Maren Morris Plays Red Rocks, Dillon Amphitheater | Westword

Maren Morris Says She's Bringing a "Unique Experience" to Red Rocks, Dillon Amphitheater

Maren Morris teases her shows at Red Rocks and Dillon, saying no set will be the same on this tour.
Maren Morris plays Red Rocks and Dillon Amphitheater this week.
Maren Morris plays Red Rocks and Dillon Amphitheater this week. Morgan Fotile
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Maren Morris brings her award-winning brand of country- and pop-inspired crooning to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Dillon Amphitheater as part of her RSVP Redux Tour this week. Morris's performances are part of an eleven-date run that kicked off in San Francisco on May 29 and is making its way through the West. Westword spoke to the singer-songwriter, who has now racked up several hits, written a children's book and, among other passions, is also part of the standout female country act the Highwomen.

Westword: Can you share a bit about what your life was like when you were just getting started as a singer in Arlington, Texas?

Maren Morris: I didn't really notice that I liked singing until I was about ten. I was obsessed with the artist LeAnn Rimes, who was a big country star, and who was only fourteen and also from Texas. She made me think that I might have an achievable dream and that maybe I could do it, too. So that's kind of where it started. I was around twelve when my dad bought me my first guitar, and I always loved writing poetry and short stories, and I loved English and all of that. So that all translated to songwriting after I learned a few chords on guitar. I think my first performance was at the opening of a car dealership.

Did your parents own a hair salon?

Yeah, my mom is a hairdresser, and they had a hair salon for more than thirty years. My sister and I worked there when we were teenagers. My parents aren't musical but they are music lovers, and they provided me with a really great backbone of good music taste from a young age. It definitely influenced the way that I listen to music and write music. I was exposed to a lot of genres by them. From country music to classic rock and R&B and all kinds of stuff. They had the most amazing music CD collection when I was growing up.

Did you go on to attend college?

I went to one semester of college [at the University of North Texas], and then I dropped out and moved to Nashville.

How was it being a songwriter in Nashville?

I moved there in 2013 and just wanted to write songs for other artists, not necessarily for myself. I was writing with anyone who would write with me. I was pretty green at the time and just kind of learning how to do the Nashville way of co-writing. I was trying to write five days a week and get some of my songs recorded by other artists. Eventually, I decided I wanted to get back to performing, and I also got signed to a publishing deal and eventually made my first record for a major label. I'm probably a better artist than a songwriter for other artists. I was also doing these things called writer's rounds, where you go to a bar or a venue and you usually play acoustic with two or three other songwriters and perform songs that you're excited about or have written. It's a way to get your songs heard and to perform without high stakes. I made a lot of my songwriter friends by doing those shows. I think I was meant to be a performing artist.

You and Kacey Musgraves are friends?

Yeah, we grew up together in Texas and both wanted to be songwriters and performers. We were both really young, and she moved to Nashville a few years before I did. So if I was ever going up to Nashville to visit to see if I wanted to move there, I would stay with her. She and Miranda Lambert and I grew up in the same neck of the woods, so we have a Texas thing in common.

What was your first big song?

In 2016. "My Church" was my first radio single. I think we put it on Spotify in 2015 when I wasn't signed to a label yet. It gained a lot of traction, and I ended up signing with Columbia Records.
So you went from songwriting around Nashville to having a major-label hit?

Yeah. After the song came out, Keith Urban asked me to go on one of his tours. It was my first major touring experience. We were in amphitheaters in the summer and arenas in the fall. It was an education to do that level of touring. That was my first real big tour to be a part of, and it was so much fun.

Was it a difficult transition for you to make?

Well, I grew up performing, so I was okay with it. And I was only playing for about twenty minutes before Keith would go on. It was a lot of me mostly watching Keith's show every night and figuring out how to bring the kind of energy to the stage every night that's required for these kinds of shows. He's one of the best in the business, in my opinion. He was really kind to me as a newbie on the road. I had to learn to amplify my personality to fit the stage and entertain. It wasn't just being a quiet songwriter.

Do you consider your music country?

I still write with all my friends in Nashville, and I love creating music there, but I'm kind of a genre-fluid artist. I like experimenting with new styles and getting inspiration from different genres, although Nashville will always be my home.

I see that this is the RSVP Redux tour. What exactly is being revisited in this tour?

In 2020 we had an RSVP tour planned. It was going to be a fan-led tour where fans could help choose the set lists and request songs and so on. But it got canceled due to COVID. So we wanted to revisit that idea on this tour. I'm working on a new album, but it's been two years since I've seen my fans, and I wanted to get back out there.

Every night is a different set. So no matter what show you're at on this tour, it's going to be a unique experience. It keeps us on our toes. It's a really interactive tour. Fans do it through my fan club email list. We let them dictate the shows. It's a new model that's exciting. I have about forty new songs that we've just rehearsed. It's all original material, but there is one cover [of Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself"].

What are some of your other pop influences?

I grew up on all different kinds of stuff, but the first pop artist that my mom introduced me to was Sheryl Crow. She and her music made a lifelong impact on me. I also liked Alanis Morrissette and other female writers that are badasses. Pop is diverse, and there's every kind of music in that Top Ten. It could be anything from Ariana Grande to Noah Kahan. That diversity excites me. My first album's songs had some pop influence right from the jump. I'm experimental, and my fans know that. In addition to "My Church," I had songs like "80s Mercedes." Anything can be interesting to me, and I'll always be fluid, but I also love country music, which is where I started.

Do you have a particular passion or any advocacy programs going on at the moment?

I wrote a children's book, Addie Ant Goes on an Adventure, that's inspired by gardening. I wrote it with my best friend [Karina Argow]. The book tries to get kids interested in getting their hands in the dirt, growing their own food and getting outside. That's my most recent passion. I also have a wide range of interests in terms of advocacy.

Maren Morris, Tuesday, June 11, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, and Wednesday, June 12, Dillon Amphitheater, 135 West Lodgepole Street, Dillon. Find tickets on her website.
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