A couple weeks ago, iTunes suggested I listen to a new song. From the first two measures, I was hooked. It was a song called Love Like That. It’s a boppy, wit-filled song that has lyrics like “Casanova” and “John Mayer.” I was rolling around on my way to lunch and just danced all around my front seat like a teenage girl. I was hooked. So, I clicked on the artist and listened to the rest of the EP. I sort of recognized the first single, Fight Like A Girl, and then went deeper into the EP. I was mesmerized by the sheer potential this young artist was exuding. That was it. I had to meet her.
I’m thrilled I did.
Kalie (pronounced Kay-Lee) Shorr has been in Nashville four years. Originally from Portland, Maine, the 23 year old songstress got her start playing in the pop and punk world. Now, she’s a rising star of the Nashville Songwriter Suffragettes movement and has been honing her music skill at shows in and out of town.
We started off talking about how she got her start and what music inspired her.
There wasn't really much of a country scene to speak of, and I would actually open up for a lot of pop punk bands, because like the local booker's there were like, I don't know what to do with you, we'll put you on a show, but I'd open up for pop punk bands. They didn't know what else to do with me, so I was opening up for all these bands, and I'd be like "Hey, who likes country music?" And no one would raise their hands, and I'd be like okay, I've got 30 minutes to win you over. It was a little bizarre. But I grew up listening to a lot of different types of music, rock being a huge influence, but country just always felt like my path. And a lot of people are always asking why I picked it. But really, it picked me.
My first concert I ever went to was the Dixie Chicks with Michelle Branch opening at Madison Square Garden. And that explains so much of my styling, because Michelle has those rock influences, and the Dixie Chicks are always so unabashedly themselves; I’ve always adored them. They were all over radio when I was a little kid. I was six years old when Fly came out, and it just changed my life. I love everything about the Dixie Chicks.
I listen to a lot of Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain; all the divas of 90's country, which is such a huge part of 90's country. They really inspired me. But also, my first band I was ever in was in a Nirvana cover band ... it was awful, and I mean really bad. So yes, I had a very wide array of influences. I listened to a lot of grunge music and a lot of country. My interests are varied, for sure.
You can hear that easily in the new EP Slingshot. You can tell she has some of the boppy country, but then there’s her cover of "Odds Are" originally by Barenaked Ladies puts a sweet spin on an already fun song. The single "Fight Like a Girl" is an anthem to girl power. We talked about what some of her favorite songs on the EP were.
I mean there's different ones, I think that my favorite to play live is probably Odds Are because it's such fun moment, and it’s very happy and positive and the world needs more of that. But my favorite song on there, just as a song writer, is Nothin' New. It's very real, I wrote it with my two best friends about my first heartbreak, and I think that's the one that people connect with the most lyrically. I can’t pick a favorite though. It's like picking babies, there's no right or wrong answer.
My favorite is the fourth track on the EP, "Love Like That." It’s a song with the wit and syncopation of a Shane McAnally/Josh Osbourne hit. We talked about its background.
It's low-key sassy and even if you don't realize it's sassy at first, it hits you and you're like, ‘What?’ I wrote it with two of my friends, who are in my band… My lead guitarist and my bass player, Eric Mallon and Jason Afable. I met them my first week in town; we did an ASCAP Workshop together four years ago. Me and Jason were each other's first co-write, and then we started writing with Eric, and now they're my band. They've just been two of my great friends since I moved here, and I'm very lucky to have them.
If you’re not familiar, there is a movement in Nashville right now called the Song Suffragettes. It’s a group of young women who play every Monday night at The Listening Room. It’s a Nashville Round style show, but they’re all girls. She’s been a part of it for quite some time now, so we talked about that next.
It started just as an idea with a production company in Nashville. They recognized there was a major problem with females, and it was before people were really talking about it. You hear Carrie and Miranda, and Taylor Swift when she was on country radio. People really didn't feel like there was a huge problem, but then someone showed me the facts and figures, and I was blown away. There's a very definite problem of women not being represented in country music. And it sucks to not be represented. To look at a genre I've loved my entire life, and feel like it's not for me anymore, breaks my heart.
