having their songs removed from country music radio stations. Three years later, the band referenced the scandal in « Not Ready to Make Nice » with pointed lyrics aimed at the people who’d told them to just « shut up and sing. »
For her part, Maren Morris used this same lyric in her 2019 hit « Flavor » as a tribute to the Dixie Chicks and a warning to those who think she should be silent on controversial issues. « I love the Dixie Chicks so much, » she told BBC News. « So I put that stupid phrase in the song because it brings me so much joy to just say, ‘Hell no!' » Morris added, « Anytime I’ve even voiced an opinion, whether it’s political or social, I’ve been told to ‘shut up and sing.’ But it’s an oxymoron. You can’t shut up and sing, you idiot. » Ultimately, the singer-songwriter concluded, « I get the say in how I’m perceived and how I perceive myself. » We love seeing celebs take a stand.
You can thank Dolly Parton for her Playboy shoot
To say that Morris’ decision to pose for Playboy caused a stir would be an understatement. When she teased a few shots on Instagram in June 2019, the comments went about as well as you’d expect. According to People, the singer defended herself in an Instagram Story, writing, « Some can slut-shame me for my lyrics about sex, and you can put me in your little box, but I just want to live and love. » Meanwhile, during the interview itself, Morris claimed that she was a « noisy concept of what it means to be a woman in the music industry » and had « challenged a lot of sexual norms. »
That said, for anyone who felt this photo shoot was a blight on country music, Morris would like you to take it up with Dolly Parton’s 1978 Playboy cover. « I was intrigued, because so many of the moves Dolly made in her career were about bucking the status quo, » Morris explained. « So when I heard this magazine wanted to interview and photograph me, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve seen a lot of wonderful spreads you guys have done with artists I love, such as Halsey, so what the hell?' »
Is Morris heading back to school?
When Vulture praised Morris’ ability to speak to « multiple audiences or constituencies at the same time » during her 2019 interview, the singer attributed this to her love of being informed and educated. She then expressed her desire to go back to school. « The one semester I went to college, I loved my political science professor, » Morris said about her experience at the University of North Texas. « I’d love to do poli-sci and literature or philosophy, just something like that, things that interest me. »
Morris explained that her decision to potentially go back and earn her degree was partly due to the fact that her husband and all of her friends have done so already themselves. « I’ve been really fortunate to do music for a living, but … I kind of have this envy of the mark of really learning something, » she explained, adding, « I know now that I’m not unintelligent. I’m actually way more eager to learn now than ever because I’m at this stage of my life where I do it already on my own. It’d be cool to have a degree to show for it. »
Sheryl Crow compared Maren Morris to a legend
Maren Morris and Sheryl Crow wowed the crowd when they took the stage at the 2019 CMT Awards to perform a medley of « Shade » and « Prove You Wrong. » However, ahead of the broadcast, Crow told CMT Cody that her decision to bring Morris and rock legend Stevie Nicks — who was on tour at the time of the awards show performance — on for her « Prove You Wrong » single was a no-brainer.
« There was something else that could really push this thing forward, » Crow explained. « And, that was bringing in, who I feel like is perhaps, the next Stevie Nicks, and that was Maren. What I mean when I say that is Stevie rode that line of country, rock, and pop and Maren does a great job of that as well. » In a statement to Paste, the musician continued to pay the country superstar some kind compliments, saying that she « belongs in our ‘club’ of strong female rockers who tell it like it is. » That’s some high praise if we do say so ourselves.
Her fitness goals came after a ‘horrible breakup’
In a 2019 profile for Women’s Health, Morris referenced a picture she’d posted to Twitter with the caption: « 5 years and 20 lbs ago with Karina in San Francisco. Haven’t been back here since this pic was taken at the Golden Gate Bridge and am so excited to play here finally! » Admitting to the media outlet that her drastic weight loss at the time came after a « horrible breakup, » she added, « I didn’t look at my body like it was healthy — when you’re going through emotional turmoil, it’s hard to eat. That was a wake-up call: I need to address my mental and physical health. »
Thankfully, working helped Morris dig herself out from that dark place. « I put weight back on when I started really laying into my career and tour — things that brought me happiness. » Morris revealed her new healthy lifestyle contained lots of egg whites and Cardi B songs to accompany her workouts. But the singer-songwriter went on to say that her body transformation wouldn’t be complete until a photo of Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft wasn’t her phone’s lock screen anymore. « This is what I have to look at every time I unlock it — if I’m at a bar, or eating a french fry, » Morris quipped. « So that’s motivating. »
Is Maren Morris breaking into acting?
Not content to be just a country music superstar, Maren Morris took her talents to prime time television in 2017, making her acting debut with a guest appearance on the hit CBS drama NCIS: New Orleans. According to IMDb, Morris appeared in a Valentine’s Day-themed episode called « Pandora’s Box: Part II, » which follows as « McGee and Torres come to New Orleans to help Pride and his team search for a missing homeland security theoretical terror playbook. »
For her part, Morris played herself, making a cameo in a bar and performing her single, « My Church. » However, the experience gave her an inside look at another showbiz medium. « Being a part of NCIS: New Orleans has been crazy. I’ve never done anything like this, » Morris told Entertainment Tonight while on set. « I’ve never done any sort of scripted drama series, so this is so cool to see how it all works. »
Apart from her music videos, Morris has yet to line up any follow-up acting gigs, as of this writing. However, we do have a fun fact for you: This episode was directed by Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s very own LeVar Burton. We wonder if he and Morris talked about her plans for continuing her education?