Maren Morris has given several acceptance speeches after wins at the CMA Awards, ACM Awards and the Grammys. But the speech she had always wanted to say was the one she delivered at her first No. 1 party for "I Could Use a Love Song."
Last week the platinum-selling artist and self-described creature of habit returned to her favorite East Nashville bar, the Crying Wolf, to celebrate the second hit from Hero with the song's co-writers Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz. The party was a mix of family, friends, Music Row professionals, staffers from her label, Columbia, and fiancé Ryan Hurd, who watched as she was showered with plaques and praise.
Two years earlier, the same familial crowd was there celebrating the release of Morris' breakout collection.
"It's very bizarre to be back here now, celebrating my first No. 1," she said. "I remember three or four years ago coming to the No. 1 party for Little Big Town's 'Tornado' and standing at the back at BMI, and thinking, 'Gosh, I want to have that validation some day.'
"I've been very fortunate to give a lot of speeches in my career, but as a songwriter who moved into a Craigslist house five years ago just to be up here and ring the bell, this is the speech I wanted to make for so long."
She thanked her publishing company, Big Yellow Dog, for signing her when she arrived in Nashville, the radio staff at her home label, Columbia, for promoting the song in its 42-week climb up the charts, her manager, Janet Weir, and her parents for instilling in her their entrepreneurial spirit.
She called writing "I Could Use a Love Song" with Veltz and Robbins, "the songwriter version of crack" and thanked them getting for buzzed with her at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday and writing what became a hit. She described her producer, busbee, her musical soul mate.
Holding back tears, Morris then paused to collect herself to thank Hurd.
"Ryan," she said, "I really could have used a love song years ago, and I feel like every day you give that to me. So, I can't wait to marry you next month."
Before Morris spoke, Big Yellow Dog's Carla Wallace described her as a seasoned professional when she first signed with the company five years ago.
"She never looked back over her shoulder, and she never complained," Wallace recalled. "I don't even think you canceled. She just went and did it. I do think it's Maren's ability to be a listener and an observer and to take her raw emotion and her passion and combine it into what is most important to her, and that's delivering a great song."
The only awkward moment at the party came courtesy of Sony Nashville Chairman/CEO Randy Goodman. After extolling Morris for redefining the future of the company, he referenced the 2015 Music Row scandal, #Tomatogate, when he referred to Morris as "a garnish."
"You chose to plant your flag with us, and we will never forget that," he told Morris and Weir. "It's defined everything since then. It's defined who we are, and the success that we're having, and we did it with a garnish, a female artist. But I just wanted to say that in a public way.
"Your decision to come with us meant the world. It changed our dynamic. It changed our culture. It changed our future. And I can't tell you how much that means."
But Goodman's comment wasn't the big takeaway from the event. Morris' success not only marks a new direction for her label, but her artistic vision also serves as a standard excellence for the genre and its rising innovators for generations to come.
Morris is scheduled to go into the studio to record the follow-up to Hero before she joins Niall Horan's 2018 tour in July.