Maren Morris on why she left ‘toxic arms’ of country music: ‘Couldn’t do this circus anymore’

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Maren Morris has explained her decision to step away from country music, saying she felt “rightfully cynical” about what the genre has become.

Appearing on The New York Times’ “Popcast” podcast Wednesday, “The Bones” hitmaker said she could no longer “participate in the really toxic arms” of country music in Nashville.

“I love living in Nashville, I have my family,” the singer, 33, began. “There’s a reason why people come there from L.A. and New York to write with us. It’s because we have amazing songwriters there. That’s not gonna change.”

“We have amazing songwriters there, so that’s not going to change,” she went on.

“I couldn’t do this circus anymore — feeling like l have to absorb and explain people’s bad behaviors and laugh it off. I just couldn’t do that after 2020 particularly. I’ve changed. A lot of things changed about me that year.”

Maren Morris performs during the 2023 Boston Calling Music Festival at Harvard Athletic Complex3Maren Morris has explained her decision to step away from country music, saying she felt “rightfully cynical” about what the genre has become.Getty Images for Boston Calling

Morris realized she was in a “toxic” environment following the backlash over her tracks “My Church” and “80 Mercedes” from her debut album, “Hero” in 2016.

“Ironically, it was like, ‘She’s not country. Look at the way she dresses. Get the hell out of here. You don’t belong here. This is not, like, Dolly [Parton],’” she told co-hosts Jon Caramanica and Joe Coscarelli. 

“I don’t want to say goodbye, but I really cannot participate in the really toxic arms of this institution anymore.”

Maren Morris poses in Nashville, Tenn. in 2016.3“The Bones” hitmaker said she could no longer “participate in the really toxic arms” of country music in Nashville.AP

The Texas native — who now lives in Nashville with her husband, musician Ryan Hurd, and their 3-year-old son, Hayes — admitted that when she first performed her big gig in New York City, she was “floored” by the crowd’s diversity.

“It felt so diverse and accepting and loving. And I’ve only wanted to continue that and amplify that through my work each time,” she said. 

Maren Morris in an instagram post.3The singer said she decided to step away from the genre because it had reverted back to its racist and misogynistic roots.Instagram/@marenmorris

Elsewhere, the Grammy winner said that it’s “a little hyperbolic” and “ridiculous” to say that she’s leaving country music, despite announcing so last month.

“Come with me if you please. Everyone’s welcomed,” she said, adding that she has asked for her work not to be considered at country music award shows from here on out.

Last month, the singer said she decided to step away from the genre because it had reverted back to its racist and misogynistic roots.


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“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over, but it’s burning itself down without my help,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

“The further you get into the country music business, that’s when you start to see the cracks. And once you see it, you can’t un-see it. So you start doing everything you can with the little power you have to make things better.”

Morris publicly blasted crooner Morgan Wallen in 2021 after he was caught on camera using a racial slur, and she’s been at war with both Jason Aldean and his wife, Brittany Aldean, since last year over the couple’s transphobic remarks.

“The Middle” hitmaker categorized Jason’s controversial-yet-popular song, “Try That in a Small Town” — which has been dubbed a “racist,” “pro-lynching” anthem — as butt rock.

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