I stopped her for clarification and I asked her “What do you mean it’s not for you anymore?”
It's not welcoming. I'll walk into a room at a label or whatever, and they'll be like ‘Yeah, you're great, but you're a girl,’ I can't really do anything about that I suppose…
It was a hard realization to come to that country just wasn't being hospitable to women. Female story tellers have accounted for so much of the genre, and so much of the progression of the genre. Where would modern country music be today without Shania Twain? It's mind blowing what these women have done for country music, and what country music isn't doing for women now... It’s incredibly sad.
And she’s exactly right. The billboard top forty for country airplay only had three women, Carrie, Miranda, and Taylor, at the top starting in 2010 until just last year when Kelsea Ballerini took the spot with Love Me Like You Mean It. Six years, and only three women? That’s outrageous. Look at the nineties. They were dripping with Female talent. Yes, you had mega stars like Reba and Shania, but you also had other women like LeAnn Rimes, Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Emmylou Harris… All were incredibly successful in their own rights. We simply do not have that today. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when an artist like Kacey Musgraves has never had a number one single on country radio? It’s maddening. We’re starting to have hope with artists like Maren Morris, Carly Pearce, and Lauren Alaina starting to get some traction, but we’ve got so far to go.
I don't know if there's any one right answer, and I don't like pointing fingers because I've met so many great examples of people who are working at labels, or who were working in radio and they're doing so much for women. Guys like Bobby Bones. He is doing some great work with his Female Friday show. I know some people have talked about how they feel like ... giving women just one day… or even saying "this is female country" reinforces that it's a sub-genre, but I think that
anyone being an ally should be celebrated. I really respect him for doing that, and there's a lot of label heads who are fighting so hard for these women to break through, but sometimes it's just not stacking up.
You know my manager Todd who started Song Suffragettes is a guy. And he just believes in it so much, and he cares so much, because most of his favorite country singers historically have all been women. I mean, men resonate. Like, female country resonates with men. It resonates with everybody, it doesn't have to have a gender attached to it. Good music is good music.
I’m hoping the tides are turning, it's like the Billboard airplay charts for country radio last week were six percent female, and there was one solo woman in the top 20. It’s a song suffragette named Carly Pearce with her song Every Little Thing. It’s so cool that we're seeing this, and I'm celebrating her success. She's amazing and deserves it so much, but there should be more of us, you know? And that song, that song is a testament to that fact that people want to hear something deeper from country. And she's absolutely killing it, but I just don’t know how much better one song is going to make the situation.
The one thing I do think is getting better is how women in Nashville treat each other.
Song Suffragettes is all about empowering women, but it's also about powering women to empower other women by creating a community where we support each other and jealousy doesn't come in to play. It has made me a better woman in the long run because I've learned how to respect other women and not view their successes as my failures, and it's really just been a great learning experience. I've seen in the four years that I've been here the climate for how girls treat each other changing so rapidly.
Kelsey Ballerini is a perfect example. She had this big night at her house, like a wine night. Carly and I were there, and Lauren Alaina, and Raelynn ... any woman in country music you can think of was pretty much there, who's like up and coming and new, and she said "I want to sit down, and I want to talk about our successes and our failures, and what's happening and how we can help, and just to be there for each other", because we all understand, we've all dealt with the same stuff, and interviews, and label and all that stuff.
It was just really cool to see her do that, because historically I don't know if that's been a priority for pretty much the biggest female artist in country music right now. She's new and she changing things and being progressive both sonically and, I think she's just so talented and so self-aware to do something like that, and if us being dealt a bad hand in country music leads to people thinking out of the box and doing stuff like that, maybe it's a good thing, and it's teaching us to be better women.
I asked her what it would take for women to really start being a commercial success in country again. She had some important thoughts.
I think the audience needs to be very deliberate in how they're telling people that they want to hear it. And that starts with awareness, if people knowing that there's with women in country they start to feel passionate about it and personally invested. They purposefully make Spotify and Apple Music playlists of all female country singers.
