Country superstar Maren Morris is ready to explore new horizons.
The "Texas" singer, who just released her new EP, The Bridge, says she has felt isolated within the country music sphere following Donald Trump's presidency and that she's now focused on telling stories that hold personal significance rather than trying to fit into a specific genre.
"I thought I'd like to burn it to the ground and start over," Morris said of country in a new Los Angeles Times interview. "But it's burning itself down without my help."
These days, the musician explained, she doesn't relate to what is considered country. "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."
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic Maren Morris
Those stories have also forced her to "take a step back" and reevaluate what kind of artist she'd like to be moving forward. "The way I grew up was so wrapped in country music, and the way I write songs is very lyrically structured in the Nashville way of doing things," Morris said. "But I think I needed to purposely focus on just making good music and not so much on how we'll market it. The last few records, that's always been in the back of my mind: Will this work in the country music universe?"
She acknowledged that sentiment stemmed at least in part from being "one of the few women that had any success on country radio" in recent years. "Everything you do is looked at under a microscope. You're scrutinized more than your male peers, even when you're doing well," Morris said. "So I've had to clear all of that out of my head this year and just write songs. A lot of the drama within the community, I've chosen to step outside out of it."
"But I've kind of said everything I can say," she continued. "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."
Morris noted that she felt the shift in country occur in the aftermath of Donald Trump's presidency. "After the Trump years, people's biases were on full display," said the singer, who famously feuded with country star Jason Aldean's wife last year after the latter made transphobic remarks. "It just revealed who people really were and that they 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."
In recent years, Morris has advocated for country music to become more "inclusive," stood up against Tennessee's anti-drag and anti-trans legislation, and personally apologized for the genre's treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community in an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race.
The music video for her new single, "Get the Hell Out of Here," also features a billboard that reads, "Welcome to our perfect Small Town from sunrise to sundown," which many have interpreted as a reference to Aldean's recent controversial hit song "Try That in a Small Town."
Morris added that many will take her stepping back from country as a win. "And I would say, 'Feel free. Go ahead,'" she said. "I don't want to have an adversarial relationship to country music. I still find myself weirdly wanting to protect it. But it's not a family member. That's the f---ed-up part, is that I'm talking about it as if it's a person, but it's not. So it's a lot of deep deconstructing that I'm still unraveling."
She has examined that relationship with her new material on The Bridge. "These songs are obviously the result of that — the aftermath of walking away from something that was really important to you and the betrayal that you felt very righteously," she said. "But also knowing there's a thread of hope as you get to the other side. I hope it comes across that way because I truly was in a space of hope when I wrote the two songs, even though 'Get the Hell Out of Here' is really heavy. It's about disarming that trauma and saying, 'I can't bail water out of this sinking ship anymore. It's so futile. I choose happiness.'"
The Bridge is out now. Read Morris' statement on its two tracks, "The Tree" and "Get the Hell Out of Here," in her Instagram post above.
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