Country star Maren Morris announces she’s leaving the genre over its role in US culture wars

Maren Morris has announced her plans to leave the country music scene over its part in the cultural divide in the US.

On Friday (15 September), the 33-year-old singer released the songs “The Tree” and “Get the Hell Out of Here”, the lyrics of which address her estrangement from the genre.

“I hung around longer than anyone should / You’ve broken my heart more than anyone could,” she sings in “The Tree.”

In a statement Morris released Friday, she said: “These two songs are incredibly key to my next step because they express a very righteously angry and liberating phase of my life these last couple of years, but also how my navigation is finally pointing towards the future, whatever that may be or sound like. Honouring where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved in country music, but also freely moving forward.”

“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over,” she said of country music in a newly published interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s burning itself down without my help.”

Asked what she thought the turning point in the genre was, Morris replied: “After the Trump years, people’s biases were on full display. It just revealed who people really were and that they were proud to be misogynistic and racist and homophobic and transphobic. All these things were being celebrated, and it was weirdly dovetailing with this hyper-masculine branch of country music. I call it butt rock.”

Morris has been involved in a feud with fellow country artist Jason Aldean and his wife Brittany Kerr Aldean following transphobic comments they made in August last year. Morris is a rare advocate for LGBT+ rights in the country music scene.

Maren Morris (Getty Images for GLAAD)
Maren Morris (Getty Images for GLAAD)

Aldean faced a storm of criticism in recent months over the music video for his recent single, “Try That in a Small Town.”

The visuals feature alarmist news footage of violent clashes between demonstrators and police officers, petty crime and flag-burning. Critics called the song “racist” and a “lynching anthem” after learning that the music video was filmed outside the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where 18-year-old Black teenager Henry Choate was lynched in 1927. The location was also the site of the Columbia race riot in 1946.

Asked about the song’s success in the charts, Morris said: “People are streaming these songs out of spite. It’s not out of true joy or love of the music. It’s to own the libs. And that’s so not what music is intended for. Music is supposed to be the voice of the oppressed — the actual oppressed. And now it’s being used as this really toxic weapon in culture wars.”

The LA Times confirms that Morris now plans to release music on Columbia Records, the label’s more generalist arm, instead of Columbia Nashville, moving forward.