Even if you don't know the name Maren Morris, chances are you've heard (probably even love) her music. Though the country star stands at just about 5'4" tall, there's nothing small about Morris's talent—or her career.
The singer-songwriter's breakout song, "," from her debut , put Morris firmly in the spotlight. Since then, the 27-year-old (she'll be 28 on April 10!) has had multiple hits including "I Could Use a Love Song" and the Thomas Rhett duet "Craving You," both of which topped 's Country Airplay chart.
Most recently, "," her catchy collaboration with Zedd and Grey that was used in a ubiquitous Target commercial, rose to No. 1 on the Pop Songs Airplay, making Morris the sixth-ever artist to top charts in the two genres.
1. She's won a Grammy…
In 2017, the singer-songwriter took home the Best Country Solo Performance Grammy for "My Church." That year, she was also nominated for Best New Artist, Best Country Album, and Best Country Song. The next year, she returned as a nominee in the Best Country Solo Performance category for "I Could Use a Love Song," but lost to Chris Stapleton.
2. … and CMA and ACM Awards.
The Country Music Association named Morris 2016's New Artist of the Year, her one win among several other nominations. The following year, she won New Female Artist at the 2017 Academy of Country Music Awards. At the upcoming 2018 ACM Awards, Morris will perform as well as vie for Female Vocalist of the Year.
3. Maren Morris is married to Ryan Hurd.
Morris met her husband, fellow singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd in 2013, but it wasn't until 2015 that they started dating. When they were still friends, Morris and Hurd co-wrote Tim McGraw's 2014 song "Last Turn Home," and since then, Hurd has written multiple songs inspired by their love. Following their July 2017 engagement, the two got hitched on March 24, 2018, in Nashville.
4. She started getting creative at a young age.
Texas-born Morris grew up with her parents and younger sister in Dallas, exploring her creativity from a young age—whether it was writing poems or showing off her love of music by singing on the family's karaoke machine. Her father gave her her first guitar when she was 12, and she quickly turned her poetry into lyrics, and started playing her own music at honky-tonks across Texas and Oklahoma.
"I started playing all around Texas—any bar or club that would let me in there," she writes on her . "I was the only kid in school that had a job on the weekends!"
She self-released her first album, Walk On, in 2005, as well as two other albums through a deal with Smith Music Group, before taking off for Nashville at the age of 20.
5. She moved to Nashville to pursue music—but not as a singer.
Though she had a decade of performing experience behind her, Morris never intended to become a country star. "I didn't move to Nashville with any inkling or dreams of getting a record deal," she told the in 2016. "I didn't have those stars in my eyes. I just wanted to take a break, relax, and figure out songwriting."
Morris ended up inking a publishing deal, and got to work writing songs for some of country's biggest voices. Her first cut? None other than country titan Tim McGraw's song, "Last Turn Home." Co-written with singer-songwriters Ryan Hurd and Eric Arjes, McGraw recorded their song a week after it was written. "That never happens," Morris told . "That was my first cut, and that's something you never forget as a songwriter: the first time someone cuts your song." Her next song wasn't a bad placement, either: Kelly Clarkson's song, "Second Wind."
6. Her songwriting was so personal, she had to sing it herself.
As Morris's writing developed, her songs became more personal and publishers found them harder to place with other artists. They told her that perhaps she was the only one who could sing her own songs. Though at first she felt frustrated, she later realized perhaps there was some truth to that.
"At the time, I didn't realize it was becoming an album, but it was," Morris told about the songs she was writing at the time. "When I finally admitted that I missed performing, I realized I had an entire catalog of material that is just a diary of what I've been going through the last year."
7. Morris was rejected from The Voice and American Idol—but contestants ended up singing her songs later.
"I think about all of the freaking talent shows I've tried out for in my life and I'm so glad I didn't make any of them," Morris said in an interview with . "It's full circle, because I was rejected from The Voice. I was rejected from American Idol—and I'm happier for it now."
On American Idol's 15th season, contestant Jenna Renae took on Morris's song "My Church" in the Top 24 round. And not one, but two contestants on The Voice offered up their own versions of the hit. On the show's 10th season, contestant Marah Sarah performed her take.
"This song's so inspirational and captures that imperfectness, and I think that's something that's so beautiful but every one of us," Sarah said. "When you go to a town that is full of songwriters and singers and they're all doing the same thing, it's a little intimidating. I escape sometimes, and I take my car and I drive down the road—and that's my church."
And The Voice's season 11 winner Sundance Head offered up a rousing rendition during the show's Top 12 round. Like Sarah, he also related to the song's message of finding comfort and spirituality in music: "I've went through some hard times, and music's always been my church."
8. "My Church" was the breakout moment that changed her life.
"That was really the tipping point of me going from songwriter to artist," Morris told . "The second that song was done and we were listening back to it, the first thought in my mind was, "Wow, they were right. I'm not sending this to anybody." The song captures the unique therapeutic, almost spiritual feeling of driving while listening to your favorite song—an experience she treats with the same reverence of more traditional forms of worship.
At the time, Morris she didn't feel quite like an artist yet. But an emotional performance at C2C, a country music festival in the U.K., was the surreal moment of affirmation she needed: "By the time we [got] to the breakdown chorus, every corner of that place was singing along."
9. She's a star for the internet generation.
Breaking with country music tradition, Morris released her five-song EP exclusively through Spotify in the fall of 2015, with "My Church" generating over 2.5 million streams in just over a month.
Its viral success quickly caught the eye of the major labels. Ultimately she signed a deal with Columbia Nashville Records, who re-released her EP before her debut major label album, Hero, in June 2016. That album went on to reach number one on the country albums chart and number five on the Billboard 200.
10. She's bringing a whole new sensibility to country music.
A big part of Morris's appeal lies in her , a trend that's been gaining ground with other artists of her generation, such as Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt, and Kelsea Ballerini. Her voice deviates from the smooth polish of country stars past, for something a little grittier, more organic-feeling. This ease extends to her physical presence as well—from her tattoos to her nose ring, and her love of curse words and tequila, she's refreshingly unapologetic about who she is.
Last September, she shut down haters who criticized the way she dressed with a single tweet: "Hey, while prudes are bitching about my clothes, let's make babies. :)," Morris captioned a photo of herself with then-fiancé Ryan Hurd.
Morris also likes to subvert the usual country music tropes, trading in lyrics of heartbreak and love for freedom, independence, and feminism—a door like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves for opening. like 'N Sync and the Spice Girls, Morris says she embraces pop, soul, and R&B melodies, infusing them with classic country-style storytelling.
11. Her CMA acceptance speech was an emotional reminder of how sometimes things come full circle.
"This is incredible," Morris said through tears while accepting her award for New Artist of the Year. "So, last year I sat across the street at a bar and watched this show. I never thought that as a songwriter that I would be standing here today. Thank you so much for voting for me."