Maren Morris, Ellie Goulding and En Vogue headline the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament Of Champions Concert Series. The three-day event, held in Orlando, Florida’s Lake Nona January 2023, boasts an all-female genre-spanning musical lineup. It also celebrates the return of the HGV Tournament of Champions, which features the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour winners playing golf alongside 50 celebrities, athletes and entertainers.
The tournament will be televised nationally on NBC and Golf Channel with the exclusive three-night concert series open to tournament sponsors, participants and invited guests. En Vogue performs on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Morris on Thursday, Jan. 19 and Goulding on Saturday, Jan. 21. The 2023 tournament will also support Annika Sörenstam’s ANNIKA Foundation, which expands opportunities for female golfers at the junior, collegiate and professional levels.
“Empowering women through golf is exactly what the HGV Tournament of Champions is all about,” Hilton Grand Vacations Senior Executive VP and COO Gordon Gurnik says. “We’re delighted to welcome some of the biggest female names in music to kick off this year’s tournament.”
Morris, who is currently headlining the Humble Quest Tour across North America, says the focus on women in sports first attracted her to the concert series. “I think that the music industry and the sports industry, particularly in golf, are intertwined in terms of diversity and representation,” she tells me. “It’s for such a great cause so I’m always down for that.”
While the singer says performing at an event or festival with an all-female lineup is powerful and serves as an evening of the scales, Morris feels there’s still more to be done for equal representation. “The dream is eventually, someday where you don’t have to just do a focused women’s event,” Morris says. “It’s that it’s all equal. So, I think that these are amazing steps to get to that point.”
Morris is a long-time advocate for equal representation and diversity within the country’s industry and beyond. She praised Black women country singers who pioneered the genre during her powerful 2020 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year acceptance speechhas spoken out about racism in country music and is continuously advocating for equality at all levels of the industry.
“The women of the genre are making the most exciting music and I think it comes from that adversity,” she says. “I think that’s where the best art is born. … Female songwriters right now are putting out the most visceral, exciting music in my opinion.”
Morris also has an all-female management team and estimates that half of her team on the road are women. Many of these business decisions came from being in uncomfortable rooms, concerts and radio shows early on in her career, she explains.
The “Circles Around This Town” singer says she never wants another person to feel the way she did early on, but admits that speaking out can sometimes be seen as a luxury. For Morris, she’s simply trying to create a safe space for everyone.
“I think my end goal is to make my time here worthwhile and to make it feel like a safe space for everybody,” she says. “Everything from the people that I hire to the openers that I choose is all really thoughtfully done. Now I’m really seeing the fruits of that labor because we’re finally headlining these venues and the morale is so high. It feels like we’ve created a really amazing environment to be a part of whether you’re onstage or backstage or in the crowd.”
Along the way, Morris admits that she no longer feels the need to be “the mouthpiece” for every topic country music doesn’t want to talk about. Instead, she says, she’s found some balance and had the realization that not everything needs to be written in a 280-character tweet on Twitter.
“My advocacy is definitely more proactive now than reactive and I just look at what my one little ripple effect can accomplish and it’s in the work,” she says. “It’s actual action. I definitely sometimes feel like I’m alone on the ledge when Roe v. Wade gets overturned, and no one is talking about it except for like three people. That one doesn’t feel political to me. That one just feels like, ‘Why are we acting like this didn’t happen?’ But ultimately, I think that everyone is doing their best. I can’t expect every single person in country music to have the same courage.”
Morris details some of these frustrations in her music. On her autobiographical single “Circles Around This Town,” the singer admits that she thought about leaving Nashville. Meanwhile “Humble Quest,” the title track to her 2022 album, has Morris singing, “Been biting my tongue behind a smile … I was so nice ’til I woke up/ I was polite ’til I spoke up.”
“Sometimes it’s lonely being the one that’s speaking out and getting knocked down,” she says. “It’s what’s making me resilient and a better songwriter, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. … I’m stronger than I was and what I gave myself credit for. As humbling as it’s been, it hasn’t really knocked me down into silence. It’s just making me feel more emboldened to my beliefs and principles.”
The singer says what she feels most conscious of every day is her impact and the way she conducts herself as a headliner and as a boss. The best business advice she’s learned is the importance of how you treat people – even on the really stressful days.
“I really do appreciate people’s kindness and I hope that I impart that on others,” she says.
Morris has made her peace with Nashville and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Instead, she hopes the strides she’s been making leave a ripple effect.
“[Country music has] afforded me a lot and I want to work to make it better for the next generation of songwriters and women and people of color,” she says. “It’s worth the struggle to me because I’ve worked within other genres and the community of Nashville is a lot more tight-knit and I feel like that’s worth putting the work into.”