"Oh, oh, thank God that we don't have to be alone / Closer I get the more that my heart knows / You're like that last turn home / That last turn home."
When Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd crafted those words back in 2013, they weren't riffing on the future that lie ahead for them, they weren't even talking about each other. Virtual strangers, the Arlington, Texas transplant and the singer/songwriter from Kalamazoo, Michigan had been set up by their publishing companies for a writing session at a Nashville studio.
Eager to prove their mettle in Music City, the future hitmakers came up with this ballad that wasn't only picked up, it was recorded by Tim McGraw, a country music demigod.
"It's one of my favorite songs that we've ever been a part of," she reflected to People in 2017, having spent the previous four years shifting from talented songwriter to in-demand crossover sensation thanks to the release of her Grammy-winning 2016 single "My Church", subsequent LP Hero and smash 2018 collaboration, "The Middle" with Zedd. "It's just crazy to look back on that moment where we were both just songwriters, solely, and that song has held so much weight over the years."
These days, she continued, "the song actually means more now to me and Ryan, in a weird way—years later, it sort of hit us what the song meant."
Namely, that they intend to hold each other in their arms like they're never going to let go. Well, each other and Hayes Andrew Hurd, their son who made his debut Monday just ahead of today's wedding anniversary.
And, yes, she's eager to "drink all the margaritas," both in life and to celebrate her single "Bones", its stay atop the charts two weeks in a row making her the first female solo artist to have done that since 2012.
But the 29-year-old is far more excited to be embracing her baby boy after enjoying her year of Girl, her critically acclaimed second major label album that netted her Album of the Year honors at the CMA Awards.
"I got a wave today," she revealed on Twitter in November, sharing a video from her 20-week sonogram.
A completely real video, she told Taste of Country Nights, it blew her away. "The last time that we saw him on an ultrasound, he was like the size of a peanut, so now that we're halfway to my due date, it just feels way more real in a physical sense," she said. "It was almost like he waved at me 'Good luck'....It choked us up because it was like, oh my God, he's actually moving in there...it's a person, and we're just so excited to meet him."
And to think none of it may have happened if not for their unintentional blind date, a meet-cute storyline that wouldn't have felt out of place on an episode of Nashville.
Morris had just left her Dallas-area home in the rearview to chase her musician dreams in the Country Music Capital. She had a $350-a-month rental she'd found on Craigslist, a pocketful of demos and the experience she'd built up performing around Texas in "any bar or club that would let me in there," as she put it on her website. And despite being cut from the cattle call rounds of auditions with American Idol, The Voice and any other talent search contest she could apply for, her writing chops were strong enough for her to earn a deal with a publishing house.
Hurd, who'd landed in Tennessee to study sociology at Belmont University, decided to forgo grad school in favor of pursuing his tween ambition, a decision that set him and his future bride on a years-long collision course.
"We were both at different publishing companies, and our publishers' job is to fill our calendars up, so they just randomly put us together on a write one day," Morris explained to People. The result was "Last Turn Home" and, as Morris put it to the mag, "the start of a wonderful writing relationship."
But not a romantic one just yet. Because Morris had a crucial life lesson to learn, still entangled in a relationship that would ultimately prove less than healthy.
While writing Hero, her first major studio album release, "I was just coming out of this very co-dependent, toxic relationship," she told Esquire last spring. "They weren't supportive of my wanting to be an artist. I was still bitter when I made that album. I had to go through that."
And perhaps she needed to meet Hurd, someone who's proven to be her ex's exact opposite. With their in-studio chemistry, he told People, they continued to meet up, "We would write and then after we'd go over to a bar in midtown and have a couple beers. That's when we started making a real connection, beyond a creative partnership."
The situation led to his debut single "Love In a Bar" and a relationship neither realized they were looking for. "We had been friends for only a couple of years, but there was always this writing chemistry in the room, and eventually, the timing of it was undeniable," she explained. "We had such a foundation built off writing so many songs over the years that we were like, 'Why are we avoiding this?'"
Because in Hurd, she found her champion, the man ready to cheer on each of her victories, even when her successes take her thousands of miles from their Nashville home.
