Maren Morris is Tennessee’s finest country-pop export
Ahead of the opening of Soho House Nashville, she talks tequila cocktails, hot chicken, and what happened when she posed for ‘Playboy’
Wednesday 16 February 2022 By Andy Morris
A 21st-century country phenomenon, as comfortable hotwiring truck-rock tropes on ‘My Church’ as filling EDM dance floors with ‘The Middle’, 31-year-old Maren Morris is one of a kind. A Texas-born Nashville transplant for nearly a decade, the singer is outspoken on gun control, celebrates artists of colour, and took on the creative challenge of the pandemic the only way she knew how: by writing about what will happen when the show can’t go on for her third studio album, Humble Quest.
What do people get wrong about Nashville?
‘That we’re only about honky-tonks and barbecue. I mean, I love those things about it, but Nashville has become a trendy metropolis of all genres of music, art and food while still retaining its cosy roots.’
Where’s a good spot for a drink?
‘The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club. If you’re a tequila lover like myself, The Devil You Know is a perfect take on a Paloma. I’m also really excited that Espresso Martinis are making a comeback, because they’re delicious and the Fox makes a fantastic one.’
What’s your order at Prince’s Hot Chicken?
‘I love spice, but I can only do the “mild” at Prince’s. They’re not messing around. I love getting the Leg Quarter with their “Get It Girl” Greens, and the Potato Salad.’
‘It surprised me how many people faux-clutched their pearls over a little side boob action’
What’s the best LP you’ve found at Grimey’s record store?
‘When I first moved here, I went to Grimey’s one afternoon and Kathleen Edwards’ album Voyageur had just come out. It was about her divorce. I was going through a really ugly break-up during that first year, so every song on that album was heavily screamed and cried to in the most cathartic way. It had such an impact on me that I actually reached out and wrote with her for my last record.’
Who is the next big thing?
‘Joy Oladokun. Her voice is so unique and inviting. There’s such a believability in what she’s writing and singing, and I forgot how magical that was to hear in a singer. If they make every listener believe them, it’s a powerful thing, and she’s got it.’
What keeps you grounded?
‘My close friends and family keep my wits about me, for sure. Also, taking social media breaks, getting outside and steadily becoming less bad at tennis, a good sauna session, and holding my son.’
What has been your most memorable night out in Nashville and why?
‘I will never forget rehearsing at RCA Studios with Dolly Parton with my band, The Highwomen, for our Newport Folk Festival set. Singing with Dolly in the same studio where she recorded “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” still gives me chills to this day.’
What was the most unexpected reaction to your Playboy shoot?
‘I think it surprised me how many people faux-clutched their pearls over a little side boob action. Our whole Playboy shoot was shot, styled and interviewed by women, and I never felt more ownership of my femininity. I get this sense that people who are fans of or are in the country music industry feel like they need to be buttoned up and high-collared at all times, and the real people that harm is women. I say let’s just have fun with it while we’re here.’
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
‘I have a pretty profane but secret chant I do with my band before we walk out. A little sip of tequila also helps calm my nerves.’
When were you last starstruck?
‘I met Amy Poehler at a party a few months ago and had tears in my eyes. She was so kind, but I couldn’t help myself going up to her. I mean, it’s Leslie Knope.’
What’s the one thing you wish somebody had told you before you became famous?
‘That it can never be the goal if you want to be here for a good amount of time. Fame is just a by-product of success. Chasing something so flimsy is dangerous. I laugh with my husband and say I think I’m perfect where I’m at, because I can feel important a couple days a year and then go back to being anonymous the rest.’
What was the creative process like making Humble Quest?
‘It was a challenge staying motivated and creative during a time of many travel restrictions and lockdowns. My producer, Greg [Kurstin], lives in LA and Hawaii throughout the year, so I picked my moments to go out and safely work with him. Once the logistical hurdles were jumped, I found it really easy to relax into this album’s sound and shape.’
What do you hope people take away from listening to the new album?
‘I hope they find it a comfort. I know the last few years haven’t been easy, so I really wanted to set out to make music for this record that was a tonic to my anxieties during this time. I truly love every song on this record and listen to it in random moments throughout the day to lift my spirits, so if it does the same to others, I’ll take it as a bonus.’
As someone who uses the Goddess Tarot app, what does the future hold?
‘My last tarot reading in 2019 had “a baby in my future”, and it was spot on. I will say that is not in my current future. But I pulled a Six of Wands from my Goddess deck today, which means I finally get to savour the fruits of my labour. I should say so.’
Humble Quest is out on 25 March (Colombia).
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