Just a few weeks after declaring that she was done with country music, Maren Morris showed up in Chicago to prove it.
It’s only been ten years since Morris moved from Texas to Tennessee to give country a shot. Her debut single, 'My Church', was released in early 2016 and was a hallelujah for the future of country. Her breakout hit, 'My Church' was about the salvation of listening to country music in your car. Now, she’s ready to create some distance between her and the genre where she made her name.
In mid-September, Morris told the L.A. Times that she was ready to freely move forward. She followed that up with a two-song EP aptly named The Bridge. At last night’s (Oct. 5) show at Joe’s Bar - which sold out in one literal minute, she says - she played those two new songs, 'The Tree' and 'Get the Hell Out of Here', along with 15 other country hits and deep cuts she’s amassed in the past seven years.
While Joe’s Bar is typically a venue known for hosting country artists, and is the reigning Academy of Country Music’s club of the year, there are no rules that say an artist can’t hold her own while singing a different tune.
Morris did address the elephant in the room as candidly as she could: “I can’t leave country music, because country music is not an object that you can walk away from. It is an entity that lives inside you the second you hear your first Dolly or Shania song. That is not what I’m leaving behind. You can’t walk away from something that you still love. But you can leave behind the absolute bullshit”, she said as a way of separating the music from the music business.
“I was in such a fugue state of constant self-hatred, and I don’t know if that was self-inflicted or outside factors. I really needed to check in on myself”, she added as she introduced one of her two new songs.
While Morris may define those new songs as something other than country, her soulful voice still sounds the same. With this mind, it’s hard to distinguish the music she’s on the verge of making from what she’s been making in Nashville since she arrived.
The instrumentation isn’t traditionally country, but then again, it never really was for her. Morris’ music has always blurred the edges of the genre, so listening to The New Maren still feels like it did when she first landed on Music Row; acoustic, artistic and a breath of fresh air from the cliché-laden songs that take up most of the space on country radio.
When she’d told the L.A. Times, “I’m trying to mature here and realize I can just walk away from the parts of this that no longer make me happy”, she meant it in theory and in practice.
The new EP is her first release from Columbia Records, after closing out her time with Columbia Nashville. She also told the New York Times that she’d no longer be submitting her songs for country consideration during award-show season.
Morris is also a bona fide advocate for diversity and doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk. Last night, she invited queer country singer Adam Mac to open for her, much to the delight of her inclusive fanbase, while also donating $5 per every ticket to GLAAD.
“It makes me so happy that I can look out at a crowd that is loving and accepting and safe,” Morris told the crowd at the end of the night. “We need to take care of each other".
Maren Morris' brief one-off tour includes two more stops – in Spokane and Sacramento – through mid-October.
Taken from her live performance at Joe's On Weed Street in Chicago, IL on October 6, 2023.
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