The Meaning Behind “My Church” by Maren Morris

Some say church can be anywhere. A steeple and spire aren’t necessary to worship whatever God one might believe in. In a strip mall or cathedral, church has different meanings to different people. 

Videos by American Songwriter

On “My Church,” Maren Morris finds religion in her car’s radio—preferably turned way up. Morris’ experience with music is like a church revival. While some speak in tongues, she’s singing in the language of outlaws. For Morris, music has the same reverence. 

Hallelujah is a Hebrew expression for “praise the Lord.” It’s an exultation Morris turns into something tactile. The expression is brought down to earth where it becomes describable. It’s the exhilaration of burning down the highway with a great song on the radio. 

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

Music is the preacher, whipping up the kind of joy and frenzy in Morris one might find in a Sunday sermon. She finds salvation in country legends like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Sometimes revelation is delivered by the Man in Black. 

When Hank brings the sermon
And Cash leads the choir
It gets my cold, cold heart burning
Hotter than a ring of fire

When this wonderful world gets heavy
And I need to find my escape
I just keep the wheels rolling, radio scrolling
Till my sins wash away

As a teenager, Morris experienced the relentlessly unromantic path to stardom. No one grows up dreaming of singing at a car wash or county fair. She was rejected by every major singing competition show on television—American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, and Nashville Star. Over and over, she faced the unforgiving side of the music business, as a teenager

Fellow Texan Kacey Musgraves convinced Morris to move to Nashville. She saved enough money working as a receptionist and playing gigs on the weekend to make the move. 

In Nashville, Morris wanted to be a songwriter. She was eager to shed the cascading indignities of being a struggling artist. Soon, she landed a publishing deal and her songs were being recorded by Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson.

But Morris has an undeniability to her. She couldn’t be separated from the artist. She played the game and fought her way through the malaise of bro-centric country music. She eventually signed to Columbia Records and in 2016 released her major label debut, Hero

Unlike many country superstars, Morris writes her own songs. “My Church,” the album’s lead single, was written by Morris and her friend, Michael Busbee. Sadly, Busbee died in 2019 at age 43. He was a prolific songwriter who was one of modern pop music’s great architects. 

Hero reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Album. Critics loved “My Church.” Billboard listed the song at No. 15 on its list of “100 Best Pop Songs of 2016.” It won a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance. 

Morris found success in an era of country music when woman on the radio were like tomatoes in a salad—sprinkle in a few women on the male-dominated playlists. Modern pop country music is not a place for marginalized communities. And Morris faced backlash from “My Church” and her early singles. Her songs didn’t sound like “country.” Or so the claim was made. 

But country music fans disagreed. In 2021, Marris won an Academy of Country Music Award for Female Artist of the Year. “My Church” was on the Country Airplay chart for 22 weeks and landed in the Top 10.

Using church figuratively, especially in country music, wasn’t the easiest path Morris could have taken to stardom. Universality is a key ingredient to a successful pop song. The shared joys of church and music are connecting threads.

Morris is well known for challenging established inequalities in country music. It’s fitting that “My Church” was her first single. Considering the year it was released, the success of the song speaks loudly to the old guard. 

There’s one word fitting to the kind of trouble Maren Morris has been making: Amen!

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Behind the Meaning of Taylor Swift’s Ode to New Love “Labyrinth”