Maren Morris scored a major modeling contract!
The Grammy-winning (and recently engaged) country star, 27, just signed with Wilhelmina Models, making her the first country artist to join the New York modeling agency’s celebrity division, which includes other celebs like Nicki Minaj, Shawn Mendes and more.
“This is one of the most exciting things for me personally just because I’ve always loved fashion and I’ve loved pushing the envelope and I just feel like taking it to the next level with Wilhelmina,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively about the new gig.
“For me to be their first country music signing of the agency is incredible,” she adds. “Bridging that fashion and country music gap is such an amazing step forward for them and our genre. And I think it will certainly bring country music and its artists into the conversation with the high-fashion world.”
Morris says the partnership will include everything from photo shoots with fashion magazines and collaborations with fashion companies to styling her for red carpet events and working with her for her forthcoming album artwork. “Having a partner like this who is so keen on honing in those visual marks is going to be a really amazing,” she says.
“Maren is a singular talent,” adds Wilhelmina Models’ CEO Bill Wackermann. “She’s not only beautiful and hardworking but she’s so relatable, and that will never go out of style.”
For Maren, she also says her new model status is proof for women and girls they don’t have to fit into a certain mold to feel beautiful. “I think it’s important to establish you don’t need to look like this person to believe you’re worthwhile and beautiful,” she says. “I think it’s been really inspiring to see my fans and young girls and girls my age look at me as someone to model after—you don’t need to look perfect or sound perfect.”
“I mean, I’m five-foot-one and I’ve got short brunette hair—I’m not the typical country-looking starlet,” she continues. “But I think that’s what gravitates my fans to me and my music. I definitely have an edge to what I say in my songs and it translates visually as well to my personal style.”
In fact, she’s got more music on the way soon. She is already hard at work on her next album, in which she wants to get “even deeper musically and lyrically.”
“I’m currently in the process of writing for it and I’ve had so many life experiences in the last two or three years,” she says. “With my first album, it’s a lot of country roots, R&B, soul and tinges of pop. With this [new album], it’s going to be even more amplified. I want to kick things up a notch.”
And while she’s feeling pressure to make her sophomore album as strong as her first, she is also more confident than ever. “I think I’ve grown more confident in my sound after the last few years and playing it out loud so much because we’ve been on the road—[touring] really helped me grow up and come into my own,” she says. “That’s why they say your second album is the hardest because you’ve established yourself and now you have to move your sound and evolve forward it but still not let it be too far from where you came from. You have to find this crazy happy medium between these two worlds.”
But she couldn’t be more excited about the music she’s making now. “I feel amazing just about what I’ve created in the last six or seven months,” says Morris. “I’ve been writing a lot and I love the songs were turning out. They are so me; they’re sassy and really heartfelt and they’re not perfect. I’m excited to have the fans hear it. I’m mostly just super pumped.”
But in the meantime, she’s gearing up for the CMA Awards on Nov. 8, where she is nominated for three awards, including one for Female Vocalist of the Year and two for her collaboration “Craving You” with Thomas Rhett. Plus, it’s where she’ll unveil her first collaboration with Wilhelmina—working with their team on her looks for the red carpet and the events surrounding the main ceremony. “I think it’s going to be really fun to unveil it during CMA week,” she says.