Like many of her peers in Nashville, Megan Moroney used TikTok and other social media platforms to jump to the front of mainstream country's line of potential breakout artists. Streaming juggernaut "Tennessee Orange" became a crossover hit in 2022, landing Moroney a big label deal and her first major industry award: the CMT Music Awards' 2023 Female Breakthrough Video of the Year.
The 2023 ACM New Female Artist of the Year nominee has quickly proven to be no one-hit wonder thanks to her debut mainstream album, May 2023's Lucky. The breezy "I'm Not Pretty," the reflective "Girl in the Mirror" and the honky-tonk title track quickly hit streaming numbers in the millions, with "Traitor Joe" not lagging far behind.
With an increased social media reach came not just fame but fan theories about everything from Moroney's love life to the inspiration behind her breakthrough hit. Read on to learn more about the University of Georgia graduate who's taken the Volunteer State by storm.
She's Been Immersed in Music Since Childhood
Moroney grew up around musicians in Douglasville, Ga., the same hometown as fellow country artist Niko Moon.
"My dad and my brother both play guitar. I have a very musical family, so I was always around music, but I didn't think I could do it for a career," she told Country Swag. "Throughout high school I did talent shows, and I was in chorus. I enjoyed singing and I enjoyed music."
Moroney didn't always see herself as a budding country artist, even after falling in love with the songs of Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.
"It didn't occur to me that I could write songs," she told Country Swag. "I wrote my first song when I was 19, and then I got my heart broken pretty bad when I was a junior in college, and that's when I started writing for therapy, and the rest is history."
She's a Georgia Bulldog
As her breakout hit taught us, Moroney is a diehard fan of college football's two-time defending national champions. She's a University of Georgia graduate who initially studied accounting: a path she chose before discovering that music would soon pay her bills. After her singer-songwriter upside took priority, she fought the temptation to quit school and switched her major to digital marketing and music business.
"At the end of my freshman year at UGA, I told my parents I wanted to drop out and move to Nashville," she wrote on Instagram upon her May 2020 move to Music City. "Looking back, I'm thankful they came back with a hard 'hell no' and told me I was going to have to get my degree first."
Her Journey to Superstardom Began in Athens, Ga.
Moroney's growing social media presence and her involvement in a sorority landed her a string of dream gigs while she lived in Athens, Ga.
"In the spring of my freshman year, we had an event where we hired Jon Langston to come to play and we used all our budget on him, and they were like, 'Why doesn't Megan just open, because she sings country songs on her Instagram,' so I got to open for Jon technically," she told Country Swag. "It was three cover songs. I didn't even write at that point."
Chase Rice was at the show, and he offered Moroney an opening spot for his next in-town gig under one condition: she write her first original song and sing it on stage.
Another country music notable gave Moroney a career and confidence boost when Sugarland member and fellow Georgian Kristian Bush became her first music business mentor. The two met through Moroney's internship at Athens' Classic Center venue.
College Football Allegiances Inform Her Biggest Hit
Beyond being catchy, sweet and well-written, "Tennessee Orange" stands out because it speaks to a wide range of listeners in the college football-crazed South. Love conquers all, even when a special someone roots for a rival team.
"I met somebody and he's got blue eyes / He opens the door and he don't make me cry / He ain't from where we're from but he feels like home / He's got me doing things I've never done / In Georgia they call it a sin / I'm wearing Tennessee Orange for him," Moroney sings.
"Tennessee Orange" is a Source of Fan Speculation
"Tennessee Orange" has sparked rumors beyond the well-publicized questions about whether or not the Tennessee t-shirt Moroney wore for the single artwork belongs to Morgan Wallen. Some wonder if she wrote her breakthrough hit as a response to Conner Smith's "Orange and White," which describes a similar (if not identical) relationship from a Volunteer perspective.
"Now I got a Georgia girl singing 'Rocky top' / Lining up another Tennessee whiskey shot / Stealing my heart and my Bill Dance hat / Now I'm telling her Athens ain't getting her back / She pulled me close, and I spun her around / I laughed and said 'Girl look at you now' / You've been red and black for your whole life / Now you're falling for a boy in orange and white," Smith sings.
Smith fanned the rumor mill flames by suggesting in a social media comment that the two make "joint music videos" for their songs, which Moroney joked would be "cost effective."
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