During Country Radio Seminar which was held virtually this week, Maren Morris and Luke Combs, absolute superstars and trailblazers in the country music industry were interviewed by NPR’s Ann Powers about important topics facing our genre today including the lack of diversity and inclusion.
Morris who has spoken candidly throughout this time of civil unrest through her platforms was a welcomed guest to the panel, bringing insight and fearless answers to each question. Combs, who has faced backlash throughout his career when pictures have surfaced standing in front of a confederate flag, was also exceptional at explaining how it’s inexcusable and how he has learned to understand the gravity of the association with something that can hurt so many.
Powers asked the hard questions, in an uncomfortable but welcoming conversation that was a beacon of hope for the attendees of CRS, hoping to be better, do better, and help the genre to continue to evolve to be more inclusive. Among many different topics, the panel discussed the history of country music, and Morris in particular brought up how we hold our heroes of the genre to a very high pedestal, however, historically, they aren’t the first ones who brought life to country music. “They were our pioneers, not THE pioneers”, she stated boldly.
When you close out artists or songwriters based on the color of their skin or their ethnicity, you could be closing the door on a song that could be a hit or a song that could save hundreds of lives, Morris stated in a sentiment about the lack of diversity in Music City.
Of course, the panel ended with the most recent incident that rocked the genre, when Morgan Wallen was caught on tape using a racial slur. Combs was happy to say “People can be changed. I mean, I think I’m a living, mouth-breathing example of it right here.” While Morris stated “I just think if you love something, you absolutely should call out the parts that are complicit and wrong, so we can move forward in a healthier way. And I think sitting here having this conversation with you, Luke, at CRS, the week of country music (pros gathering), is a huge step. We’ve all got healing to do. And accountability is the first step of that. I think that we’re on the road to a very hopeful place, but we have to be willing to have these conversations with each other and with our friends. I don’t care if you’re holding them accountable on Twitter or if you’re holding them accountable after a show when people are drunk on the bus — just call them out when you see it happening so we can move forward.”
Many attendees in the comments were exclaiming that this was the best panel in the 50+ years of Country Radio Seminar, something that will open the door for conversations and further discussion on such an important topic.