Maren Morris Puts Her Soul Into Elton John’s ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ [Listen]
Maren Morris is one of a group of country music's best and brightest who took part in a new tribute to the music of Elton John. The Grammy-winning singer shines on a soulful cover of "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters."
Written by Elton John and his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" originally appeared on John's Honky Chateau album in 1972. It's a song that Elton John himself has called one of his favorites, and it's drawn widespread critical acclaim from critics who have praised it as one of his most direct and emotionally accessible songs.
Morris departs from the script a bit for her new recording, which appears on the new Restoration project. She replaces the familiar piano backdrop with a soulful, almost gospel twist that allows her to place her vocal differently than she would generally employ for one of her own records.
In an Instagram post, Morris shares that the superstar reached out to her two years ago. She was at home doing laundry when two calls came in from a London number, and the third time, she decided to pick up.
"It was Sir @eltonjohn. I was floored to hear that iconic British voice on the other end of the line telling me he bought Hero on vinyl and loved it enough to call me personally," she writes. "The call wasn’t long; he said he played my record for his band and that he hoped we’d meet someday soon."
Elton John Is a Maren Morris Fan!
A year ago, Morris was asked to take part in the tribute project. She says choosing "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" was easy.
"It had always been one of those roadtrip songs from my childhood that made me want to get out of my comfort zone and experience the world," she says. "The way Bernie and Elton wrote this song about their first time visiting New York City is so similar to how I felt when I moved to Nashville. Exhilarated, terrified, determined, lonely..."
She did finally get to meet her heroes after the Grammys in 2018.
"I met Elton and he was wearing a red Gucci jacket and red-tinted frames and we drank tea and he told me about his love for country music and how in another life he was Southern," she writes. "I met Bernie Taupin and I couldn’t imagine a more humble, genius poet. I mean, holy s--t, there are writers on Music Row that have had one hit and think they’re entitled to everything. Not Bernie. He was such a genuine soul."
Restoration features some of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's most beloved collaborations reimagined in new arrangements by top country artists including Dierks Bentley, Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris, Miley Cyrus, Vince Gill and Don Henley, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Brothers Osborne, Chris Stapleton, Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton, and Lee Ann Womack.
Released April 6, the album is a companion piece to Revamp, which features pop stars paying tribute to the legendary pair.
"Restoration was Bernie's project and he’s a huge country fan," John says. "The Revamp was more my project. He came up with an astonishing list of country performers both new and legendary. On Revamp I wrote out a wish list of people that I would love and asked them, and to my surprise, most of them said yes and we have quite an astonishing eclectic crew."
Morris will also join Keith Urban, Lambert, Morris and Little Big Town for a two-hour television special in salute to Elton John. Elton John: I'm Still Standing — A Grammy Salute will air on April 10 at 9PM ET on CBS.