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Maren Morris: 5 Things to Know About the Breakout Country Singer

Maren Morris poses for a photo in the press room during the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 2, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Maren Morris attends the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 2, 2016, in Nashville.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Maren Morris just won the 2017 Grammy for Best New Artist, but the 26-year-old country singer hardly feels like a newcomer.

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“I've been doing this for so long,” the Texas native, who started playing shows at local bars and honky-tonks at 11, told GQ.

Since moving to Nashville at age 20, Morris has toured with Keith Urban, won the 2016 CMAs’ New Artist of the Year honor and released four albums, her latest of which, Hero, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Now Morris is up for four Grammys, making her this year’s most nominated country act. Before she takes the stage at L.A.’s Staples Center on Sunday, February 12, here are five things to know about country’s next big name.

1. She’s Written Songs for Kelly Clarkson and Tim McGraw

Morris got her start in Nashville through songwriting: Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece,” McGraw’s “Last Turn Home” and various original songs for the drama series Nashville have all been penned by the Dallas-born artist.

2. Morris Self-Released Her Breakout Hit Single, “My Church,” on Spotify in 2015

She dropped a five-song EP, which included “My Church,” exclusively though the streaming service, and it generated more than 2.5 million streams in the first month. The EP’s success landed her a record deal with Columbia Nashville Records, where she went on to release Hero. She calls “My Church” the “tipping point of me going from songwriter to artist,” telling NPR in November that she didn't want to offer the track to another artist: “The second that song was done and we were listening back to it, the first thought in my mind was, Wow, they were right. I'm not sending this to anybody."

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3. She’s on Tour With Her Boyfriend and Cowriter, Ryan Hurd

Hurd, 30, joined her in writing “Last Turn Home,” which they’ve been performing together on her Hero headlining tour. Though they worked on the song in 2013, it wasn’t until 2016 when they started dating. “Being a part of songs, cuts, and your record with you has fulfilled me creatively like nothing in the world,” Michigan native Hurd wrote on Instagram in November. The pair celebrated their first anniversary last month.

4. The Hitmaker Was Turned Down by American Idol and The Voice

Morris auditioned for the former Fox series when she was 17 but only faced the producers, not even making it to the judges. She tried out for The Voice only to be turned down once again. Contestants on both reality shows have since covered her hit “My Church” — Voice season 12 contestant Sundance Head tackled it during his Top 12 performance on his path to victory — and Morris isn’t bitter over the rejection.

“I think about all of the freaking talent shows I’ve tried out for in my life, and I’m so glad I didn’t make any of them,” she admitted to Rolling Stone Country in June. “It’s full circle, because I was rejected from The Voice. I was rejected from American Idol. And I’m happier for it now.”

5. Morris Isn't Your Average Country Star

Though Morris counts the Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin and Sheryl Crow as her early inspirations, she also grew up on Clint Black and Chaka Khan. The Texan also admires songwriter Max Martin, the man behind many of the Backstreet Boys' and Britney Spears' early hits. 

When it comes to who she'd like to emulate on stage, Morris pulls from popular Top 40 acts. "I go apes–t over Bruno Mars," she gushed to Glamour in April. "He’s just all over the place — the whole band is. I love that. I also love Ed Sheeran. He does just stand in one place [a lot of the time]. I would love to utilize that as well." 

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The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS Sunday, February 12, at 8 p.m. ET.