With her second headlining tour underway, Megan Moroney reminisces about her whirlwind breakout year, including an Opry debut and a No. 1 smash.
BY TAYLOR WEATHERBY
Just last summer, Megan Moroney had never even played a show. Fourteen months later, she’s headlining a sold-out tour.
The country singer/songwriter kicked off The Lucky Tour on Sept. 20 in New York City, with 22 dates sprinkled throughout the fall until wrapping in her native Georgia on Dec. 10. Though her first headlining tour was in April, The Lucky Tour is an indication of where her stardom is headed — bigger and busier.
“My whole life is completely different now,” Moroney says. “Everything is happening, and I’m on the road 24/7. Last year, I would put out a song and I’d play shows a couple weeks at a time and then have some time off, but we’re planning so far ahead now. It’s a lot of work, but it’s what I want to do.”
Moroney’s rapidly growing success was first fueled by the lovestruck, college football-themed hit “Tennessee Orange,” but she’s kept the momentum going with her debut album, Lucky. While her country-pop stylings are right in line with the genre’s mainstream stars, Moroney’s witty, strong-willed songwriting and husky voice feel like the makings of a superstar.
Moroney’s staying power has already been proven from what she’s achieved in 2023: “Tennessee Orange” hit No. 1 on the Country Aircheck/Mediabase Country Airplay chart in June, won Moroney her first award in April (CMT Breakthrough Female Video Of The Year), and earned her both New Artist Of The Year and Song Of The Year nominations for the 2023 CMA Awards, to name a few.
But even for a girl who went from never touring to having a No. 1 song in just over a year, Moroney insists that she hasn’t lost sight of her purpose.
“I try to just take things a day at a time. I have random goals, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself for specific goals,” Moroney adds. “It’s how I got to ‘Tennessee Orange’ — if I just keep my head down and keep working hard, good things will happen.”
Before Moroney appears at the GRAMMY Museum for a SPOTLIGHT series event on Oct. 10, hear from the singer about six of her most memorable career milestones she’s reached — so far.
Making Her Grand Ole Opry Debut — February 11, 2023
I was in the studio, we were tracking “Kansas Anymore.” And I look over, and Jamey Johnson walks in. I figured he was maybe recording and just coming to say hi, because our tour with him had ended not too long before that. And he’s like, “Hey, I got somebody on FaceTime.”
He had Deana Carter on the phone, and Deana was like, “How would you like to make your Grand Ole Opry debut?” Obviously I completely freaked out.
Then the day of, I had my family come in. It was just a very overwhelming feeling. I remember during soundcheck, when I stepped into the circle, I just started crying. And I was like, Why am I crying? [Laughs.] Like, I knew it was a really big deal, but I definitely didn’t plan on crying.
And that’s why, when I made my debut, I tried not to talk too much. I was like, “And this is my song.” Because I knew if I talked too much, I would just cry, and I was like, I don’t want to do that at the Opry.
I had played bigger venues before, but there’s just something about playing the Opry the first time where I was so nervous. Right before I get on stage, Vince Gill introduced himself to me, and I was like, Oh, perfect. He’s watching, so don’t screw up!
I played “Hair Salon” and “Tennessee Orange.” It was great. I noticed a lot of people came there just for me — I can always tell, too, because everyone has Tennessee stuff on. And it was very cool to have my family there. And a bunch of my friends also showed up.
I think they said there was a standing ovation, but I was offstage at that point. I didn’t get to see it, but heard about it. [Laughs.]
Winning Her First Award — April 2, 2023
I was terrified. Public speaking is scary to start with, but also being on television, I was so nervous. And I remember my publicist being like, “You know if you do win, you need to at least sort of have an idea of what you’re going to say.” And I was just like, “I’m not going to prepare a speech, I’m not gonna win.”
I just remember walking off stage and I was like, Did I just speak English? I completely blacked out. I had no idea what I said. I called my mom and I was like, “Hopefully I did not embarrass myself.” But obviously, it was very cool to win an award for the music video.
The CMTs were the first award show that I attended as an artist. [At] the CMA Awards in November, I was just a host on the red carpet, interviewing other artists. I fortunately got a ticket to the CMA Awards, but I was like, you know, in the back.
It was just crazy. Shania Twain is sitting near me, Megan Thee Stallion is in front of me — I’m just like, What? I was already like, This is crazy, I don’t need to win. I’m having a great time. I don’t know how to give a speech, I’m not well-spoken. Like, I literally write songs about my boyfriend — now I have to go give a speech? [Laughs.]
It’s just crazy and hard to believe that it’s happening. It feels great, obviously, because I feel like Nashville has been supportive and they see the work that I’m doing and they look at it for what it is and how I wanted it to be received. Making a fan base is one thing, but to also have the support of Nashville, like, “We see what you’re doing, and we’re recognizing it,” it’s really cool.
Releasing Her Debut Album — May 5, 2023
The night album came out was the first night of the Brooks & Dunn tour.
We were in Kansas City and I had my team there, and some of my Columbia [Records] people showed up from New York to surprise me. It was so crazy to finally have it out because it had been on my phone for so long. You spend so many hours and put your heart into these songs, and then it comes out, and you’re like, Okay, now what?
One [reaction] that meant a lot to me was Olivia Rodrigo DMing me and saying that she loves the songs. I had posted her “vampire” song on my story, and I tagged her, and she responded and was like, “Oh my gosh, your songwriting is so inspiring!” That was really cool, definitely a standout moment of my album coming out.
