press photo of Maren Morris
Harper Smith

Maren Morris' 'Humble Quest': A Song-by-Song Guide

"Hadn't heard the sound of a door slam yet, thank God I was an optimist," Maren Morris sings on "Circles Around This Town," the opening track to her new album Humble Quest. The song, a breezy reflection on Morris' quest to become a songwriter in Nashville, though undoubtedly relatable to any young dreamer, is specific to Morris' own story, down to a nod to a couple of early hits. ("Couple hundred songs and the ones that finally worked/ Was the one about a car and the one about a church," Morris sings.)

In only six years since her major label debut Hero, Morris has gone from a rising singer-songwriter to a bonafide country superstar —though her seemingly overnight rise to fame was anything but. She started performing in her homestate of Texas when she was just 13. (Fellow Texan Kacey Musgraves would later encourage her to move to Music City.)

She certainly heard the sound of several doors slammed in her face. She was rejected by The Voice, American Idol, Nashville Star and America's Got Talent (something she says she now considers a blessing).

In the meantime, Morris was making a name for herself as one of Nashville's best songwriters, penning Tim McGraw's "Last Turn Home" with future husband Ryan Hurd.

With the release of debut single "My Church," Morris went from rising artist to a Grammy-winning phenom. Then, she recorded one of the most ubiquitous songs of the last decade, the pop smash "The Middle," after her demo of the song won out over a dozen submissions from other vocalists (Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Carly Rae Jepsen and Elle King, just to name a few).

Morris' list of accomplishments and accolades only continued to grow; she released her follow-up album GIRL, featuring the flawless Adult Contemporary crossover hit "The Bones," performed at the Houston Rodeo (while 9 months pregnant) and joined the supergroup The Highwomen, alongside Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and frequent collaborater Natalie Hemby.

Humble Quest, however, came about as the whirlwind of shows and public appearances ceased. Created during the pandemic, the album finds Morris reflecting on the loss of her dear friend and producer busbee, becoming a mother and dealing with her newfound fame.

"It turns out, the pandemic did humble me. Shooting my mouth off one time too many humbled me, the death of a beloved friend and producer humbled me, motherhood and marriage humbled me. 'Humble' began to feel more like a grounded state of understanding oneself; not so much by being relatable to or understood by all," Morris said in a statement announcing the record. "What I also discovered is that the songs I was managing to compose during this time were the most authentic and light lyrics that have ever flowed from my pen. They weren't fitting with the times, they were distracting and eventually saving me from the times. So here are the stories of my rises, my overshares, my appreciation of Midwestern guys who stand at least a foot taller than me, my lullabies, my wine-soaked conversations with a dear friend and my final goodbye to one."

Like so many icons who've came before her, from Dolly Parton to Shania Twain, Morris has never been one to be limited to the confines of genre. She's remained dedicated to making country music her own way. On Humble Quest, she delivers her most grounded, stripped-down record yet — a perfect soundtrack for our own soul-searching drives in a sanctuary on wheels.

Often, when we reach our destination, we're still learning, growing and ultimately still seeking. Like all the best songwriters, Morris sums it all up in one perfect line: "Thought when I'd get here it'd all look different, but I still got the pedal down, driving circles around this town."

Maren Morris poses next to a car

Harper Smith

Check out our song-by-song guide through Humble Quest below. What's your favorite song from the album? Let us know!

"Circles Around This Town"

  • Morris co-wrote this song with Ryan Hurd, Julia Michaels and Jimmy Robbins
  • "It kind of all started coming out in the wash that it was gonna be a song about my story of getting to Nashville," Morris told Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music Country. "As a country songwriter who has had a few albums under their belt, I felt like, is it kind of cornering me in a spot or pigeonholing me in a spot if I make  this so particular to my story? Because there are so many details and colors in those lines that only I can relate to."
  • The line "I've been kind and I've been ruthless" was written about Morris' experience as a woman in the music industry
  • "I've been kind and I've been ruthless, I think that there's a lot of that, especially with women in not just country music, but really in the music industry in general are pitted against one another, because there's such a scarcity complex," Morris told Today's Country Radio with Kelligh Bannen."There's so many more men on the chart than there are us. And so you feel like you have to be ruthless to fight for your spot. And I think there's healthy competition, which is great, but I definitely feel less fulfilled when I have that mindset.

