Maren Morris feels inspired by what she hears on the radio. The years-long battle for gender equality is starting to pay off, she says, but the airwaves are growing even more diverse.

Speaking to select media prior to a No. 1 party for her song "I Could Use a Love Song," Morris admits she did not anticipate having a No. 1 hit from the Hero album. "No new artist, especially a woman, does not appreciate that in her first go," she says.

She's been in good company. Carly Pearce just hit No. 1. Two years ago Kelsea Ballerini broke a streak of more than two years without a female solo chart-topper when "Love Me Like You Mean It" hit No. 1. It's not a waterfall, and the Top 40 is still dramatically imbalanced (just five solo female or female dominant songs), but it's something!

“It’s a slow process, but I think it is getting better," Morris says. "There have been a lot of people coming into the fold that are getting noticed."

Add to that non-bro Chris Stapleton, who is nearing the top of the country music airplay charts. Kane Brown, who is bi-racial, has found radio success. It's a wide new world that is slowly starting to include off-the-beaten-path artists. The sky isn't totally falling!

Morris says her pop influences helped shape her debut album and made it easier for her to stretch her sound beyond country music when asked to do so. Right now she has a hit with "I Could Use a Love Song," a single in "Rich" and a pop hit with EDM star Zedd called "The Middle." As she begins to record her sophomore album, expect her to reign in some — but certainly not all — of her impulses and influences.

“I don’t wanna stray too far from my roots on the sophomore album, because I think a lot of artists get caught in that trap of being like, ‘Oh I wanna do something so unexpected that no one is going to get it that fell in love with the first album,’" she says. "I think I’m always going to be rooted in country. I’m from Texas. Those are my roots."

She's not going to change to please the masses, even if the masses gravitate toward one style over another, and that's true in music and social messages. Morris is a frequent commentator on social media and she admits that speaking her mind at times costs her a thousand or more followers. But those who remain become more loyal, which is more valuable.

"I don’t think watering yourself down really gains you more fans," the 27-year-old says.

Maren Morris and Other Country Females Who Are Blazing Trails

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