"There's really nothing that can replace someone who knows what you're going through," Hurd noted to People. "It's another thing to be supportive and know why this is difficult and what it means to make an album and put your whole self into it. We have really difficult calendars and if one of us wasn't supportive, it would be really easy to give up on that."
But they've refused to walk away from each other or their dual country star dreams. "This is a hard thing to do and it's not glamorous," he continued. "Every time I want to quit, she tells me how close I am. She does my career with me and I do mine with her. In chasing my career, I feel like it's part hers."
Which, same for Morris, who's discovered the strength in admitting how much she depends on her man's emotional support. "I've realized it's perfectly okay to need someone," she noted to Esquire. "I need [Ryan]—that's not weak. He grounds me."
And so when he paddled her out to the middle of the lake at his family's Michigan lake house over Fourth of July weekend in 2017, a year-and-a-half after their working partnership turned passionate, it was a firm yes.
"We had, like, 15 people at this little house," Hurd recalled to Rare Country. "I had had that [ring] in my pocket for a while, and I was just looking for a good time. I woke up on the 3rd and I said to myself that that was the day. But there was no point where we were alone together."
Stealing away in a rowboat proved to be the perfect solution: "It was really special. It was a beautiful night and there weren't a lot of people on the water. It was July 3, so there were fireworks all around the lake and I told her I bought all those fireworks just for her."
Then he pulled out the uncut diamond he'd found in New York City and brought to a jeweler pal. "I know what she likes and I had somebody in Canada put it together," he explained to Entertainment Tonight. "I couldn't just buy something. I had to make it something that fit her."
Their March 2018 vows were similarly unique, Morris selecting a high-low gown by Nashville designer Cavanagh Baker that reminded her of the vintage dress her mom had worn in 1989. "She was a badass and had this short wedding dress, so I sent it to this designer that I love," Morris explained to People. "I was like, 'If we can do a modern version of my mom's wedding dress just dreaming something up really cool but still throwback with her vibe, I would love to make that happen.'"
Other original touches included "Diamonds or Twine", the song Hurd had penned for his proposal, a margarita bar, a Motown DJ and vows just as heartfelt as you'd imagine from a couple who met writing a love song.
But all wasn't perfectly beachy when they returned from their overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.
"It was probably the hardest part of our relationship," she recalled to Esquire, noting her decision to perform during multiple legs of Niall Horan's 81-date Flicker World Tour. "We went on our honeymoon, and then I immediately went on this gigantic tour opening for Niall Horan. It was more international touring than I had ever done. And I was gone more than I had ever been on any other tour."
Most couples don't immediately set out to test their vows, but both would agree they're better for it. Their relationship struggles not only improved their partnership, but produced some fantastic material along the way. On "Great Ones", which features Hurd as writer and singing backup, they croon, "Most loves don't make it through, but the great ones do."
And they emerge all the stronger. "It was a tough summer," Morris admitted. "But we have grown so much closer because we had to make some hard decisions and have some tough talks about what this future looks like and how we can make this better." Now, she continued, "I feel like I like him in ways I never knew I could before."
Each credit a commitment to therapy sessions as much as their devotion to one another. "Getting married made me want to better myself and figure out why I do the things I do," she explained to Esquire. "And, for my own mental health, as I go deeper and deeper into this world of music, I need another outlet besides writing songs to get out what I'm feeling."
Plus she saw it as much needed groundwork for their shared vision of their future: "Talking about the possibility of having kids, I would like our minds to be as doctored up before we bring another person into the world."
And so they were as prepared as possible that summer day when Morris took a pregnancy test.
"I called, because I was on my way to the write, and he was at like a fitting or something," she told Taste of Country Nights of being unable to keep the news to herself long enough to do the reveal in-person. "But luckily we were both in town so we could celebrate that night. We were so excited."
But first she did the only thing that made sense in that moment. "I wrote a song," she said. Already scheduled to be in studio, "I couldn't think about anything else, so I have a song that I wrote about it. I'm sure there'll be more as I continue writing."
Both about their little guy, the "love of our lives" and the man who's been there from the beginning. Because the fairytale of Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd? It's just getting started.
(Originally published Feb. 21, 2020 at 3:00 a.m. PT)