Makin’ Tracks: Maren Morris turns a spat into an upbeat single with ‘I Can’t Love You Anymore’

Maren MorrisHumble Questcurrently nominated for the country music Association’s album of the year, is full of plot lines and little details that spring directly from her life, her friendships and her marriage to fellow artist Ryan Hurd.

First single “Circles Around This Town” is an autobiographical summation of her ascent in Nashville’s music community, “Nervous” reveals psychosexual passion and sensitivity, and a handful of songs — “Background Music,” the title track, and closer “What Would This World?” — grapple collectively with the meaning of life in all its temporal, elusive mystery.

“I definitely made some personal choices on this record, especially being more vulnerable than I might have been in the past,” says Morris. “Maybe it’s just time and a little more wisdom, but I definitely feel like I’ve allowed myself to share a little more behind the curtain.”

The project’s second single, “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” is a breezy celebration of make-up. Heard of own benefits separate from Humble Questit may not be entirely obvious – it refers to hard times and conflict, but there is no sense that any kind of bitterness could have been in the mix when Morris and Hurd wrote it in January 2021.

But actually the hilarity of the three-minute jaunt reflects a post-tiff rebound while visiting co-writer/producer Greg Kurstin’s (Adele, Kelly Clarkson) Hawaiian home.

“Ryan and I had an argument about something—I can’t even remember what, it was so stupid,” she says. “But we were kind of arguing that morning and then Ryan started writing and Ryan threw out that title and it just lightened the mood: ‘I can’t love you more than I do now.'” So the song ended with to become couples therapy for us.”

The small window in a relationship when the cloud of negativity has lifted after a spat and the couple confirms their commitment is one of the joys of the process, and the positivity of the moment is reflected in both the song’s effortlessly happy melody and its unencumbered lyrics. Morris, Hurd and Kurstin wrote the chorus first, and it became an easy song by repeating the I-can’t-love-you-anymore hook six times in a row.

“It’s very simple, yet repetitive,” she says of the chorus. “It just felt good to sing the same hook over and over. But then I felt like the verses – because the chorus, lyrically, was so simple that I really wanted to get colorful with the language of the verses. So that’s why there’s a lot of imagery and contrasts . And we could really get a little more edgy with the verse.”

That aspect starts right at the song’s opening, when she kicks it off with an unlikely rhyme scheme: “Shoulda know what I was gettin’ in/Fallin’ for a boy from Michigan.” It identifies beforehand that she is singing about Hurd, who spent his formative years in Kalamazoo.

A follow-up thought, “You like to drive to Texas/You put up with all my exes,” likewise points out Morris’ Arlington roots, though her exes live in their marriage because of her and Hurd’s professions—not because she keeps them in her daily cycle.

“They’re not in my life, but they’re in my songs,” she says with a laugh. “That’s part of being married to a songwriter who had a past. You internalize those relationships in songs. I have songs about past relationships, and so does he. It’s just something we accept about each other.

“But honestly, I went for the rhyme and it felt like a cool ode to George Strait. ‘Texas’ and ‘ex’ just go together so perfectly.”

Verse two took some extra nervous steps. Morris sings about the time, “when I’ve been a bitch” (the single version omits the profanity), and it ends with her singing, “You’re so good-lookin’, it kinda makes me sick” – it’s funny to consider Hurd writing a song that lets his wife cast him as a sex symbol.

“We just don’t get awkward anymore,” she says. “I think because we’ve written so many songs together, we’ve been able to tap into this very intimate role with each other in the room and not feel awkward.”

After the second chorus, they opted for a vocal interlude that ultimately featured Morris in triple harmony with herself, in a spot that would typically support a guitar solo. The final verse, befitting a song about a rekindled relationship, has Morris self-effacingly calling herself “an acquired taste” as she looks forward to many more years of bliss… and the occasional squabble.

“I think it takes a very strong person to be with someone like me or really any artist,” she says. “Maybe it’s my upbringing in Texas, but I’m very stubborn and like things done my way. Being in a relationship requires a lot of balance and compromise, which I learned the hard way.”

Kurstin attended to the musical number as the writing session progressed, laying down a light drum foundation and strumming the acoustic guitar, playing four basic country chords. With the song finished and the visit to Hawaii over, Kurstin continued to build the instrumental backing at his No Expectations Studio in California. Morris, meanwhile, had time to live with the recording from the writing session and would lean heavily on the country component. Kurstin brought in Rich Hinman to overdub steel guitar in LA, and he caught Bennett Lewis (from Morris’ road band) on Dobro during additional overdubs at Sheryl’s Barn, the recording studio owned by Sheryl Crow in Tennessee.

Morris ultimately decided that the chorus was too repetitive and rewrote the fourth and fifth instances when she did her final vocal in the studio, achieving it in a single take. Hurd applied harmony to the choruses, emphasizing the centrality of their relationship to the narrative. “I wanted it to feel like we were facing each other and just singing it to each other,” she says.

Columbia Nashville released “I Can’t Love You Anymore” to country radio via PlayMPE that September. 13. It’s slipped on and off Country Airplay a few times while finding its initial footing, but it ultimately feels well-timed for a fanbase that craves authenticity but could also use an emotional break.

“I really listened to my fans’ reaction to what could be potential singles,” says Morris. “It just felt like people don’t care about depressing, heavy shit right now. They want to hum something over and over that just feels good. We’ve faced some very heavy truths. So let’s just dance.”

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