I’m sure you’ve already heard the news, because you’re on Facebook, and you can’t live without it, and even when your phone is 20 feet away from you, you feel vibrations on your thigh near where your pocket would be, but Maren Morris is going to be touring with Keith Urban. Who’s Keith Urban? Oh, just a country singer-songwriter who’s married to one of the most beautiful, most talented women on the planet. Who’s Maren Morris? Oh, just a country singer-songwriter who herself is one of the most beautiful, most talented women on the planet.
But the connection goes deeper. Keith is from Australia. Maren is from another wildly exotic destination that begins with an “A.”
Now it’s time to hop aboard the Maren Morris bandwagon! Too bad it departed from Arlington (that’s the “A” place) a couple of years ago and has been building up steam in Nashville. Taylor Tatsch, one of my favorite North Texas singer-songwriters, and also Morris’ former guitar player –– one who recently also got himself the heck out of Dodge, to Austin, specifically –– posted on (where else?) Facebook his theory for Morris’ outer-DFW success: “Three years ago, after releasing our second local release that even the [Dallas] Observer wouldn’t write about, I convinced [Morris] that DFW was not the place to get any kind of response or fan base.” (Note: We reviewed Morris’ “second” local release, which I believe was really her third. We were not crazy about it. Even though we had been supporting her for years at that point.) “Everyone,” Tatsch continues, “either still thought of her as a 13-year-old (which is how old she was when she started playing these fine clubs around town) or just assumed she was manufactured, or something.”
Leon Bridges and The Unlikely Candidates notwithstanding –– in the words of my dear old friend Ken: “Sometimes even a blind squirrel gets a nut,” that blind squirrel being Fort Worth –– Tatsch’s theory isn’t entirely wrong. Think about it. How many crappy bands do you hear on commercial radio or on TV and in movies every day? Or that you read about in Pitchfork and Aquarium Drunkard? Hundreds. How many awesome, genuinely aesthetically progressive bands do you know in town? Probably just as many. Why the enormous disconnect between the haves and have-nots?
Part of the answer lies in geography. As simple math would have it, if you live in a city with the infrastructure for music, meaning studios, producers, publicists, lawyers, and managers in addition to venues, then you are more likely to spill coffee on and end up making out with a person or persons who can deliver you to the next level. Assuming you have talent. And you do, or else your parents wouldn’t have let you move away in the first place. Some backwater stars, indeed, shine through. In yon towne of cow, we can count Bridges (Columbia Records currently), the Candidates (Atlantic Records), and Pinkish Black (Relapse Records) among the recent diamonds in the manure. Having written about Fort Worth music for going on 14 years now, I think I have come across as many hometown successes as expat breakthroughs. Hmm. Tatsch’s theory might not be as sturdy as I originally thought. Anyway, the only other yokel who moved away to find his fame and fortune whom I can think of is Jordan Richardson, a.k.a. Son of Stan, who won a freaking Grammy playing drums for and producing a record by Ben Harper after relocating to Los Angeles. But now Richardson is back. In the Fort.
For a lot of local musicians, picking up and relocating to another part of the globe is simply not feasible. There are jobs, family responsibilities, love connections. Sometimes we have to honor them to be able to sleep at night. Sometimes your connections are as much a bane as a blessing. But. The blessing part cannot be discounted.
I’m all for reinvention. We get only one go-around at this life thing. We must, without fail, try to make it count, the optimal word being “try.” If your muse leads you to Nashville –– or to Austin, L.A., or the Big Apple–– then follow it. (And if it leads you to Australia, then please get Nicole Kidman’s autograph for me.) Sometimes your art is the only fight worth fighting for. (That’s right. Fighting for a fight. Let that marinate.)
You’ve got to be glad for Morris. She has been making music for, basically, her entire life. When we first wrote about her, nearly 10 years ago, before any other writer at any other publication had ever heard of her, she was barely a tween. Now. Now, Maren Morris is a supermodel. I guarantee you that within a couple of months, dozens if not hundreds of tribute websites will be erected in her honor. Her songwriting? Based on her first major-label single, “My Church”: great melodies, so-so lyrics. But what do you expect. Her genre is radio country, not exactly a clearinghouse for creative wordsmithing.
Despite the sumptuous sing-along chorus, the song makes me cringe a little. It’s is just so ingratiating, with Morris describing Hank Williams and Johnny Cash as the prelates at some sort of “church” to country-inflected pop music. Obvious. And kind of corny. I guess that at least wayward twentysomethings can find something to latch onto, folks who are forging their identities before realizing that, yeah, the best music is the music that challenges you, not the kind that endorses your demographic predilections.
But that doesn’t matter! Nobody’s opinion matters! “My Church” is in the hands of the almighty Public. And barraged with images of Morris’ almond eyes, pouty lips, and overall shapeliness, the Public will devour her. Completely.
Best of luck, Maren Morris. You don’t need it, but your hard-working tail deserves it.
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