This year continues to prove to be the year of the newcomer in country music. The multitude of new artists in country music this year has been interesting to watch and many of them have experienced a lot of success. The most recent of course has been Chris Stapleton, who isn’t necessarily a new artist, but is new to many people. I think the stagnation of bro country has given way for these new artists to emerge and capture the public’s attention. Before the Stapleton hype fully took over country music news and social media, one artist I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about from has been Maren Morris. Fellow critics have been raving about the 25-year-old Texan’s music and she’s spent her last few years opening up for acts such as Pat Green, Gary Allan and Marty Stuart. She also helped write Tim McGraw’s “Last Turn Home” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Second Wind.” Her self-titled, debut EP has been out since August, but only exclusively through Spotify. This caught the attention of Sony Music Nashville (support from fellow artists such as Kacey Musgraves helped too), who signed her a few weeks back and now has released the EP to all music outlets. Upon on the first listen of this EP, it immediately grasped my attention.
The self-titled EP opens with the best track on it, “My Church.” This anthemic, gospel-inspired tune is about how Maren’s church is country music. When she turns on her favorite country music (Hank and Johnny Cash, as mentioned in the song), it feels like a spiritual experience to her. She genuinely loves country music. Part country, part rock and part gospel, this song is catchy and fun as hell. I’ve listened to this song several times now and it just doesn’t get old. Sony Music Nashville can’t release “My Church” to radio quick enough because I think it has instant hit written all over it and could really launch Morris’ career off to a great start. This is followed by “80’s Mercedes,” an upbeat song about a woman and her 80s Mercedes-Benz. When she’s driving it she feels confident and beautiful, clearly holding some strong sentimental value to her. This is a pop country song, with a heavy dosage on the former. Despite the heavy pop influence, there’s just something about this song that is infectious and likable that I can’t knock it. It’s something I can’t explain, I just know I enjoy hearing it.
Morris shows off her humorous side on “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry.” The song is about a woman telling her friend to leave her boyfriend after cheating on her yet again. As the woman tells her friend, this is the third time he’s been caught, so it’s past time for another chance and time to kick him to the curb. She tells her though that he’s a really nice guy, but then her friend retorts back, “That’s like saying drunk girls don’t cry.” It’s a sassy, honest and funny take on the classic breakup song. Morris’ deadpan, no bullshit delivery when talking to the cheated friend is spot on too. This is another song I could easily see as a single. “I Wish I Was” is a more traditional country song with some blues added in. It’s about a woman who is in a relationship and makes the realization that it isn’t going to work. The man thinks it’s true love and he’s found the one, but she breaks it to him that it isn’t true love. She wishes however it was true love and that she was the “hero” in the story who got all of the glory of being in love. This is definitely the best vocal performance by Morris on the EP, as she shines. The five-song EP closes with “Company You Keep.” The song is about how when you spend time with others, it’s about the people, not the destination where you spend it with them. The clear message sent is that relationships trump any material possessions or fancy vacation destinations. This positive-messaged song fits Morris well and closes the EP on a great note.
Maren Morris hits a home run with this debut EP. While she is mainly country, she is also not afraid to borrow influences from other genres and incorporate them into her music. While the pop influences may be too heavy for some people, I thought she struck a good balance with it. Her vocals are tremendous and the songwriting is interestingly witty. Morris’ style reminds me a lot of Kacey Musgraves and Maddie & Tae’s styles of music and I think fans of these artists will definitely enjoy Maren Morris too. I think she’s definitely an artist who can help enhance the overall quality in mainstream country music and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in her career. Remember the name Maren Morris because I think she has the potential to be something special.