One night before a gunman opened fire and killed 58 at the Route 91 Harvest festival on October 1st, Maren Morris played her own set, filling the Las Vegas Strip with the sounds of a country singer who’s never been afraid to challenge her genre’s boundaries.
On Sunday, during a conversation with Rolling Stone hours before the 2017 Grammy Awards, Morris broke ranks with country music’s conservative wing once again.
“Having this open conversation about gun rights would be a start, [as well as] changing legislation,” she said, when asked to offer some potential solutions to America’s plague of mass shootings.
Gun control has always been a sticky subject within the mainstream country community. When Tim McGraw performed at a July 2015 benefit show organized by families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, he was criticized by firearms advocates. Billy Currington, who’d been booked to play the same event, withdrew from the lineup altogether, hoping to sidestep any blowback from his own audience. “I’ve never been one to take on controversial issues — I’m a singer,” Currington explained via Facebook. The country community’s response to the Route 91 was similarly mixed, with artists like Margo Price and Rosanne Cash voicing their desire for increased gun security while the bulk of their contemporaries remained silent.
Morris’ stance, on the other hand, is clear.
“We need to protect ourselves and our children, and I want the county music community to get brave and talk about it,” she added. “I feel like the floodgates are starting to open, where people are comfortable talking about it. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like Vegas to start that conversation, but I’m hoping it impacts positive change from now on, so we never have to see this again.”
Morris, whose performance of “I Could Use a Love Song” was nominated for a 2018 Grammy, is doing her own part to encourage positive change. She is set to join Eric Church and Brothers Osborne, both of whom also performed at Route 91 last fall, in a special tribute to victims of concert violence.
“I feel like tonight will hopefully bring some feeling and some closure, not only to the victims’ families, but also to the survivors,” she said. “I’ve talked to so many people who fled the scene of the Vegas tragedy and got out OK, but they are suffering from PTSD. I mean – they were being shot at for 20 minutes. I hope this inspires them a little bit … to not be afraid to go to festivals or to shows, or for performers to not be afraid to walk out onto a stage.”
(Reporting by Kory Grow)