"The Furthest Thing"

  • written with husband Ryan Hurd and producer Greg Kurstin, "The Furthest Thing" explores Morris' relationship with Hurd
  • the gorgeous ballad references the difficulties of being away from your love, while also finding solace in the fact that your partner understands your journey so completely

"I Can't Love You Anymore"

  • written with Ryan Hurd and Greg Kurstin
  • "It was really a great exercise with him to just get those songs out," Morris says of writing with her husband. "They were so happy. It was sort of like this weird, therapeutic reminder that whatever part of our brain turns on to write a song that day is the highest sense of self, the most enlightened sense of self writing it, even if you're fighting that day in real life. I looked back at those songs, and I was like, "How did we write these?" we were kind of tense, and it helped get us out of that. And I think that's what I meant when I wrote that these are the lightest songs that I've probably ever written, because they were pulling me out of whatever pool I was drowning in."

"Humble Quest"

  • written with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz
  • "There's just something in me that is always trying to pay my dues and not cut in line, so to speak. Especially for women in country music, the word humble is thrown around a lot. If you start to believe in your own self and success, and even feel prideful in it, you're starting to lose your roots and where you came from. And it's almost used as a ceiling," Morris says of the inspiration behind the song.

"Background Music"

  • written with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz, Morris has said the song was written for her husband Ryan Hurd
  • a highlight on the stellar album, the song finds Morris considering life after fame — not with trepidation, but with willing acceptance. Both Morris and Hurd are artists who understand the fickle nature of the music industry. No matter what happens, they'll leave their songs behind.
  • Standout line: "Maybe all we'll ever be to them in a hundred years, is three minutes in a car, in a bar, that says 'we were here'/ If that's you and me when it's all said and done, hard not to see we're the lucky ones/ Not everybody gets to leave a souvenir"


  • written with Natalie Hemby and Jimmy Robbins, "Nervous" is a pulsing country-rocker that recalls Tuesday Night Music Club-era Sheryl Crow
  • Morris says "Nervous" is the song she's most excited to perform on tour

"Tall Guys"

  • penned with Natalie Hemby and Aaron Raitiere, the buoyant "Tall Guys" is about the extreme height difference between her husband Ryan (6 foot 3) and herself (5 foot 1)
  • standout line: "We're always drinkin' top shelf, 'cause he can always reach it/ We fly first class 'cause that's the only way his knees fit"


  • written by Morris, Sarah Aarons, Greg Kurstin and Laura Veltz, "Detour" is a rootsy meditation on the path to finding "your person"
  • Standout line: "As song as I get to be yours/ I don't mind the detour"



  • The song was written while Morris was pregnant with her son Hayes
  • Morris wrote "Hummingbird" with the "Love Junkies," Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose
  • recorded at Sheryl Crow's barn studio in Nashville
  • Her son Hayes can be heard at the beginning of the track (the album's only featured guest)
  • "I just got my phone out one morning, and recorded Hayes saying "Mama," and sent it to Greg. And I was like, "Can you put this somewhere in the song?," so that's who you hear at the top of that one. I shed a light on what becoming a mother meant to me before I even met Hayes with that song," Morris says of the song.

"Good Friends"

  • Morris wrote "Good Friends" with Natalie Hemby and Greg Kurstin
  • Morris sought a Carole King vibe for the song, explaining that she was listening to a lot of the legendary singer-songwriter during the making of the album
  • "I liked having that almost Carole King-esque moment on this album, which is not just addressing love, but the love of female friendship, and that being such an integral tonic to my life right now," Morris told Vulture.


"What Would This World Do"


  • Morris wrote "What Would This World Do?" with Jon Green and Ryan Hurd
  • the song was written about Morris' producer and longtime friend busbee, who passed away in 2019
  • "I knew that I wanted to end the record with that song, because I hope it's a respectful way to honor [busbee] and what he did for me," Morris says of the song. "Before he passed away, I was able to share with him that we were pregnant, and he was just so excited for us. That was the last thing we chatted about. I still have the text on my phone. I wanted to keep the production super simple. It didn't need much more than just a piano and vocal. It was our way to honor him and his life and his talent. I don't know if I'll ever be able to sing that one live, but I'm glad that we put it on the album, because it deserves the end of this chapter."

READ MORE: Rooted in Country: The Kentucky Gentlemen on Maren Morris' 'Second Wind'