Maren Morris beat out country's top artists including Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Brandy Clark to win Best Country Solo Performance for her debut single "My Church." "Oh my goodness, this is so crazy," Morris exclaimed from the stage. "Eleven years ago I went to the first ever Grammy camp. Sturgill Simpson: The Grammys' man of mystery Grammys 2017: Sturgill Simpson wins best country album A Grammys sweep for Nashville Symphony Hillary Scott & Scott Family accept early Grammy Awards Video by Jessica Davis/ The Tennessean
Maren Morris is seriously having one of the best years in country music.
Her major label debut record, “Hero,” dropped in summer 2016, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and later scoring Gold status. Rolling Stone called it the best country album of the year, and Morris' work on the record led earned her the New Artist of the Year honor at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards.
Behind the success of the album's No. 1 single “My Church,” Morris started 2017 by snagging one of music’s top honors: a Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance. From there, she took her band on the road for a run of sold-out spring shows before spending the summer supporting top-charting “Body Like A Back Road” singer Sam Hunt in amphitheaters across North America.
And now, Morris brings her headlining show — only her second run of full-band headlining gigs since releasing “Hero” — to Seven Flags Event Center in Clive on Oct. 7. Morris' fiancé and fellow country songwriter Ryan Hurd opens the show.
“It's sunk in, but it’s still bizarre to think about,” the 27-year-old Morris said of her whirlwind year via phone Thursday evening. “The thing that really centers me is getting to play live. These shows are such a great way of coming back to my roots and really focusing on what’s important. … It’s such a pure experience.”
The fast-rising star — who prior to “Hero” penned songs for Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson — said she’ll be testing out some new songs at her Seven Flags show, some of which have only been played for Hurd and her management.
It’s a bit of a Litmus test for the material, she explained: “I’m just excited to get back in that pocket of performing these songs to a crowd of my fans and feeling their energy and playing these new songs out … getting a vibe of, ‘is this the direction that it’s going in?’ Because, you know, for the first record it was just me, but now it’s not just me anymore — it’s me and them.”
The Texas native's breakout success is anchored by “My Church,” a soulful, down-to-earth ode to finding emotional freedom. The track echoes the spirit of “Hero” and what makes it an unforgettable release: Heartwarming, timeless country intertwined with persuasive pop.
Morris spent much of “Hero” singing about late nights (“I Could Use A Love Song”), lost love (“Once”) and liberation (“Just Another Thing”). It’s a narrative she sees changing as her life continues to change.
“You know, every so often I’ll come back and listen to the record in full,” she said. “And re-visit that emotion that was there when I was recording and writing it. I was in such a different headspace back then; I was going through a breakup. Obviously this time around, writing, it’s a different story for me, emotionally. I think the songs are reflecting that.”
Still — with talks of new music surfacing — fans who have yet to experience “Hero” tracks live may get a chance to catch Morris before the next wave of songs emerge. She said she believes she’ll be supporting her debut album on the road for another half-year before ramping up for her next release.
“I’m not in a rush to get any new music out,” she said. “I want it to feel right and I want to dig deep on this next album.”
Essential show song: Maren Morris — “My Church”
Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd
Where: Seven Flags Event Center, 2100 NW 100th St., Clive.
When: Doors at 7 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
Price: $25 in advance; $28 on show day.
More information: sevenflagseventcenter.com.