Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Maren Morris has fast become one of the most respected and loved artists in country music. Her debut album Hero has been highly praised by fans, critics and artists and was nominated for Best Country Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. The lead single from the album, My Church co – written with busbee catapulted Maren’s career and won her two Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.
Before Hero was even released, Maren was announced to play on the Satellite Stage inside the O2 Arena London at C2C Festival in 2016. Only having released an EP at the time, Maren had already gained a large fan base and playing various shows across the weekend earned her even more.
With her first successful C2C appearance and the continued success of Hero, Maren was invited back to C2C Festival earlier this year as a main stage artist and she certainly proved why she was main stage status with her epic performance.
Maren returned to the UK this month bringing her Hero tour which toured across the UK and Ireland. We caught up with Maren in Bristol to discuss her UK tour, the success of Hero and more.
I hope you enjoy our chat.
“That was the first time that I remember hearing people singing My Church back to me ever”
Hi Maren, how are you?
I am good – how are you?
Great, thank you.
Welcome back to the UK.
Thank you, it’s good to be back.
We are so happy to have you back. The first time you were here was for C2C on the Satellite stage and a few pop-ups but since then, you have returned to C2C as a main stage act and now a headline tour. When you were first here for your first C2C, did you ever imagine what it would lead to?
No. I mean, I was still getting used to the O2 Arena, haha! That was a great breaking ground, a great jumping point for me to even do a tour over here. So me being at C2C the last two times just introduced me to such a large Country-loving audience, and that’s the place to do it. That was definitely my first “Hello” to the UK and I think a lot of these shows we couldn’t have even booked if I hadn’t done that first show.
Well, everyone sang back to you.
That was the first time that I remember hearing people singing My Church back to me ever – the O2 2016.
Wow, that is a good memory to have; that is pretty amazing, actually.
Yeah, I say that in a lot of interviews. They ask me when was the first time I had an audience finally sing back to me and I say..
Yeah, haha! The UK, C2C, who’d have thought?
That is amazing and especially in the O2 Arena, as you say.
It was pretty epic.
“But what I love about songwriting so much, is that every day is a new challenge and you are left with a new dream and piece of magic; sometimes it’s terrible and sometimes it’s genius but it’s always exciting when you change it up so often.”
Well that proves you already had the huge fan base which likely played a part in your return this year to play the main stage. We always seem to have a success story every year and they start off on the pop-up stages and return to the main stage the following year. Your set on the main stage has definitely gone down as one of the highlights of that year. The show was phenomenal and powerful, but we also got to see you unplugged and laid back during The Songwriter’s show – and the year before we were treated with some pop-up Bluebird sessions. Do you feel it is important to still be a part of Songwriter’s rounds?
Well, that whole set up of playing songs in the round – acoustic with your friends – is sort of the whole point of Nashville. You test your songs out, so to get to do that over here in a makeshift Bluebird, it really did feel like home. The other people on stage with me were Jessi Alexander, Barry Dean and Shane McAnally, so it really did feel like we were on a class trip or something, haha! I don’t get to write a ton, like I used to anymore, because it is hard to do when you are on an airplane or a bus – but I have learned to try to adapt to writing on the road. I am so used to doing it at home, but the brilliant thing about songwriting is that every day is a new song, a new leaf being turned, a new part of your chapter being opened and you don’t even know it. You are aiming to do it on stage at some point and then once you get into your album cycle you are playing those same songs every night and trying to keep them fresh to the audience and yourself, because they can get stale. But what I love about songwriting so much, is that every day is a new challenge and you are left with a new dream and piece of magic; sometimes it’s terrible and sometimes it’s genius but it’s always exciting when you change it up so often.
Do ideas come to you at anytime? Do you have a voice app?
Oh yeah, I get a lot of inspiration when I am in my car driving but I definitely use the voice memo. I have so many random fragments of song ideas on there, I would be lost if I dropped my phone in the toilet, haha!
How has this tour been? It must quite an incredible trip to begin with, as not only are you touring with your fiancée Ryan, but you are here at the same time as some of your best friends, such as Lucie Silvas and Brothers Osborne – and you’re also friends with Old Dominion, The Cadillac Three, Thomas Rhett and Charlie Worsham right? I bet you have had a blast?
Oh yeah, it has been. I have seen the Brothers twice – they came out to our show last night in Birmingham and we have crossed paths a bunch with those guys, haha. Jokingly we were like “I think we have seen more of each other on this trip than we have all year”, because we are just gone all the time, but it has been cool because we all left at the same time after the CMA’s and ended up booking tours around the same week. It was cool to see their shows because I don’t get to see my friends’ shows a lot – usually we are always playing on the same night. Getting to see Brothers Osborne play and them coming to my set last night, you forget how talented your friends are until you seem them on stage and how much they have grown in a year. Thomas Rhett came out to my show in Glasgow; he has never really gotten to see me do a full set live. It has been cool to see our friends thrive, especially over here, and see them really building a fan base – and myself.
“I think my only fears were – are people going to understand this, are they going to think it’s too many genres in one record, are they going to think it’s not Country enough?“
How have your audiences been in comparison to C2C, because you know that this is your audience?
Obviously it is smaller than the O2, but the energy and passion is so up there and I remember feeling that at C2C, too. All these different clubs and theatres we have been doing here have been just such a warm welcome and that is a huge reason why I love touring here. The fans are so right there with you and they are so emotionally attached to the lyrics. It is such an amazing thing to come over and see, especially this far away from home.
Congratulations on Hero and all its continued success. As an artist who has been on the scene and hard working for many years as a songwriter and independent artist – has Hero exceeded your expectations – and did you have any worries putting it out?
Oh yeah, yes to both of those. I think it has far surpassed any ideas that I had about it doing well; I just wanted it to be heard. I think my only fears were – are people going to understand this, are they going to think it’s too many genres in one record, are they going to think it’s not Country enough? You always have those insecurities, especially as a new artist; are people going to like this? But you just know that you love it, so you are at least winning that battle and the response has been so spectacular, which has given me a fan base. So, going into the next record, it’s not just me anymore, it’s me and them.
Yes, and as you say, Hero has a mix of genres – but that is part of what makes it so great. It has been nominated for and won CMA’s and Grammy’s but I read somewhere that you used to sit in a bar across from the Bridgestone, watching the CMA’s, hoping one day that would be you. How does it feel to now be that person?
Ha! Still surreal, because I remember that bar and watching the CMA’s and then a year later standing on the stage performing and minutes after my performance winning Best New Artist. It was a crazy whirlwind of a year, but that is the power of a song. My Church really launched me and my career and it was at a time when the female-scape of country music was really dry, so I think my timing was really pertinent and I think people were refreshed by what I had to say and my sound. There are always downsides that come with being different, and I think that people often reject the unfamiliar, but for the most part I have had really wonderful fans come out of this; it pays to be different, that’s what I’ve learned.
“I always have been pretty upfront with that song. I said whatever your version of spirituality is, is your version”
Congratulations on the Grammys – I couldn’t even begin to understand how that must have felt?
Thank You – Pretty crazy, unexpected and surreal
It is well deservd and My Church is such a well written song with such a great meaning. Were there ever concerns with the title before putting it out in case people misinterpreted it as a religious song?
I always have been pretty upfront with that song. I said whatever your version of spirituality is, is your version. For me it is music and driving -and I know millions of people can identify with that, because we all sit in our cars and listen to radio and have this sense of freedom and escape, so why shouldn’t that be spiritual?
Oh exactly! I have a lot of friends who aren’t into Country music and when I told them about the song they thought it would be completely different, but when they heard it, when they listened to the lyrics, they loved it – and one especially said, ‘Yes, this is me. I drive so much in my job, this is me’.
So many have related – it’s been amazing.
“I went to a school where I loved singing in choir and theatre but there weren’t enough people who cared about it, or cared about funding it”
Dear Hate is such a beautiful song with so much meaning and it was the right time to put it out. It is sad that it had to be released because of such a tragic event, but the song has and will help so many victims. I don’t really have a question here, as I’m not sure what needs to be asked, but I needed to acknowledge the generosity you have given during such a dark time.
Following on from the topic of charity, tell us about the Heroes Fund so that people can learn more about the proceeds of your meet and greets – you have also said before that you came from nothing, so it is important to give back.
It’s actually a fund that I set up over the last two years and it is called The Heroes Fund. Basically, I went to public school and it was not financed – it was paid for by the government. It was a public school, so unfortunately the fine arts divisions of those schools, because there isn’t a ton of funding, get cast aside for sports – if even that. I went to a school where I loved singing in choir and theatre but there weren’t enough people who cared about it, or cared about funding it. So I have given the proceeds that I get from my Meet and Greet packages which fans pay for, and give it to fine arts education programs in public schools. After our summer tour, we raised about $35,000 for those schools.
Yeah, it is just like a little divot in the hill that is lack of funding.
Well, that is amazing!
“….people would be like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know you wrote this. I love your version of this song”
You just released 80’s Mercedes as your UK single. Why the next UK single, did you just feel it was a good fit – which it is of course.
Yeah, well I remember doing 80’s Mercedes at the O2 and just garnering the response from the crowd. I don’t know if it is because it leans more towards pop, but the British crowd really took to it and I just remember it being a big hit in the O2 C2C set. My label over here have always loved that song, so they wanted to test it out over here – and it seems like it’s a bright spot in the set, especially on this tour.
As you say, it does suit the UK charts and obviously I don’t want anyone else to sing it but you, but it is a song that I can imagine Rihanna singing, so it would really work on mainstream radio.
Oh, wow thank you!
We have mentioned that you were a songwriter and you wrote for other artists, for example Second Wind for Kelly Clarkson, which we love. What does that song mean to you, and was it hard to let it go at first? Was it always going to be in Hero, or did you have to fight to have your own version on there?
Well, the only time I have ever felt like that was with My Church. But I remember with Second Wind, Kelly Clarkson recorded it – and this was like two or three years ago, before I was even putting out an album. She put it out as a bonus track and she obviously slayed it – she has one of the best voices and did such soulful job with it. But I would always play that song in acoustic sets of my shows and people would be like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know you wrote this. I love your version of this song.’ and it is such a personal song to my story, moving from Texas to Tennessee that I had to put it on the album.
I am so glad that you did.
Are you working on some new music – and who are you writing with?
Yeah, I am, so I am kind of taking some time off after December to really hunker down and write for the album and record the album. I have been writing a lot with a lot of the same people I did for the first album, but a little more with going out and taking trios to L.A. and writing with new writers. Sometimes I just need to get out of my comfort zone, and Nashville is such a comfort zone for me, but it is a great one, so I am writing with some newer people – there are so many new songwriters in Nashville that I didn’t get a chance to write with for my first album. My fiancée Ryan, still writes all the time in town, so he is always telling me about this new guy that is amazing, so I am like ‘I have to write with him.’ – and so I have. So there are some new faces. I am trying not to reinvent the wheel of my sound but sort of push it forward, so that is kind of where I am right now.
Well, we are very excited.
Thank you so much for chatting to me today, I really appreciate it.
Of course, it was so lovely to meet you.
Purchase Hero (Deluxe Edition) by Maren Morris here