Maren Morris Reveals New Single, Highlights Diverse 2017 CRS New Faces Show
Maren Morris pulled out all the stops at the 2017 CRS New Faces of Country Music show Friday night (Feb. 24) in Nashville, playing her hits and revealing her new single to top off a whirlwind month that’s been career-changing.
No matter what kind of country music you’re into, there’s something for everyone in country music in 2017 if the lineup at this year’s New Faces show is any indication. The New Faces showcase has long been a career-making opportunity for new artists to get in front of the key decision-makers in country music all in one place on the final night of the annual Country Radio Seminar, which took place this year in the ballroom of the Omni Hotel in downtown Music City. Morris was the sole female performer on the bill, and interestingly, she was also the lone more contemporary performer in a lineup that skewed more heavily toward traditional country than any other in recent memory.
Drake White kicked off the New Faces show with an energetic, very tight set from his band the Big Fire, offering up rough-and-ready, but still road-polished renditions of “It Feels Good,” “Livin’ the Dream” and “Heartbeat” before closing with his current single, a stunning ballad titled “Makin’ Me Look Good Again,” which by any rights ought to become a monster hit.
William Michael Morgan was up next, winning over the tough industry crowd of radio programmers and journalists with a set that included his breakout hit, “I Met a Girl,” and his current single, “Missing,” as well as the title song from his debut album, Vinyl, and a crowd-pleasing track called “Beer Drinker.” But the highlight of his set — during which the young performer again demonstrated why he’s being hyped as country music’s heir apparent to George Strait, despite some audio issues — was an emotional ballad about Alzheimer’s titled “I Know Who He Is,” which brought a hush to the toughened, seen-it-all crowd and visibly moved the singer himself.
Maren Morris Stands Up for Women in Music
Granger Smith was onstage next, opening with his newest single, “If the Boot Fits,” and becoming emotional as he thanked his supporters and friends at country radio for supporting him over the course of a long journey from Texas music stardom to mainstream country radio and major label success. He followed with his breakthrough single, “Backroad Song,” which he prefaced with Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Granger Smith concert without an appearance from his hardcore country boy alter ego, Earl Dibbles. Jr., who appeared onstage after a brief musical interlude to close the set with “The Country Boy Song,” delivering an amalgam of down-home lyrics and fist-pumping arena metal to the thunderstruck crowd in the intimate ballroom.
Jon Pardi kept the energy level high with a raucous set that opened with the suggestive “Cowboy Hat” before slowing it down for “She Ain’t In It,” which could have almost been lifted straight out of the California country rock movement of the 1970s. He ratcheted the party back up with back-to-back hits about boots, hitting the crowd with “Head Over Boots” and his current single, “Dirt on My Boots,” before wrapping up.
Morris was the final performer of the evening, and she offered a very different take on the future of country music. While the Grammy-winning young artist draws from the traditions of great singer-songwriters, she was decidedly more contemporary in her presentation, strutting the stage in a very short one-piece and thigh-high boots to open with a sassy, playful performance of “80s Mercedes” before revealing to the assembled industry that her next single — the third from her celebrated debut album, Hero — will be “I Could Use a Love Song.”
She donned an acoustic guitar to perform the ballad for the crowd, then followed up with her breakthrough debut single, “My Church,” for which she recently took home a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance, getting the crowd to sing along during the final chorus.
Morris closed her set with what she called “our party song,” a track titled “Rich” that also appears on Hero, to close out a satisfying night of music that seemed to connect contemporary country music a bit more to its past than in recent years, while pointing the way to a very bright future.
Backstage at the 2017 Grammy Awards