Maren Morris Says 'I'm Willing to Put My Ass on the Line' to Help Make Country Music More Inclusive

"Circles Around This Town" singer Maren Morris talks using her voice for change in Nashville

Maren Morris isn't afraid to speak up for what's right.

In the new issue of PEOPLE, the country singer opens up about championing change in Nashville.

Morris — whose new album, Humble Quest, drops Friday — says that welcoming her son Hayes with her singer-songwriter husband Ryan Hurd was a turning point for her both personally and creatively.

"He's already taught me so much about how to be a person," Morris, 31, says of Hayes, who just turned 2. "It helped me see things in a deeper way and just feel more empathy for my fellow humans, having to raise one."

Watch the full episode of People Features: Maren Morris on or on the PeopleTV app.

Maren Morris
Maren Morris. Harper Smith

In October 2020 Morris released "Better Than We Found It," a protest song inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that earned her a Grammy nomination (her second this year and 13th overall), for best country song. It's evidence of Morris's evolution into an outspoken, progressive voice in country music, a traditionally conservative industry.

"I didn't start making music to become an activist," she says. "I think it was a byproduct of just seeing the inequality in the genre I happened to come up in. Once you become aware of it, you can't really shut your eyes again."

Since launching to fame in 2016 with her breakout single "My Church," Morris hasn't hesitated to call out sexist double standards and racial inequality in Nashville. And in 2020, she used her female vocalist of the year speech at the CMA Awards to celebrate Black female country artists.

As country music continues to go through "massive growing pains," Morris hopes to help make the community she's dedicated her life to diverse and open to all.

"It's not going to be an overnight thing to feel like it's more inclusive, but I am seeing it change for the better," she says. "Even if I've lost fans along the way, I'm truly willing to put my own ass on the line to stand up for what's right. When you come to a show of mine, I want it to feel fun and safe. And anyone from any walk of life can show up that night and know that they will be accepted. So if I have to slap off some randos along the way, it's honestly for the betterment of country music."

These days, Morris is channeling the chutzpah she employed in her early career, which inspired her latest single off of Humble Quest, "Circles Around This Town."

"I think in a lot of ways I had more of my s--- together back then than I do recently, because you just have all of that blind confidence when you don't know what you're doing," Morris says. "But I'm learning to be that fearless, no-holds- barred girl again, and I am getting back to her in a lot of ways — but also in a more mature, give-zero-f---s way."

For more on Maren Morris, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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