Confidence, candor and charm – three words that embody fast-rising star Megan Moroney as she looks back on her last few months of newfound fame and unpacks the inspiration behind her debut album, Lucky.
The aspiring second-generation accountant-turned-red-hot-singer-songwriter first demonstrated her ease with a pen through her 2022 Pistol Made of Roses EP, which included a six-pack of self-empowerment, relatability and a vendetta or two.
When she first shot onto the radars of country fans with the college football-centered 'Tennessee Orange', Moroney could've never imagined the heights the song would propel her to. Notching the first true love ditty in her growing catalogue, the breakthrough single blew open the doors for her entry into the upper ranks of the new faces of country music.
Now, as she readies for the release of her first full-length project, Moroney takes a deeper plunge into her artistry. Delivering her signature brand of conversational adeptness and clever turns of phrase rolled in 13 visceral tracks, the album is a perfect combination of Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park and the simple bad-assery found in much of Miranda Lambert's vast discography.
From self-confidence anthems laced with 70s twang, introspective gut punches, gritty takes on love-scorned perseverance, Johnny & June-inspired weepers, multi-layered breakup songs for the ages and the honky-tonkin' title track, Lucky perfectly captures where Moroney is at in both life and artistry.
A self-proclaimed sad girl of country music, Moroney was full of excitement as she chatted with Holler about the intricacies of Lucky, her whirlwind of a year and her upcoming plans for 2023, including vying for the New Female Artist of the Year trophy at the ACM Awards on May 11 and embarking on her first-ever headlining tour.
This last year has been a whirlwind for you. Take us back to the beginning. How did you get into all of this?
I grew up thinking I was going to be an accountant. I lived in Douglasville, Georgia and I always loved music. My dad taught me how to play guitar when I was 16, but I took piano lessons and was always surrounded by music.
After I graduated high school, I went to the University of Georgia as an accounting major. My mom was an accountant, so I figured I would be, too. I got the opportunity to open for Chase Rice at a sold out show at the Georgia Theater in Athens, but he told me that I had to write an original song, so I wrote my first song when I was 19. After I played that first show, which was the first gig I ever did, I just fell in love with it. From there, I said, ‘Mom, I want to drop out. I want to move to Nashville and do this.’ My parents told me that I was insane, and that it wasn't gonna happen.
I switched my major from accounting to digital marketing and music business, graduated in 2020 and moved to Nashville in the middle of the pandemic. I started writing full-time and, by the beginning of 2022, we recorded my Pistol Made of Roses EP. I felt like I had written good enough songs that I was proud to put out as a body of work, and that EP helped me start touring. Then we released ‘Tennessee Orange’ in September and, since then, it's been crazy.
‘Tennessee Orange’ certainly kicked things off at an incredible rate. Did you have any inkling that it would explode into the massive hit that it’s become?
When we wrote it, definitely not. Once it was finished we just kind of shelved it. We thought it was a good song, but it definitely didn’t fit on the [Pistol Made of Roses] EP, so there wasn't really a place for it at the time. Then, in September, Spotify brought an opportunity to us where they needed an unreleased, original song that I wanted to put out. The release date was near the first week of football season so I said, “I have this football love song that might be a good follow-up to the EP.”
Even when we decided to put it out, we still weren't sure how it was going to be received. It's a love song and I hadn't released one of those yet, so we thought people might like it. There was no thought that it was going to be the song. I probably would have put my money on another song, but definitely not ‘Tennessee Orange.’
You had a hand in writing all 13 songs on this record and you’ve got some Nashville writing royalty alongside you. Which songs were your favorite to write?
‘Kansas Anymore’ has some of those legendary writers on it, for sure. When I saw that write on my calendar with Lori McKenna, Rodney Clawson and Luke Laird, I knew that I needed to bring a pretty good idea to them, so ‘Kansas Anymore’ was special for that reason. It's so cool to be able to write with people that I never thought I'd even be in the same room with and to get a song out of it that I'm really proud of.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I always say that there are three: Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift.
Kacey’s music has always really impacted me. It's just so smart and clever. Then, with Miranda, I've listened to her for as long as I can remember. I love that she has the badass side, but then there's also the more fragile side where she can admit to feeling a certain way but you don't view her as weak.
Taylor is another one of those artists that I've listened to for as long as I can remember. She's always been really honest in her writing and she tells stories, so all three of them have definitely shaped my artistry and writing. I think they're all really special artists.
‘Mustang Or Me’ is one of the most vulnerable tracks in this collection. Tell us about that one.
I still drive my high school car, which is a 2010 Mustang. That is just an honest song about a break-up and going home. My car is actually kind of falling apart like it says in the song, and I think it's going to be time to get a new one soon. I posted a clip of that song on social media and a lot of people liked it and could relate to it, so I'm excited for that one to be out.
‘Lucky’ is also a stand-out, with a different sonic landscape to most of your other songs. What made you want to try out that different style?
I spent last fall as an opener on six different tours, which really opened my eyes to how I wanted my live show to be. While I really love sad songs like ‘Girl in the Mirror’ or ‘Mustang or Me,’ I want to be able to entertain people. I had to figure out how I could write an up-tempo song that captures me in the same way as the heartbreak songs, and I think we did that with ‘Lucky’ and ‘Another on the Way.’
Really I just wanted to make sure that I had songs that people could dance to and that are fun for live shows. I love touring and I didn't want my whole set to be a bunch of sad songs. It was definitely a challenge to write them.
You were named a 2023 Artist to Watch by Holler, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify and SiriusXM, and you’re part of the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2023. Has anyone taken you under their wing in these last few months?
Carly Pearce and Kelsea Ballerini have been really supportive. I'm actually going to dinner with Carly in a couple of weeks. It's hard because everyone is so busy and on the road all the time so we don't get to hang out as much, but those two have been super nice. It's really cool to be included in that country community and by people that I've looked up to for a couple of years.
These next few months are going to be keeping you pretty busy as you embark on your headlining tour this fall, battle it out at the ACMs and release Lucky to the world. What are you most looking forward to as you begin this new chapter?
The past few weekends I've played my first headlining shows and they've just been incredible. My fans are so passionate and they scream every single word, so I'm probably most excited for the fall headlining tour. That's where I get to really meet and connect with my fans. It's really cool to be able to do this for the first time and experience it with my fans. They make it worth it because the energy they bring to the live shows is just crazy.
I’m excited to see new places and meet everybody. I'm still very new so a lot of these people are seeing me for the first time and their excitement level makes me really excited.
Do you have any dreams, goals or milestones that you’d like to hit by the end of the year?
I think there's only one date on my headlining tour that isn't sold out, which was my goal for 2023. It's insane to me because the tour ends at the Buckhead Theatre. I literally called my agent when they initially sent me the dates before it was announced and said, ‘Do you really think that I can fill up the Buckhead Theatre? It's not a tiny venue.' They said, ‘Well, we sure hope so!’
I think that venue ended up selling out in three minutes or something insane, so I think my goal is to officially sell out my headlining tour. That would be really cool for me, but it's all really exciting and I'm just grateful.
Megan Moroney's debut album, Lucky, is out May 5 via Sony Music Nashville/Columbia Records.
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