PEOPLE caught up with Zedd behind-the-scenes during the music video shoot for their new single “The Middle” — which Target debuted in a commercial during the 60th Grammy Awards on Sunday — and he revealed it wasn’t exactly third time’s the charm when they chose “the one” for the vocals behind their new track.
“[Grey and I] went through roughly 15 different vocalists – mostly pop and lots of A-listers – but it just didn’t fit,” says Zedd. “The song is very emotional and real, so it has to be someone who could really carry it.”
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On a mission to find “somebody who was good enough to sing it well,” Zedd jetted off to Nashville to meet Morris — and within 30 minutes knew “she was the one.”
“We recorded Maren and she sounded incredible. Everybody who loved this song already fell in love with it even more, so we knew she was the one,” he adds.
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“It had nothing to do with country, to be honest. It’s just a coincidence that she’s in country,” he says about Morris. “To me, it was just her vocal quality, her ability to sing something and make me believe it. There are words and melody, but they oftentimes don’t connect with the emotion, and she was really able to sing it and make me believe it. That’s what was most important to me. I don’t care about the genre you’re in. If you sing the song and I want to cry, then I know it’s perfect.”
But prior to recording the beat of their soon-to-be hit, Morris’ voice was strained.
“New Year’s Eve I had a show outside in Nashville — it was very cold and I blew my voice out! They told me Zedd was coming in two days to record the vocal,” says the Grammy award-winning country star. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t have a voice,’ so I had to literally get a steroid shot the day before we recorded.”
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“It worked in my favor because there’s so much grit and rasp with the vocal — it just sounds so emotional because I literally didn’t have a voice the two days before,” she continues. “We had never met before and he totally understood my vocals, their stretchiness and capability of them, and he just got that performance out of me that day.”
While finding herself in the middle of a few of EDM’s finest may be “unexpected,” Morris says it “just makes sense.”
“It’s just a really incredible, emotional, relatable song,” she says about whether or not she wishes to continue exploring different genres outside of pop-country. “I just made one album [and I’m in the midst of making my second album right now], so this is the beginning for my career and I think it’s amazing that we’ve come together – me from Nashville, him from this whole EDM world.”
“It’s unexpected, but it makes sense,” she adds. “Honestly, I listen to every type of genre anyways and my own music is very all over the place music-wise — it’s not strictly country or strictly pop — so I felt like it was the perfect marriage of genre styles.”
On Sunday, Target aired a visually spectacular commercial during the awards show featuring “The Middle” as a part of the retail giant’s #MoreMusic campaign.
“Music is — and always has been — an important part of Target’s DNA,” says Rick Gomez, Target’s chief marketing officer. “This year, we wanted to mark the Grammy’s 60th anniversary by celebrating something really special: a one-of-a-kind mashup that brings together two different genres through a song that many musical fans are already playing on repeat.”
In previous years, Target has been behind several of those memorable music moments, including Carly Rae Jepsen and Lil Yachty’s remake of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s 1988 hit “It Takes Two,” a live music video for Gwen Stefani‘s “Make Me Like You,” and the first-ever live Grammy Awards advertisement with Imagine Dragons.
Fans will also be able to enjoy “The Middle” when it becomes part of Target’s Spring Style campaign, beginning Feb. 4.
The 60th annual Grammy Awards, hosted by James Corden, were broadcast live on CBS from Madison Square Garden in New York City.