Maren Morris is no stranger to controversy, and she’s certainly not one to shy away from a strong opinion or stance. Her decision to walk away from country music is both a surprise and a long time coming, a decision she said she largely made due to how she believes the genre and community have shifted since Donald Trump was in office.
“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over. But it’s burning itself down without my help,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Despite its Black roots, country music has always had a race problem, and has often been a safe haven for both artists and listeners who have deeply conservative perspectives and beliefs (though not exclusively). In recent years, many have started to believe that this long-standing political and cultural divide is untenable, and Morris has been outspoken about where she stands.
“I didn’t think of myself as a political artist. I just wrote songs about real life through a lens of deep respect for my country heroes,” she told the Times. “But the further you get into the country music business, that’s when you start to see the cracks. And once you see it, you can’t un-see it. So you start doing everything you can with the little power you have to make things better.”
When asked what is different about country music now, Morris pointed to a specific person: former President Donald Trump. She explained, “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.”
The result, she continued, is a new niche of country music that she referred to as “butt rock.”
Songs such as Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” serve to illustrate her point. Morris believes listeners are “streaming these songs out of spite” and that this is warping what music — all music — is really about.
“Music is supposed to be the voice of the oppressed — the actual oppressed,” she added. “And now it’s being used as this really toxic weapon in culture wars.”
The singer has turned to pop producer Jack Antonoff, who famously works with her good friend Taylor Swift, as she works on the next phase of her career. The two are collaborating on music that is “bats” and “insane,” but that’s just the way she likes it.