Maren Morris — Humble Quest
You don’t get invited to join The Highwomen if you can’t write, plain and simple. Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby were well-established writers when the supergroup formed in 2019, but Maren Morris’ work with her new bandmates was revelatory – her “Loose Change” was one of the best songs on the record, and her contributions to “My Name Can’t Be Mama” (before she was one) provided a reluctant counterpoint to the already-mamas in the band. Out earlier that year was her second full-length album, Girl, which featured the slow country chart riser “The Bones,” a song that dug much deeper than the dudes surrounding her on the radio. Her third album, Humble Quest, continues to mix pop-country hooks with the insight of a still-young woman turning over new stones in life and finding both the happiness and the discomfort beneath.
Humble Quest opens the same way Morris began the process of writing for the album – driving around Nashville, looking for inspiration. Far from the wide-eyed kid who moved from Texas – “Hadn’t heard the sound of a door slam yet/Thank God I was an optimist” – the slow-burn “Circles Around This Town” (written with Ryan Hurd, Julia Michaels and Jimmy Robbins) gives us a writer who’s confident in our abilities, but doesn’t know what to do with them – “I drove circle around this town/Trying to write circles around this town/Trying to say something with meaning, something worth singing about.” And it’s that battle for maturity that fuels much of Humble Quest. The title track itself (written with Robbins and Laura Veltz), pushed forward by piano and pedal steel, finds Morris trying to assert her rightful place without straying into do-you-know-who-I-am territory – “The line between fulfilled and full of myself/I’m trying to find it and I might need some help.” It’s a struggle made even more difficult by being one of the few charting women in country music – “Got easier not to ask/Just keep hitting my head on the glass.”
Along with the big topics, there’s room for big country fun on Humble Quest. “Nervous” (written with Hemby and Robbins) is a stage-stomper made to rile up country festival audiences. “Good Friends” (written with Hemby and producer Greg Kurstin) is a warm ‘n’ fuzzy, mid-tempo sing-along. And “Detour” (written with Kurstin, Veltz and Sarah Aarons) is a slide- and Dobro-filled ode to simply enjoying the view.
But it’s when Morris digs deeper that Humble Quest is at its best. “Hummingbird,” written with the all-star combo of Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose on the day that Morris found out that she was pregnant, features a cameo from son Hayes and a prescient message on the life-changing nature of becoming a mom – “I’ve been looking out the window for a glimmer/Not knowing you’ve been with me all along.” The album wraps with change in the other direction – Morris lost longtime collaborator Michael Busbee to cancer in 2019, and this was her first album without him. Written with husband Hurd and Jon Green and recorded as a simple piano duet with Hurd, “What Would This World Do?” has the singer realizing that the world spins on, despite the void left by losing a lifelong friend – “Out of everybody, I’ll only have one you.” On the heels of such an incomprehensible amount of loss over the past two years, sometimes the person gets lost in the numbers. Morris reminds us that each one of those individuals mattered – immensely – to someone.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Tall Guys,” and not just because I’m 6’1”. The bouncy, stage-ready tune (written with Hemby and Aaron Raitiere) contains the irresistible line, “We’re always drinking top shelf/’Cause he can always reach it.”
Humble Quest was produced by Greg Kurstin, mixed by Serban Ghenea, engineered by Kurstin and Julian Burg and mastered by Randy Merrill. All songs were written by Maren Morris with Ryan Hurd, Julia Michaels, Jimmy Robbins, Greg Kurstin, Laura Veltz, Natalie Hemby, Aaron Raitiere, Sarah Aarons, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose and Jon Green. Additional musicians on the album include Hurd (background vocals), Michaels (background vocals), Kurstin (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, piano, keyboards, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, B-3 organ), Bennett Lewis (Dobro, mandolin) and Rich Hinman (pedal steel guitar).
Go here to order Humble Quest (out March 25): https://shop.marenmorris.com/
Check out tour dates on Morris’ website: https://www.marenmorris.com/