I think the pressure's on female artists to create something that people care about and people want to listen to that's interesting and ignites the audience, and the audience needs to respond to that by telling the labels and the radio people that they want to hear it. At the end of the day, the fans have the most power because they have the wallet.
By Bobby Bones starting the female Friday thing, it shows that female records will sell, and they know that's how they can help. I can keep a song on The Highway (XM Radio station) by people buying it on iTunes. At the end of the day their vote counts the most. The label's not going to say oh that person's making so much money, but we're not going to sign them. It's business. I think that it comes down to that, and I think that's why what Bobby's doing should be celebrated at the end of the day, because that's exactly how you fix the problem.
So what’s next for Kalie Shorr?
I’m working on another EP already. The current one came out in March, so I've got a new single that's coming out. I know it’s soon, but I just think people are consuming music so much faster, and you said you found me through Apple Music, and you burn through an album so quick. I've been wanting new Taylor Swift music since the day 1989 came out, you know? And I'm evolving so fast and I'm writing so much, I write five days a week, just think about the percentage. I’ve sold a couple of songs; I have a single on Radio Disney Country with a group called Honey County called Love Someone, and I love that song. It wasn't right for me but it was perfect for them, and I'm so glad I waited till someone cut it. My publisher's always plugging songs to other people.
When she mentioned Radio Disney, that made a lot of sense for her music. Turns out, she knows a bit about that too.
I think some of my music's a little bit edgier, but that’s the nice thing about Radio Disney Country, especially some of the new stuff. I'm kind of embracing that side of myself now. The Radio Disney Country is meant for an older demographic than regular Radio Disney, Radio Disney is eight to 18, and Radio Disney Country is like 18-24, and that's my perfect market you know, college kids whatever. I mean I'm 23, I'm in that market.
But yeah, some of the new stuff is just going to be a little bit edgier, and just a little bit more honest. I'm starting to be more comfortable in myself, and how I want to represent myself and the kind of stories I want to tell. And that, with confidence comes exploration, so I'm excited for the next step.
I'll have a new single out hopefully in the next month or two, and then start working on the next project, we'll see when it comes out, but I've already got two songs for it that I'm super excited about, and I think it'll show. I know everyone says this before they have a project come out, but I think it's going to show a new side of me. People have seen the pop melodies, the fun girl stuff, and that's still such a huge part of who I am, but I think the next step's just going to dig a little deeper. Like Fight like a Girl stuff. I was lucky for that to be my first single out, because it allowed me to talk really openly about femininity, which is something I care about organically without being like, let me jam this down your throat. Oh, you asked me what my single's about, here you go.
With being a woman in country music right now, representation is missing in a lot of key places. Obviously with women, but even more noticeably, Kalie knows that the LGBTQ community is missing the spotlight too.
So many people who have been a part of my support system along the way. From people like my hair stylist, my stylist, to Perez Hilton who has been so supportive of me. He paid for my first trip to Nashville. He has such a great heart and has done so much for the community recently. I adore him. All of these men have always supported me, how could I not possibly repay that? I want to be as strong of an ally as I can be to anyone who is marginalized. I’m a woman in country music. We’re all a part of this struggle. Anyone who supports me and doesn’t discriminate against me, I’m there for them and I want to pay that forward.
Every gay man I know loves the same kind of music I love. The 90’s country divas… That’s a thing right?
I confirmed. That’s absolutely a thing – especially in this town.
See? Exactly. Perez was one of the first people to give me some validation and he LOVES Shania, Faith, Reba, The Dixie Chicks; the massive female voices. They’ve inspired this generation of young gay men to follow their bliss. I could only hope that I’ll get to do that for the next generation. Things are changing so quickly, and I love what’s happening. I love what Kacey Musgraves is doing and, also, Meghan Linsey is a great example of what an ally should be. Supporting Human Rights shouldn’t even have to be edgy anymore. It should just be a given.
We couldn’t agree more, Kalie. We couldn’t agree more.
Keep up with Kalie on all the social medias which you can find on her website, www.kalieshorr.com to see when and where she’s playing next. All her music is available on iTunes and Spotify.