"Can I get a hallelujah, can I get an amen?" sings Texas-born, Nashville-dwelling Maren Morris on "My Church," the lead single from her debut full-length, HERO. Though "sing," however, might not be the most appropriate verbiage – she belts, more like it, in her dynamic range that can growl soulfully one moment and twangily howl the next. It's an honest performance from an artist and writer who stands out for the singular point of view, sheer creativity and fearless approach to music she's developed since she began performing and writing as a young child.
Using the boldest colors from across many genres as her palate and country as her canvas, Morris' stories are vivid paintings that can be gleefully fun, tearfully heartbreaking and a perfect balance of modern and timeless.
With HERO, her first LP for Sony Music Nashville, Morris starts with a bang, not a whimper: opening with a mysterious vamp full of swampy swagger, "Sugar" seamlessly blends the attitude of R&B with a catchy, countrified chorus. In other words, it's Maren Morris in a perfect nutshell. "I don't want to ease anyone into this record," she says. "It's not my personality. It feels so good to start the album out that way, and the music itself is not shy. But then it goes on to these really internal moments, too."
Indeed, she bounces from "Sugar" and the next track, the equally infectious, spitfire spirit of "Rich," to the pristine glimmer of "I Could Use a Love Song" and later, the poignant balladry and awe-inspiring vocals of "Second Wind" and "Once." It all results in one of the more inventive and engaging perspectives in country music to come along in years, conjuring a special, wildly different world where salvation comes through the FM dial and the stage is a place both to party and pray.
Morris built buzz at a breakneck speed with her self-titled EP, which introduced all of the diverse and dynamic sides that comprise her – from the confident, danceable swagger of "80s Mercedes," to the island jam of "Drunk Girls Don't Cry," and the soulful confessions of "Wish I Was." And, of course, the thrilling pop-country-gospel amalgam of "My Church," a track about the spirituality that comes with to letting your body and mind be enveloped by the power of music. "My Church" has risen fast and furious: it entered Billboard's Heatseeker's chart at number one and has been bounding forward ever since, earning millions of digital streams and scoring Morris numerous accolades like an induction into CMT's "Next Women of Country" and a spot as one of Rolling Stone Country's Artists You Need to Know. "Country listeners have been needing something meaty, and to know a song like 'My Church' can be played on radio and very quickly resonate feels amazing," she says. "I think the message behind it is so universal – I don't feel like it's preaching, and it's not at all judgmental. It's not telling you to do anything but enjoy the moment."