Maren Morris was awarded Changemaker of the Year at Variety’s Hitmakers Brunch this weekend, and she used her acceptance speech to share the spotlight with fellow female musicians who she said have given her courage to stand up for what she believes in.
Recalling the “backlash” she’s faced over the years in response to her activism and political disputes with other public figures, the 33-year-old country pop star told the audience that she “found solace in the stories of my musical heroines.” Those heroines include Taylor Swift, for “taking back ownership of her life’s work,” and The Chicks, for “criticizing a sitting United States president on invading Iraq at the height of their country music career,” Morris said, according to People.
Morris also praised the late Sinead O’Connor — who passed away over the summer — for “shining a light on the abuses of the Catholic Church” as well as Billie Holiday for “continuing to perform ‘Strange Fruit’ in protest, even with a racially targeted FBI investigation threatening her.”
“They were all told not to bite the hand,” continued the “Middle” singer. “They were all told to shut up and sing. Now, I would never be silly enough to compare myself or my story to these women, but I have found deep inspiration in their courage in my moments of loneliness.”
“You have to be a giant pain in the a– to make any kind of change, because you’re criticizing and trying to dismantle a status quo and making comfortable people feel uncomfortable,” Morris added.
The Hitmakers event comes a couple months after Morris announced plans to step back from the country music industry, parts of which she’s said are “toxic.” In the years leading up to her decision — which includes no longer submitting her music for country awards consideration and switching record labels — the Grammy winner became known for advocating for LGBTQ rights and racial equality.
On many occasions, Morris’ activism resulted in conflicts with everyone from Jason and Brittany Aldean to Tucker Carlson. “I realized very quickly that publicly pointing out these inequalities doesn’t make you the most popular,” she reflected in her Changemaker speech. “If you dare criticize blatant misogyny, racism, transphobia within the ranks of your industry, you’re met with isolation, death threats, labeled as ungrateful, biting the hand that fed you or diminishingly told to just shut up and sing.”