Maren Morris knew the importance of selecting the first single she released from her much-anticipated second record, but as soon as she heard the demo of "GIRL," she knew this was the song she wanted to lead off the album.
"It felt like such a timely song for now," said the 28-year-old Morris of the song she's releasing Thursday that touches on overcoming self-doubt and the pressure of comparison in a world of impossible standards.
Morris wrote the song with Grammy-winning producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia, Kelly Clarkson) and Sarah Aarons, who co-wrote the Top 5 hit "The Middle" featuring Morris, Zedd and Grey. "The Middle" is nominated for record of the year and song of the year, which goes to songwriters, at this year's Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, and Morris was also nominated for best pop duo/group collaboration.
Morris said inspiration for the song came from a letter she was trying to write to a female friend after they were struggling to keep their friendship on track.
"The day that we wrote 'GIRL,' I was starting to write this letter to her," Morris said. "Why are we competing against one another? Is it ourselves? Is it this industry? Is it the world?"
After an hour of trying to compose her thoughts, she realized something. "I don't think I am writing this to her," Morris said. "I am writing this to myself."
The song is also the title of her new headlining world tour kicking off March 9 in Chicago with an all-female lineup including openers Cassadee Pope and RaeLynn. After a run through the United States, the tour will hit cities in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
"Essentially it's an excuse for me to hang out with them all the time," Morris said.
The new song comes almost three years since she released her breakthrough single and Grammy-winning song "My Church," from her 2016 debut album, "Hero," and caps a huge year for the Texas-born singer-songwriter. Last year, she married fellow singer Ryan Hurd, toured the globe opening for Niall Horan and spent 33 weeks on the top of Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic songs chart with "The Middle."
"To be in major categories is a huge win," Morris said of the recognition for "The Middle." ''I think it broke so many genre barriers and put my name and voice out to an audience that hadn't heard it yet."
She's also nominated for best country duo performance and best country song for "Dear Hate," a duet with Vince Gill released after the Las Vegas mass shooting, and a best country solo performance nomination for "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," a cover from an Elton John tribute album.
"All the songs that I am nominated for were major career risks," Morris said. "Not like career-ending risks, but scary decisions because it's out of people's comfort zone for a country artist to collaborate with an EDM DJ."
Follow Kristin M. Hall at Twitter.com/kmhall