Congratulations! What's your first reaction after hearing that "Love Song" topped Billboard's Country Airplay chart?
It's really incredible and kind of surreal. It took a while to sink in, actually. Personally, as an artist I try to not pay attention to the charts. I just let the people in charge notify me when we have some good news. But the last couple of weeks, watching it get closer and closer and finally No. 2, it got really exciting. It's just great news and a lot of people worked really hard for this.
You already had a No. 1 with Thomas Rhett on "Craving You," but as your first solo No. 1, is this just a little sweeter?
Yeah, definitely. "Craving You" is a great song and it was really a gift to be able to collaborate with Thomas, but being the co-writer on "Love Song," it's always been a dream of mine to have a No. 1 song, since when I first came to Nashville many years ago, to be an artist and writer. This is what I came here to do, so having "Love Song" go to No. 1 is a fruition of that goal.
Carly Pearce notched a No. 1 on Country Airplay recently with her debut song "Every Little Thing" and Lindsay Ell's new single "Criminal" seems to be popping, so does it seem to you like there is a more welcoming atmosphere for women at country radio? Maybe it's a bit better than a couple of years ago, in your opinion?
Um, it's maybe a little healthier, but we definitely have a ways to go. When you look at the chart, there's just Kelsea Ballerini and me in the top 20, so we still have work to do. Hopefully Kelsea's "Legends" will go to No. 1 soon.
Having "Love Song" top the chart is such a big win to me and maybe it will help other women a little. What makes me the most happy is that it means that you can just be yourself, not compromise your art and still be successful at radio. I am hoping it's not just a step forward for me, but for other female artists as well.
The video for "Love Song" definitely sends an empowering message for women. Was that concept your idea?
It was. Essentially, that's my story: that you have these big dreams, but there's a person in your life that just doesn't comprehend the importance of them. So, when the video was conceptualized, we took that idea, made the lead character a dancer, and I feel it came out as great as we had hoped. My hope is that girls and women will see that story and it will inspire them in their own particular journey.
Are you going to release another single from Hero? And, congratulations on it being Grammy-nominated.
We'll discuss it, but I'm confident that there will be a fourth single. Not sure what the song is yet, but I'm fortunate that Hero still has lots of life.
You have a lot coming up, getting married in March to Ryan Hurd; congrats on that, too, by the way! You'll be touring in 2018, as well. Are you also planning on recording a new album?
Yes, I have 2018 lined up for touring and writing for my new album. I'm not sure on when that will be, but I am definitely writing songs already with my new album in mind.
Your duet with One Direction's Niall Horan, "Seeing Blind," from his debut solo album Flicker, released in October, actually sounds country to me. Would you like to see it promoted to country radio?
It's Niall's song, so that's up to him and his people. I was thrilled to join him for the collaboration, but that will be up to him. But, yes, I can certainly see "Seeing Blind" as a country single and I'd love for it to be promoted to country radio at some point down the road.
Years ago when I was a country radio programmer, we really frowned upon collaborations with pop artists; we were very territorial with our artists. That's changing, isn't it?
I think it has changed. When I look at songs like the Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line collaboration ["Meant to Be"] being so successful at country, it leads me to believe that the boundaries are coming down and people just want quality. Fans don't think that way about the genres, it's just about good music.
So dream collaborations. Who's on your list?
I'd love to record with Ed Sheeran or Bruno Mars; they're just such super talented artists. Also I have been listening a lot to R&B artist Kehlani lately. I think she's fantastic and would love the idea of recording with her.
I hope this isn't too personal, but you recently called out a guy on Twitter for being kind of crude, challenging him to say anything to your face. If he had done that to begin with, would you have kicked his butt?
No, I am not a confrontational or violent person, so I'm never going to get physical with someone. I am hoping that by stating a clear, strong message on social media that we're not taking this kind of stuff anymore, it will be seen by women and that it would encourage them to take charge when it happens to them. Basically, I try to live by the Golden Rule and treat people respectfully. I'm just really over the way some people have no problem acting disrespectful and shaming women.
Speaking of resistance, the women at the Golden Globes sent a strong, distinct message on the Time's Up movement. What I love about it is that those without a celebrity voice, like maybe someone working on the line at a factory or grocery store, could be vulnerable; so, fundamentally, the support is extending to normal, everyday women, with funds being set up for them. What is your take on it?
Obviously, I am a huge backer of the Time's Up movement. I feel fortunate that in my own life I have not had huge problems. But don't get me wrong, I have certainly had my own share of struggles over the years. You see stuff in the music industry too, and I think what is coming out of all these conversations is that it's making people double-check themselves. That's a good thing. I was emotional watching the Golden Globes and cried when Oprah spoke so eloquently.
Do you follow politics?
I don't know how you can't in the climate that we're living in.
Could you ever run for office?
Oh, man. [Laughs] That's not something that I think I'd be very good at, but I have to say, I love it that women are taking this on and standing up for themselves.
As we close, anything in particular we can look for later in 2018 from Maren Morris?
Touring, writing, recording. Lots to come.