by Jessica Nicholson
Maren Morris has become as well-known for her fierce advocacy of female artists and artists of color in country music as she has for genre-bending radio smashes like “The Bones” and “The Middle.”
On Thursday, March 11, Morris visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke with DeGeneres about diversity in country music, saying, “We all have so much room to grow, myself included.” Morris also noted that she has been compelled to speak out and use her platform to help spur change in the musical genre, and that she has “been doing so much of my own homework the last couple of years,” particularly following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
“I’m a white woman in country music. I already have this sort of leg up,” she said during her discussion with DeGeneres. “Even though there’s this huge disparity between men and women in our genre, there is even more of a disparity between white women and Black women trying to be in country music. And there’s so many Black women and men who adore country music and don’t feel like the door is open for them even a crack. So I’ve just been doing so much of my own homework the last couple of years, especially since George Floyd. I just feel like country music as a genre, we all have so much room to grow, myself included, but I think country music is stepping up to the plate, slowly but surely.”
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There have been a few recent points of light, with a record four black artists earning nominations in a single year at the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards (those nominees include Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton and John Legend, who is nominated for his duet with Carrie Underwood). Darius Rucker was chosen to co-host last year’s CMA Awards, and it was just announced that Mickey Guyton will join Keith Urban to co-host the upcoming ACM Awards. CMT’s Next Women of Country initiative has been a platform dedicated to giving female artists more visibility within the genre for several years. The initiative’s Class of 2021 includes artists Brittney Spencer, Chapel Hart, Sacha, and Reyna Roberts.
Morris, whose son Hayes will turn one later this month, also told DeGeneres she cares less about being criticized on social media for taking a stand, and more about using her platform as a successful country artist to open doors for others. Last year, Morris released
“Better Than We Found It,” and enlisted producer Gabrielle Woodland to helm the video.
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“You’re always going to have people wanting to come for you if you say something that’s unpopular to them or their groupthink,” Morris told DeGeneres. “For me, it’s just like, I have to think about my son and the people in my circle going forward — who I write with, who I employ — and think, ’Am I making room for everybody?’ I don’t care if someone on TikTok thinks I suck. It’s not really my issue. I just want to exist in a genre that is working to be better.”
Morris is set to perform alongside John Mayer on Sunday’s Grammy Awards, where she is nominated for Best Country Song her hit “The Bones.” Morris is also part of the group The Highwomen, alongside Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby; the group’s song “Crowded Table,” penned by Carlile, Hemby and Lori McKenna, is also nominated for Best Country Song.
“It’s been a couple years since I’ve been on the Grammys stage,” Morris told DeGeneres, “and I’m really appreciative to them for doing something kind of in-person and safe. It just feels really fun to be back in L.A.”