You probably hadn’t heard of Maren Morris before last year, when her critically acclaimed major label debut LP Hero topped the Billboard Country Albums chart, securing her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. But the 26-year-old has been recording for more than a decade, and working in Nashville since 2010. Here are a few facts to bring you up to speed on her career so far.
She got her start as a teen.
Morris released her first album, Walk On, in 2005, when she was just 15 years old and living in her hometown of Arlington, Texas. It was just the first of three independent records highlighting her budding songwriting gift before Morris signed with Columbia Nashville.
She’s written songs for country’s biggest stars.
Before her breakthrough, Morris snagged a staff job in Nashville as a pro songwriter with noted Music Row publishing company Big Yellow Dog, where she co-wrote “Last Turn Home,” which Tim McGraw recorded for his album Sundown Heaven Town, and “Second Wind,” featured on Kelly Clarkson’s Piece by Piece.
She was rejected by TV reality shows.
Though Morris’ hit “My Church” has been performed by Jenna Renae on American Idol and Mary Sarah on The Voice, the songwriter herself was rejected by both televised singing competitions before she became a star.
A Backstreet Boys track influenced her.
Morris sings the lyrics to the chorus of “Sugar” to two different melodies over the course of the song. An astute student of pop songcraft, Morris (along with co-writer Laura Veltz) got the idea from the Backstreet Boys’ “Shape of My Heart,” which uses a similar songwriting trick.
California’s open road inspired “My Church.”
The open road that inspired “My Church” was a long way from Nashville. In Los Angeles for a writing session with her producer busbee and scrambling to come up with song ideas, Morris landed on the concept while cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, listening to the radio and gazing at the ocean.