Maren Morris hopes she’s noticed as more than just a rising female in country music. The “My Church” singer says she wants respect as an artist, but not just because of her gender.

“I think the ‘Tomato’ conversation, at least now, is more of a hinderance to getting respect,” she tells Taste of Country.

That’s not to say Morris thinks the whole #Saladgate controversy was made up or overblown. “Being a writer in town here the last few years, there has been a lack of diversity on the radio,” she admits, “but ... it’s changed a lot in the last year. And I think this year is gearing up for a good pallet of men and women being played on the radio.”

“It shouldn’t be about the sex, it should be about, ‘Is the song good?’”

Morris joins singers like Cam, Mickey Guyton and Kelsea Ballerini in leading a new generation of females in country music. Those three earned ACM nominations for the 2016 awards show, but this Texan isn’t just proud of them because they’re women. Honesty and powerful lyrics are making a comeback.

“I think just good music is at the forefront. We’ve got (Chris) Stapleton, and I love that Thomas Rhett song (“Die a Happy Man”). Justin Timberlake is being played. Kelsea Ballerini has a debut No. 1. Cam … there’s really a lot changing and it’s fun to be a part of that," Morris explains.

“My Church” made a big impact earlier this month and is now sitting just outside the Billboard Top 20 after only five weeks. That’s a phenomenal accomplishment for any artist — new, old, male or female. The song is a gospel fueled, grungy, singalong anthem that professes a love for the solidarity a long drive brings. The music video finds Maren Morris in a late’70s Mercedes (not an '80s model, as she sings about on her EP), a temperamental vehicle she struggled to handle during the shoot. It lacked modern luxuries like power steering.

“I got the hang of it by day two, which was the last day of shooting, of course. But it was heavy.”

This summer, find Morris on tour with Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge. She learned she was opening before her EP was even released. Her agent passed it to the “Break on Me” singer, and within an hour, the slot was hers. Yep, Urban fell in love with the music, and then when he found out she’d written all five songs on Maren Morris, it was over.

Expect her full length album to be released in 2016, as well. With the success of “My Church” and mentions in numerous Artists to Watch lists — including Taste of Country’s — Maren Morris' timeline has been sped up. That won’t rush her creative process, however. The music is done and she’s just waiting in hot anticipation to share songs like “Once” with fans.

“It’s my goodbye to the album and goodbye to that relationship,” she says, explaining how she wrote it a year ago in the wake of a terrible breakup. “I just thought it wrapped up the record the way it was supposed to. I’m really excited to play that one live.”

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