Maren Morris Stays Classic Through Any Decade With Hero

Q&A With Country’s Next Big Voice

Maren Morris fans can trust her to tell it like it is with her major label debut Hero. Her ultimate goals with the new music were to speak her truth and damn the rest.

“The whole goal with this record was to be honest with myself because this is my first impression,” she says. “This is my first hello to the world. I feel like I stretched every boundary that I have creatively. You can’t put this record in a box. I don’t feel like anyone can put me into one.”

The album’s style is a beautiful blend of confession and conversation that’s destined to be classic through any decade. She finds spiritual renewal in her runaway hit “My Church” and the power anthem “Second Wind.” There are some solid pep talks in the sunny “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” and “Just Another Thing.” She’s sweet on a crush’s love in the super sexy “Sugar” and then takes the reins in a relationship in “How It’s Done.”

We spoke over the phone to discuss the importance of first impressions, making Nashville home and the soul of Hero. The new album is great. I love how conversational it is and how it motivates the listener to want something better for themselves. Was that the goal with this collection?

Morris: Oh, my gosh, thank you. I definitely didn’t want to point any fingers on this record, I really wanted it to own up to things that I’ve done wrong and have this emotional catharsis with each song. Everything is conversational because that’s how I would actually say something to a friend or someone I am in love with. I’m glad the conversational part of the lyrics resonated.

Being raised in Texas, you could have picked any music city to call home. What made Nashville the “it city” for you and how important is having a solid support system in your line of work?

I always had my sights set on Nashville because I grew up loving country music. It’s just true – the best songwriters live in this town. The best part is the people. As far as an emotional support system, I felt like I was really lucky that I fell into such a great group of friends when I got here. To this day, it’s like a family and that’s so important to have when you’re traveling so much. You never get to sleep in your own bed. I feel like having a home base like the one I have here in Nashville is so essential.

Elaborate more on the musicality of Hero. To me, it brings a Rihanna attitude to country music. What big music moments in your life helped you settle on this sound as your first statement?

I think it’s everything I grew up on – a lot of R&B and classic country. There’s really something for everyone on this album. As a music lover myself, it was really hard to lock in any sort of genre. I feel like it’s rooted in country but there’s definitely so many of my influences on this album because that’s what I love listening to and am inspired by. We definitely listened to a lot of Sheryl Crow to get inspired. I feel like she’s a prime example of someone who can’t be defined in any genre and we definitely listened to Tuesday Night Music Club when we were writing “My Church.” There’s so much great instrumental sounds on it. I definitely wanted it to feel reminiscent of those tones that she had found. I was just really inspired by her.

She can do anything whether it’s rock, soul or country. You set yourself up to tackle any kind of genre by borrowing from different styles. Talk about the significance of “I Wish I Was” and how it anchors the album.

The day we wrote that song, I just had this line, “I’m not in love, but I wish I was.” I didn’t know if it was going to be a title or what. It was a really emotional experience because I was going through this breakup at the time and I was the bad guy in it. To write a song from such an honest self-aware position, I don’t know, that’s the first day I realized this music is 100% me. That’s what started to change my perspective from being a team player songwriter to becoming an artist. It was just important for me to pay respect to that song when I was naming the album. In the chorus, it says, “I’m not the hero in this story,” and I feel like that story has changed so much since we wrote that. I’ve kind of become my own hero in the process. This whole album is a dedication to that.

“Once” is such a powerful closer. Is that something you hope to do with future albums?

I won’t know until I get to that place. For this record and this whole experience, I felt like ending on that song was my final period on the end of this whole breakup. I don’t really want to resurface and write about it anymore. I think that was my closure was writing that song and it felt appropriate to put it at the very end of the record. When I’m thinking about a track list, I really put a lot of emotional thought into it and ending with that song was the perfect last note to end on.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.