Maren Morris has been distancing herself from the country music scene. Or at least the country music machine. Because she understands their labels do not define her identity.
This is the funny thing about career building. You start by wanting a job. Getting onto a track, climbing a ladder, being accepted into a group.
The identity you want and your understanding of “the job” are tightly related.
But the identity you get and your understanding of “your self” are what matters.
Labels and identities evolve over time. They come together and pull apart. But, we need them to always remain separate. Separate honors adaptability, and adaptability is what allows for evolution. Fused labels and identities create brittle people, risking not only arrested development, but also bitterness and anti-social breakages.
It’s not a mistake that even in her most trad-country stuff (which I wrote about back in 2017?!) she’s rejecting the formal institutions she doesn’t see herself as fitting into.
Morris’ identity may have been forged under the country label, but in lyrics like this we can see how separate and distinct she’s kept her soul. She doesn’t need their church, and she’s broken all of the rules anyway. So in the driver’s seat of her own car, with the not-so-subtle metaphors all being acknowledged, she turns the radio up:
I’ve cussed on a Sunday
I’ve cheated and I’ve lied
I’ve fallen down from grace
A few too many times
But I find holy redemption
When I put this car in drive
Roll the windows down and turn up the dial
Can I get a hallelujah
Can I get an amen
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play the highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church
If she wanted to be another member of their church, she has to check all of their boxes. For a while, she did. But even 5+ years ago she was working out how she fit – not into, and not out of, but adjacent to- their labels as herself.
Like in the song lyrics, it starts with acceptance. It ends with a celebration of self.
I’ll invoke Dilla as many times as I have to on this topic because it’s timeless: don’t sell yourself to fall in love with the things you do.
The theme “your job is not your identity” – and swap out “job” for political party, or religious affiliation, or sports team fan, or whatever – keeps coming up in our Breaking News YouTube conversations.
Ben Hunt connects it directly to how polarized society feels. It’s a function of allowing their labels to define our identities. We reverse polarization by rejecting rigid labels. We find ourselves by accepting ourselves, and others, with all their beautiful nuance. We can attend and even belong to their church, but only if we have first understood and defined our own churches of self in our hearts.
Maren’s journey is positive. She’s acting as a role model. The country machine isn’t “bad,” but it also isn’t her.
That’s a feature, not a bug.
Be bigger than the labels. Notice when people like Maren Morris breakaway. Get inspired by it.
And never forget – you know what love is. Personally. That’s your church.