Overall — I also try not to look at negative things — my fans, they’ve been receiving it the way that I hoped they would. Like, no one took “Sleep On My Side” too seriously, and “I’m Not Pretty” is not supposed to be a bitchy song; it’s supposed to be more of a confident anthem.
“Girl In The Mirror,” I’ve been able to see at live shows [that] that one is having the most impact on my fans. And I think it does have the most important message of all the songs on the whole record. Girls bring signs to my shows that say “You made me love the girl in the mirror.” There’s little girls that are, like, 7 years old with shirts that say, “You can’t love the boy more than the girl in the mirror.” It’s hitting all age groups.
I think [with] music, you have to say something, or what’s the point? It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to say, but it needs to do something for people. That song definitely helped me writing it, and I’ve seen it help my fans. One of my favorite moments in the live show is everyone singing it with me — and I don’t ask them to sing it with me. Everyone’s just screaming it. I have songs like that from other artists that I feel that way about, so it’s cool to have fans connect with that song.
Playing CMA Fest With Her Brother — June 11, 2023
Last year, I got to play CMA Fest for the first time, and I played it with my brother because, honestly, he did it for free. [Laughs.] We were on one of the smallest stages, if not the smallest, in the Music City Center. It’s basically the stage that people only showed up because they wanted air conditioning, because it was one of the only indoor stages.
Then this year, when CMA Fest came around again, I got to play the Riverfront Stage and Nissan Stadium, and I invited my brother back. Last year, we were like, “We’re gonna make this tradition, because that was fun.” And then this year, I found out I was playing the stadium, and I was like, “Well, we said it was a tradition. You’ve never played a stadium and neither have I, but we’re going to do this together.” So my brother and I played Nissan Stadium together — we did “I’m Not Pretty” and “Tennessee Orange.”
He was playing guitar and singing harmonies. Him and my dad kind of taught me how to play guitar. So we grew up playing together, but now he’s an attorney, so he has, like, a legit job and can’t just quit to tour with me, even though I would love that.
The whole thing was special. He texted me a couple of days after when he was back home, and he was like, “Did we really just play in a stadium?”
I’ve been used to touring and playing in front of people. So I was definitely nervous, but it was manageable. But for him, I’m like, “You have a normal job. I don’t know how you just went out in front of that many people and just played.”
That’s up there as the most meaningful moments of this year. Just to watch the videos and see my face and his face in Nissan stadium. I’m like, What is this? We used to post videos of us on Instagram together in our living room, and I just never would have thought that we would be in a stadium together.
Earning A No. 1 Song With “Tennessee Orange” — June 20, 2023
When I wrote this song, I was happy with it. I was like, This is different than anything I’ve written because it’s kind of a love song and I’m not good at writing those. But I was [also] like, I wrote this song that I can relate to, but like I don’t even know if people in like, California, or someone that doesn’t care about [college] football are even going to understand..
When the fall came around and it was about to be football season, and an opportunity with Spotify came, we were like, Well, we’ve got this football song. I definitely didn’t write it and was like, This is gonna be the one.
When I announced that it was coming out, which was probably like two weeks before, I started promoting it on TikTok. When I posted the initial video, people were making it a trend to show their significant other and they were like, “I met somebody” [with] cute pictures behind the sound. And I teased the bridge and everyone was making TikToks to that. So it was blowing up before the song actually came out.
The night it went No. 1 was actually the last day of the Brooks & Dunn tour, so it was really just an exciting day in general. We really did not know if it was gonna go No. 1 — I had to mentally prepare myself to not be No. 1, because I didn’t want to upset myself too much. The radio team was honest in the fact that there’s huge songs that we’re competing against.
We really didn’t know for sure until 3 a.m. when it actually was official. I was exhausted because we’d been on this run. So at midnight, I went to sleep, and I was like, “Y’all wake me up at 3 if it goes number one. If I don’t get woken up, I’m just gonna not talk to anyone tomorrow.” [Laughs.]
My team and my band came in my room on the bus with orange wigs on, and they scared the life out of me. Then the next day, we went to Broadway to celebrate. I got to hear an artist singing my song on Broadway for the first time — that was really cool, because I remember moving to Nashville and being like, “Wow, if someone is playing a cover of your song on Broadway, you’ve made it.”
I got on stage with her — I was a little intoxicated. [Laughs.] I posted a TikTok video of it. That was a fun day.
Headlining A Sold-Out Tour — Sept. 20 to December 10, 2023
We’re literally going from New York to California and everywhere in between. The more headlining shows I play, I feel like the crazier and more passionate my fans get. They show up in handmade merch, and they’ll dress like me. So I feel like the fall tour will be even more crazy, because it seems to just be getting crazier.
I love opening because you can make new fans, but when everyone is there for you, it’s definitely a different sense of comfortability. My first headlining show was in Georgia, it was in Statesboro. So my family got to be there too. And “Girl In The Mirror” came out a couple of hours before that, and they sang “Girl In The Mirror” back to me. It was the first time I heard them chanting my name. I was just like, This is absurd.
One part of the show that I think I’ll always have on my headliners is where I play a couple of songs where it’s just me and a guitar. And I like doing that because when I’m writing a song, it’s usually just me and a guitar. So I like to recreate that environment for my fans.
One show that really sticks out is a show that I played recently at the Iowa State Fair. I think there were 6,000 people there for me. They were singing every single song — like, the least-streamed song on the album is “Sad Songs For Sad People,” and they screamed every word of that.
To have that many people who care about my music will always beat every other moment, because [I know] what I’m doing is connecting with people. It makes me want to keep creating the same kind of music that does that for people.