Maren Morris has announced her departure from the country music industry.
On 15 September, the passionate LGBTQIA+ ally released a two-track EP with lyrics that confirmed she no longer gives a “damn” (‘Get The Hell Out of Here’) and is “done filling a cup with a hole in the bottom” (‘The Tree’).
In a statement accompanying its release, Morris said the songs are “incredibly key to my next step because they express a very righteously angry and liberating phase of my life these last couple of years, but also how my navigation is finally pointing towards the future, whatever that may be or sound like.”
“Honouring where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved in country music, but also freely moving forward,” she added.
Morris continued to explain her estrangement from the genre in an interview with LA Times, saying country music is “burning itself down without my help”.
“After the Trump years, people’s biases were on full display. It just revealed who people really were and that they were proud to be misogynistic and racist and homophobic and transphobic,” she explained. “All these things were being celebrated, and it was weirdly dovetailing with this hyper-masculine branch of country music. I call it butt rock.”
In 2023, four country songs have topped the US charts – ‘Last Night’ by Morgan Wallen, ‘Try That in a Small Town’ by Jason Aldean, ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ by Oliver Anthony Music and ‘I Remember Everything’ by Zach Bryan and Kasey Musgraves – making it one of the most successful years for the genre.
All of them, bar the latter, have caused considerable controversy. Critics and fans labelled Aldean’s song as “racist” and an endorsement for “lynching” after noticing the video was filmed outside the Maury Country Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where an 18-year-old Black teenager was lynched in 1927.
‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ was described as a “conservative anthem” and praised by right-wingers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Joe Rogan and Matt Walsh. Wallen’s song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks, becoming the first song without a feature to do so, despite the singer’s much-publicised use of a racial slur.
Of their success on the charts, Morris said “people are streaming” them “out of spite”: “It’s not out of true joy or love of the music. It’s to own the libs. And that’s so not what music is intended for. Music is supposed to be the voice of the oppressed — the actual oppressed. And now it’s being used as this really toxic weapon in culture wars.”
One of country music’s most outspoken LGBTQIA+ allies, Morris has continuously used her platform to raise awareness of transgender issues.
She memorably criticised Aldean’s wife Brittany for her transphobic behaviour.
After Brittany described Morris as a “lunatic country music person”, the star subsequently launched a collection of T-shirts on her website emblazoned with the phrase, as well as the number of the Trans Lifeline. She raised over $100,000 for trans organisations.
Earlier this year, Morris also used her platform to condemn Tennessee for banning public drag shows and appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she apologised to the cast for country music’s homophobic history.
“Coming from country music and its relationship with the LGBTQ+ members, I just want to say I’m sorry, and I love you guys for making me feel like a brave voice in country music,” she said. “So I just thank you, guys, for inspiring me.”
In her interview with LA Times, Morris revealed that she’s at work on her fourth studio album with Jack Antonoff, who produced ‘Get The Hell Out of Here’.