Country music artist Maren Morris just released a two-song EP, The Bridge, and is using it as a statement: she’s no longer concerned with what will “work in the country music universe,” she’s “just making good music.”
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Morris details her changing relationship with the country music establishment. She says her frustrations with the genre came to a head last year in the midst of her public conflict with singer Jason Aldean and his wife Brittany Kerr.
“I didn’t think of myself as a political artist. I just wrote songs about real life through a lens of deep respect for my country heroes. But 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.”
Track one of the EP, “The Tree” and its music video, are a middle finger to singers like Jason Aldean and the genre he represents, a “hyper-masculine branch of country music” that Morris refers to as “butt rock.” She thinks Aldean’s song “Try That in a Small Town,” is a “last bastion” of butt rock. “People are streaming these songs out of spite. It’s not out of a true joy or love of the music,” she says.
In the video, Morris walks through a small town like the one Aldean idolizes, with yard signs in front of houses that read “Don’t tread on me” and “Go woke, go broke.” She lights a match and sings of “a new wind blowing” as she walks away from the town while it burns behind her.
“I can just walk away from the parts of this that no longer make me happy,” Morris says. “I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over, but it’s burning itself down without my help.”
So, she isn’t walking away from country music, she’s walking away from butt rock and all of the toxicity surrounding it. If anything, she’s walking towards what country music is supposed to represent: “the voice of the oppressed—the actual oppressed.” It’s what The Chicks did when they protested the Iraq war and thus fell from country music grace. They worked with Jack Antonoff to produce their comeback album, Gaslighter. Antonoff produced The Bridge and is working with Morris on her new album.
Track two, “Get The Hell Out Of Here”, is a continuation of “The Tree” and Morris’s rallying cry: “The more I hang around here / The less I give a damn.”