Stagecoach 2017: Maren Morris looking ahead to her next album, ‘I don’t want to make “Hero 2"’

Maren Morris performs on the Mane Stage on the second day of the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio on Saturday.
Maren Morris performs on the Mane Stage on the second day of the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio on Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s no surprise to discover that Maren Morris, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, smack dab between Dallas and Fort Worth, took to music with an approach shaped to a large degree by the outsider attitude of Texas mavericks such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark and Radney Foster.

“They didn’t care what other people thought,” said the petite 27-year-old with the oversized voice and penchant for in-your-face lyrics that combined to make her major label debut album, “Hero,” a breakthrough hit after three previous indie albums.

Relaxing backstage in her trailer only about 90 minutes before she was to make her first appearance at the Stagecoach country music festival on Saturday, Morris said that was the idea she clung to as she worked on “Hero,” not whether it might please the masses.


“My scope on what’s good is if I like it,” she said. “The first person I have to please is myself. But I was definitely honored that it reached even beyond the country masses, it was recognized everywhere, which was cool — and to have that critical acclaim right off the bat, because I think they saw and heard the album for what it was. It was not just country, it was also R&B and pop and hip-hop.”

Even so, asked whether there was a specific artist who inspired her to take up songwriting, she cited someone from outside the Lone Star State.

“Sheryl Crow,” Morris said. “I loved her ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’. She expressed her own point of view, and she wasn’t trying to be like anyone else, and I loved that. That’s been the thinking of all my favorite artists.”

In another time, Morris might have run up against resistance to her sometimes brash language, including some mild profanity in songs such as the saucy come-on “Sugar” or the Loretta Lynn-inspired put-down “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry,” especially given the heightened odds against such songs getting airplay on commercial country stations.


“My songs have some street talk in them, but that’s the way I talk and the way a lot of people I know talk,” she said. “And that’s the thing about those other Texas songwriters I always liked — the way their songs sound so conversational, like the way real people talk.

“The people at my label got it right away and have been behind me all the way,” she said. “There was some talk at one point about releasing an explicit version and then a clean version, but that never went very far. The language isn’t that extreme.”

Scoring a Grammy Award for solo country performance on her career-establishing single “My Church” has contributed to a whirlwind two-year journey that’s continuing to play out with more shows this summer, including a return to Los Angeles for an Aug. 15 show at the Greek Theatre with Sam Hunt.


Just recently, she’s started writing more songs, entering the beginning stages of work on her follow-up to “Hero.”

I’m just getting back into my songwriting groove,” she said. “It’s still pretty early. But I don’t want to make ‘Hero 2.’ It’s going to be different. Not so different you won’t recognize me. But enough that I’m not going to just be repeating myself.”

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