Maren Morris, a country star, has been so well-received by pop audiences thanks to hits like ” the Middle” or “The Bones”. Some would have expected her third major record to be her “Red moment”, the Taylor Swift transition from country to pop.
Morris felt so grounded by the monumental changes in her own life, including becoming a mom during the pandemic and losing her producer to cancer. The music that jumped out was not exactly club bangers.
Morris, a Nashville native, stated that people should not expect a huge (expletive) pop album. “But it’s still very me,” she said.
Morris’ personal growth is evident in “Humble Quest,” which will be released Friday. It follows two multi-platinum albums and Morris’s outspoken, genre-fluid status in a changing country music scene. The Grammy-winning Texas-born singer’s honesty about sexuality, femininity and politics, as well as her acknowledgment of country music’s racist history, has made her a target, mostly anonymous online critics.
Morris said that there was a dichotomy between feeling very humbled and feeling free from criticism and judgments from complete strangers.
She has been called humble many times, with some commenters suggesting that Morris should cover her body. Morris has only clapped back by tweeting photos of her shoot for “Playboy” magazine.
Morris reaffirms her work-in-progress status in the title track. She is still learning, but she is striving to improve and not letting her ego “cast shadows.”
She said, “Yeah. I’ve definitely overstepped my boundaries and opened my mouth too many times. But I learned from it and was slapped on my wrist.” But I don’t believe it scared me into being quieter. It’s taught me to be more thoughtful in the way I express my opinions and thoughts. It’s not always going be in a tweet.
Laura Veltz is a long-time songwriting partner. She said Morris has always been in a different league, sonically as well as lyrically. The new record reflects her continuing evolution as a woman musician.
Veltz said, “Watching her become mother was a friendship high for me.” Even in the love songs we wrote, it is still possible to feel that maternal long-game approach to life.
Ryan Hurd, a fellow country singer, had a significant influence on the record. However, he has been writing with Morris ever since her first major label album, “Hero.”
Hurd wrote four tracks, and Hurd added background vocals. These songs include “The Furthest Thing” (a love song) and “I Can’t Love You Anymore”, which play off their careers and gentle ribbing. Morris says their relationship was rocky during the pandemic isolation. It then recovered as they became parents. This is what inspired songs like “Tall Guys” and “Background Music.”
Morris said, “Obviously, we have written a lot about the relationship and our love, but we can also be silly and get each other’s goat in a room because we just know all the buttons to push.”
Hayes, her 2-year-old son, also appears on “Hummingbird” as he practices his first words “Mama” and makes his debut in the song. The song was co-written by the Love Junkies, an all-star songwriting trio consisting of Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey. Morris has a hummingbird tattoo. Her parents also bought her a Gibson Hummingbird Guitar for her 18th birthday.
Morris stated, “It makes my cry every time it’s played. But he will always be a part this album in that manner.”
Greg Kurstin , a eight-time Grammy-winning producer, returned to Morris as her co-writer and producer, honing the rootsy and country sounds of Morris.
Morris said that Greg Kurstin is a master at adapting to any artist in the room. He can do anything from Adele to Beck, to Paul McCartney. I felt like he brought out a lot beauty in me with this sound.”
The album’s final track was dedicated to her former producer, busbee. He died in 2019 having worked on Morris’ first two records. Morris wrote “What Would This World Do?” with Hurd, Jon Green and other busbee friends. Morris received the piano she and busbee wrote on, and Hayes can still play it in their home.
Morris stated that Hurd’s backing vocals are “the most raw and broken that you will likely ever hear my voice” in reference to the song.
Morris smiled and remembered that busbee was so meticulous about getting the vocals right on recording.
Morris stated, “I think that kinda brought me through.” “It was knowing that, if he was here, he’d say, Do it again.’