Maren Morris is opening for Keith Urban, promoting her new recording “Hero.” (Courtesy Robby Klein/Columbia Nashville)

Maren Morris is opening for Keith Urban, promoting her new recording “Hero.” (Courtesy Robby Klein/Columbia Nashville)

Nashville songbird Maren Morris has paid her dues

On the surface, it might appear as though Music Row artist Maren Morris burst onto the scene with “My Church,” her chart-topping ode to classic country she discovered on the car radio.

But the singer-songwriter, who opens for Keith Urban in Mountain View this week, laughs at the notion that she’s some overnight sensation.

“In Texas, I self-released three records and toured around the state for a really long time, before I moved to Nashville three years ago,” she says. “But I guess everything looks ‘overnight’ when you’ve never heard of anyone before.”

Yet Morris, 26, is happily accepting the kudos she’s been receiving for her breakthrough single and “Hero,” the stylistically adventurous album (for Columbia) on which it appears.

The Dallas-bred songbird first fledged 11 years ago with her local debut disc “Walk On,” before leasing a Nashville apartment she found on Craigslist, sight unseen.

“I had more trepidation than excitement. I’d never lived anywhere else before but home, and I was terrified,” she says.

That’s when the singer’s struggle really began. Unusually shy for a performer, she nevertheless attended countless open-mic songwriter’s nights until she eventually gained enough stage confidence to see herself as a “gangster June Carter.”

Still, she had more dues to pay, as a staff composer at Big Yellow Dog Music, where she sculpted hits for Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson.

It was more laid back than the historic Brill Building, she adds. Sessions started at 11 a.m. on weekdays and continued until the song was finished in the afternoon. “And there’s a lot of coffee,” she says. “Which is also an excuse to take a break and clear your head — if you get stuck on a line, you just make another pot of coffee.”

Morris learned some hard lessons from her publishing-house gig.

You had to be patient, for starters. “Because not everything just falls out of the sky like it does on the TV show ‘Nashville,’” she says. “You really have to hack away at it, and not expect perfection in one writing session. So it’s a fun job. But it’s definitely a job. And I’ve never done drugs, but when you get a cut and you hear another artist actually singing your words? It’s a high that I can’t really compare to anything else.”

But Morris easily knew when it was time to start recording again herself. She says, “When I wrote ‘My Church,’ I knew I had something on my hands that was really, really special. And I knew it could potentially be a huge mistake if I ever gave it away to somebody else.”

IF YOU GO
Keith Urban, with Maren Morris
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7:30 p.m. July 28
Tickets: $30.25 to $65
Contact: (650) 967-4040; www.livenation.com

ColumbiaDallasheroMaren MorrisMy ChurchNashvillePop MusicWalk On

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