Country music star Maren Morris received the Changemaker of the Year award at Variety‘s Hitmakers event on December 2, 2023. Morris is known for songs like “The Middle” with Zedd and Grey and “The Bones” with Hozier and although her roots are in country music, she’s had crossover success with the pop genre and in 2023, announced she was taking a step back from the country music industry.
While being honored with the Changemaker of the Year award, Maren Morris gave a speech in which she opened up about her experience in the country music industry and praised the “brave” female singers that she admires for their tenacity and refusal to just “shut up and sing.”
Maren Morris calls country music success “bittersweet”
Maren Morris is not someone who is known for backing down and staying quiet about what she believes in, even if it brings some negative press her way. Her speech at the Hitmakers event was no exception and she spoke openly and candidly about the fact that the country music industry, though a childhood dream of hers, is not always easy for people like her.
"… the system I was achieving success in was deeply fractured. And above all, centered, get this, men over any other sort of human being making comparable or often times better music. Even as I stand here today, not a single solo woman artist has been in the Top 20 on the country airplay charts in the last two weeks so ‘change’ is still desperately waiting to come."
The country singer also referenced past media attention she’s received while calling out open bigotry from fellow country music stars and their spouses. She said, “If you dare criticize blatant misogyny, racism, transphobia within the ranks of your industry, you’re met with isolation, death threats, labeled as ‘ungrateful,’ ‘biting the hand that fed you’ or diminishingly told to ‘just shut up and sing.'”
The women who influence Maren Morris
Despite the fact that Maren Morris has been met with negativity for being so outspoken about what she believes in, it’s clear that she doesn’t plan to stop. In her speech, she went on to praise the female musicians that she looks up to who, like her, aren’t quiet about their beliefs. In specific, Maren Morris gives credit to The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks), Sinead O’Connor, Taylor Swift, and Billie Holiday.
"They were all told to not bite the hand. They were all told to shut up and sing. Now, I would never be silly enough to compare myself or my story to these women, but I have found deep inspiration in their courage in my moments of loneliness."
Maren Morris, who is currently going through a divorce after filing in October 2023, said she still has a deep love for music and is working through her feelings and finding a way forward with her career even after announcing her step back from country music. “I love making music and you don’t fight for what you don’t love,” the 2023 Changemaker of the Year said.