After establishing herself as one of country music’s brightest stars and showcasing her chops as a bona fide pop star with “The Middle,” Maren Morris returns with a different kind of power anthem. “GIRL,” the first single off Morris’ forthcoming sophomore album, is a warm hug of a banger, with juicy guitar riffs, crashing cymbals, and her soulful voice crooning to women everywhere, “Everything’s going to be okay, baby girl.”
Ahead of the release of the music video for “GIRL,” Morris spoke to ELLE.com about the tough-love inspiration behind the song, the surprises on her upcoming album, and dealing with the devil on your shoulder.
I want to dive into the writing process of the song. What inspired it?
I was out in L.A. writing with Greg Kurstin and Sarah Aarons, who wrote “The Middle.” We were just kind of spitballing ideas. I had never really met them before, so this was my first time writing with those two. I am huge fans of both. I was just talking about this tiff I was having with a friend who I adore, but also can never seem to stay on the same page with. And it just ended up being [about] me talking to her personally, what I’d say to her if she were in front of me—Why are we so competitive with each other, why are we always so awkward around each other, when we could so easily be friends? I ended up realizing that I wasn’t writing this to her—I think I’m writing it to myself, that inner critic and devil on your shoulder that tells you that you’re not enough. The song ended up being like a tough-love call to action in a sisterly way, to myself, if that makes sense.
So, working off this powerful song, how did you decide what visuals you wanted to pair with it in this music video?
I wanted it to look cinematic and real. There’s over 65 cast members in this video, and there’s women of all walks of life, all colors, all sexualities, all struggles, and I loved that it was showcasing all of that in a human and beautiful way. That’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to work with Dave Meyers—he’s just so great at capturing women. His video with Ariana Grande for “God Is a Woman” is so stunning and almost rewrites history in favor of women. His career is tuned, almost, to film all of these women with no effects, it’s just real life. I think it depicts the song perfectly and now I can’t even listen to the song without thinking of Dave’s video. It’s amplified the message of the song even more.
Were the cast members people that you knew?
The only person I kind of know is Jojo Gomez, who’s the dancer in the video. I found her work on Instagram last year. She had choreographed a dance for “The Middle,” so that’s how I discovered her work, and when it came time to casting women of all careers, I wanted to feature someone that could move and write with their body. She is just such an artist in that way. But I love that every single one of the girls in the video…none of them look alike, and they’re all going through something different in each scene.
You’re going on a big tour with Cassadee Pope and Raelynn, which is quite the group of women. Do you find that there’s any difference working with female artists and musicians as opposed to male musicians and artists?
I have incredible conversations with fellow female artists who identify with struggles and peaks I’ve gone through. They’re good at their jobs, they’re professional, they can get along with everybody. Maybe that’s from years of experience on the road, you know how to adapt to any environment; I think women are very adaptable out of necessity. That’s part of the reason I wanted to bring my friends out who are women. I want to put my money where my mouth is and give them an opportunity to showcase their art in a place that is safe and curated for equality, which is how I want my shows to come across.
You’ve obviously had incredible success with country music and then pop, with “The Middle.” Can we expect any influences from other genres on your upcoming album?
Yeah, there’s definitely some tinges of folksy songwriter, but almost Carole King–like stuff on there, and then there’s some R&B tones. But all of it I co-wrote with my friends in Nashville and L.A. and co-produced, so it’s all very me, even though there’s something for everyone when they listen to it.
Are there any other female artists right now that you’re loving at the moment? You look at her and you’re like, “Oh, she’s killing it”?
I’m a huge fan of H.E.R. She’s nominated for a shit-ton of Grammys. I have become such a recent fan of hers and it’s funny, this year of the Grammy’s is so representative of women that I’m a fan of right now. Brandi Carlile’s another one them that i think is just so versatile and is an iconic artist in the making. There’s so many women I’m a fan of, but those are the two that come to mind right now. It’s really exciting to watch.