Interview: Maren Morris Learned From the Best for Her First Headlining Tour
When Maren Morris took home her CMA for New Artist of the Year in early November, the win followed a whirlwind year of touring with Keith Urban, releasing her debut studio album to the delight of fans and critics alike and generally making waves in country music. That whirlwind didn’t stop there, either: In early December, Morris took home the Billboard Breakthrough Artist award at their annual Women in Music event, and come Feb. 3, she’ll kick off her first-ever headlining tour, which Morris recently sat down with The Boot to discuss.
Morris spent the summer and fall of 2016 on the road with Urban, opening for the country superstar on his Ripcord World Tour; she was learning all that she could from the iconic country star, because she knew that her turn would come soon enough. Her headlining Hero Tour will definitely be a new experience for the 26-year old singer, but it’s one for which she seems ready and excited.
“You have so much more room to play with at these headlining shows. I’m just so used to doing a 25-minute set on the Keith tour, [so] it's going to be cool to really explore different sides of the music and being able to expand on it now," Morris tells The Boot, adding that she’s particularly excited to practice her visual creativity: “Stage design is such a new muscle I'm flexing; I'm just so used to just setting up instruments and playing, but after seeing so many shows over the last few years, and the caliber [of them], I feel like that's become a new passion of mine -- to get really creative with the visuals, but keep it simple and classy. Because I just feel like you want the music to stand out more than the set.”
Her recent touring partner does that really well, Morris notes. She's a longtime Urban fan, but it wasn't until she joined him on that road that Morris realized just how incredible of a performer he truly is.
“Seeing him every night on this tour -- the rumors are true -- the performance side of that guy is so strong,” she gushes. “Every show is high energy. He shoots energy into the back of the arena, and that's hard to do -- it's not easy. So I feel like the biggest thing I've taken away from this tour is just watching him really connect with everyone in the crowd in these big venues. He figures out a way to do it every night and make it fresh. That's been really inspiring.”
It should come as no surprise that Morris wants her music to be the Hero Tour's most important element: She’s made a name for herself by expanding the definition of country music, bringing a raw vulnerability and slight recklessness to her songs. She throws curse words around like they’re no big deal in "Rich," adds a gospel quality to “My Church," then turns around to release a fun-loving pop-country song (“80s Mercedes”). The girl can pretty much do it all ... which actually makes picking a single somewhat difficult.
“We've done "My Church" and "80s [Mercedes]," so it's -- I don't know -- it's like, 'Where do you go from there?'” Morris says with a laugh. “We've done something really soulful and gospel-y, but roots-y, and then we've done sort of a fun, upbeat, pop-country hybrid. The sky's sort of the limit with the next choice."
But before 2017 kicks off, Morris is going to take a break -- partially because she hasn’t been home more than one time this year, and partially because she knows that if she doesn’t stop to take everything in, she won’t appreciate it nearly as much.
"It will be cool to unplug and turn my phone off for a few days and not answer any email,” Morris admits. “And just celebrate -- it's important! I did this Crossroads [episode] on CMT with Alicia Keys, and she was a young songwriter when her first record came out, so her biggest piece of advice to me was just, 'It's all happening so quick. If you don't take the time to really sit and celebrate it ... it just goes by so quick.’”
And Morris is taking that advice to heart.
“I feel like if you don't take the time to really unplug and reflect and fill the well back up, it doesn't sink in ever. It's just always happening, and it's never that surprising anymore," she concludes. "You have to let it hit you, and I think that's going to be a big thing at the end of this year, is just to take some time off and realize, like, 'Holy crap! Look at all the stuff I've done this year!'"
Tickets for Morris’ Hero Tour 2017 are on sale now. More information about the trek can be found on Morris’ official website.
Who Is Maren Morris?