Maren Morris is known for being outspoken in the country music world, and her opinions on everything from radio not playing enough female artists to condemning Morgan Wallen for saying the N-word have alternately thrilled and alienated fans. But according to her interview Thursday (March 11) with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s less worried about losing her own platform than she is about offering up that platform to aspiring country stars who don’t yet have one — especially artists of color.
“I’m a white woman in country music. I already have this sort of leg up,” she says on Ellen. “Even though there’s this huge disparity between men and women in our genre, there is even more of a disparity between white women and Black women trying to be in country music. And there’s so many Black women and men who adore country music and don’t feel like the door is open for them even a crack. So I’ve just been doing so much of my own homework the last couple of years, especially since George Floyd. I just feel like country music as a genre, we all have so much room to grow, myself included, but I think country music is stepping up to the plate, slowly but surely.”
There have been some very public examples of recent progress in country music, whether it’s radio pulling Wallen from playlists following his use of a racial slur on video last month or a record four Black artists — Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton and John Legend (for a duet with Carrie Underwood) — earning nominations at the 2021 ACM Awards. Plus, Guyton and Darius Rucker were chosen to co-host the ACM Awards and the CMA Awards, respectively, in the past year. Morris is hoping to be part of that change too, starting with the people she chooses to work with.
“You’re always going to have people wanting to come for you if you say something that’s unpopular to them or their groupthink,” she admits. “For me, it’s just like, I have to think about my son and the people in my circle going forward — who I write with, who I employ — and think, ‘Am I making room for everybody?’ I don’t care if someone on TikTok thinks I suck. It’s not really my issue. I just want to exist in a genre that is working to be better.”
Morris’ hit song “The Bones” — which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and found success across country, pop and AC radio — is nominated at Sunday’s Grammy Awards for best country song. She’ll also perform at the ceremony, alongside John Mayer.
Watch her full interview below: