In a startling change, Maren Morris has left country music behind.
“The Middle” hitmaker released her two-track EP, The Bridge, the first release in her new direction and is a “direct result” of her feelings towards the country genre. Maren revealed that the reasons she is leaving the genre that she got her start in as a songwriter and then becoming an artist herself, were because of the country music industry’s history of racism, misogyny and anti-LGBTQ acts.
“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over,” she told the Los Angeles Times of country music. “But it’s burning itself down without my help.” She officially moved from the Nashville branch of Columbia Records to the main portion of the label with all genres of music. She is currently working on her new non-country record with pop producer Jack Antonoff.
This past year, four country songs were able to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including the controversial, “Try That in a Small Town,” by Jason Aldean. The music video was filmed at a site of a lynching and features citizens with guns while the lyrics threaten what would happen to those who try to do anything to upset them. Billboards in the video read, “Don’t tread on me,” and “Go woke, go broke.”
“I’d say, sure, congratulations on crossing over onto the big all-genre chart,” she said in response to the track making the list. “But the stories going on within country music right now, I’ve tried to avoid a lot of it at all costs. I feel very, very distanced from it.”
She was then asked if her feud with Jason and his wife, Brittany, helped push her out of the country music direction. You’ll recall that she went back and forth with the Aldeans on social media, defending young people who seek gender-affirming care, something that the Aldeans have not agreed with and even joked about.
“So it [the move] wasn’t really even a choice. I didn’t think of myself as a political artist. I just wrote songs about real life through a lens of deep respect for my country heroes,” she explained. “But the further you get into the country music business, that’s when you start to see the cracks. And once you see it, you can’t un-see it. So you start doing everything you can with the little power you have to make things better.”
“But I’ve kind of said everything I can say,” she added. “I always thought I’d have to do middle fingers in the air jumping out of an airplane, but I’m trying to mature here and realize I can just walk away from the parts of this that no longer make me happy.”
Maren shared that after the Trump presidency, she noticed biases were on full display. Some people in the industry’s genre were “proud to be misogynistic and racist and homophobic and transphobic. All these things were being celebrated, and it was weirdly dovetailing with this hyper-masculine branch of country music. I call it butt rock.”
Despite being frustrated with the people in country music, she doesn’t want to have a negative relationship with the genre and still finds herself “weirdly wanting to protect it.” So Maren has “a lot of deep deconstructing” that she is still currently unraveling.
Maren isn’t the first artist to cross genres, in fact, she has admired Linda Ronstadt and Taylor Swift for their genre shifts.
“She’s been such a great friend over the years and has been really helpful in ways she probably doesn’t even realize in conversations I’ve had with her about everything you and I have been talking about,” Maren said of Taylor.
“It’s such a supportive crowd: 90% women and 10% gays and dads,” Maren said of Taylor’s tour audiences. “I’ve never felt so safe at a live show before. No one’s hammered or puking in the aisles or getting into a fight or anything. It’s just so joyful.”