Maren Morris’s burning a bridge with Nashville, and walking away from country music.
On Friday, the five-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association winner dropped her double-track EP The Bridge, which marks her move to Columbia Records from the label’s Sony Nashville division. The project features production by pop hitmakers Greg Kurstin (Sia, Kelly Clarkson, Halsey) and Jack Antonoff, who along with his credits for Lorde, St. Vincent, and Lana Del Rey has worked with country-pop-crossover superstar Taylor Swift and on Gaslighter, the most recent album by controversial country disrupters the Chicks.
“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. Honoring where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved in country music, but also freely moving forward,” Morris explained in a statement.
It’s Morris’s video for Kurstin-produced track “The Tree” that shows just how bold that forward move is. The powerful, symbolism-packed clip depicts the singer-songwriter waking up in a decaying, abandoned small town that is decorated with conservative lawn signs declaring “Don’t Tread On Me,” “Go Woke Go Broke,” and “I Believe in God and Guns,” as well as a “From Sunrise to Sundown” welcome sign — a seeming dig at country star Jason Aldean’s recent hit “Try That in a Small Town,” which many critics believed glorified “sundown town” racism and vigilantism.
Morris then wanders in a daze through past tumbleweeds and boarded-up storefronts, looking for signs of life, before approaching a dead tree in the town square, which she attempts to water. When the tree’s thorny roots coil menacingly and painfully around her ankles, she gives up and strikes a match, but — just as she’s about to set the tree ablaze — she realizes that it’s already on fire and “the rot at the roots is the root of the problem.” So, she simply walks away, while the tree and the town around it burns.
In her statement, Morris said “The Tree” is about a “toxic ‘family tree’ burning itself to the ground. Halfway through, I realize it’s burning itself down without any of my help. This song evokes the pain of exhausting all your love and time for this person or ‘entity’ but realizing it’s just a draining, transactional relationship that isn’t nourishing in any healthy way. By the end of the song, I give myself permission to face the sun, plant new seeds where it’s safer to grow and realize that sometimes there IS greener grass elsewhere.”
The other The Bridge video released Friday, for the Antonoff-produced “Get the Hell Out of Here,” is the sequel, as Morris crosses a bridge and finds safety in a green pasture on the other side, while the blazing ghost town in the distance becomes buried in soot and ash. Morris explained that this track is about “being quite literally burned out” and is the “story of me feeling pulled in every direction, needing everyone else’s understanding and acceptance but my own and how self-destructive that ultimately became. I relinquish control of trying to change everyone’s mind or bad behavior and focus on my own power going forward. Doing the right thing can feel lonely at times, but there are more friends than foes, so I finally quit making myself one of them.”
Morris also described “Get the Hell Out of Here” to the Los Angeles Times as “really heavy” and “about disarming that trauma and saying, ‘I can’t bail water out of this sinking ship anymore. It’s so futile. I choose happiness.’”
In her Los Angeles Times interview explosively titled “Maren Morris is getting the hell out of country music,” the self-described “asker of questions,” “hall monitor of country music,” and “status quo challenger” insisted, “I don’t want to have an adversarial relationship to country music. I still find myself weirdly wanting to protect it.”…