In this guest blog for LiveYourDream.org, rising country music star Kalie Shorr shares her story of growing up in tough times, how she fell in love with country music, what inspires her work, and why she’s using her voice to empower fellow women and girls.
Growing up in the nineties, I had no shortage of female singer-songwriters to look to for inspiration and empowerment. Shania Twain was sonically revolutionizing country music with her rock guitars. The Dixie Chicks were writing anti-domestic violence anthems. Reba was singing songs about a prostitute named Fancy who got herself off the streets. They were all over the radio, magazines, and television. Deeply inspired by these strong women and following in their footsteps, I wrote my first song at six years old.
I grew up in a troubled home as the youngest child of a single mother. My dad was in and out of my life, leaving my mom hanging without child support payments and wondering where groceries were going to come from next. My sister was in and out of prison for drugs. Our beautiful coastal town in Maine was slowing becoming one of the epicenters of the current heroin epidemic, and I lost my cousin to an overdose. All of this was before my tenth birthday.
I had seen so much darkness in my life at such a young age and it pulled me to country music. I felt like the women inside the radio understood my crazy, hectic, multi-colored life that wasn’t always pretty. It was pretty damn ugly sometimes, but I believe that ugly is even more important to sing about. I felt less alone when I heard songs like “Fancy”: obviously, I didn’t really understand that Fancy was a lady of the night, but I did understand that she grew up poor and made something of herself. I cried to “Cold Day In July” the summer my grandfather passed away. I danced around the living room to “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” before I even knew what a feminist was. These women shaped me, related to me, empowered me, and raised me on their songs. They made me pack up everything I owned in a 2004 Impala, drive to Nashville, and follow their footsteps in my thrift store cowboy boots.
Today in country music, women regularly make up less than 10% of the country charts on any given week. I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about it because of my work with the Song Suffragettes (an all-female community of writers in Nashville dedicated to the cause and amplified through our weekly show). I wrote my first single “Fight Like A Girl” with two girls I met through Song Suffragettes, Hailey Steele and Lena Stone, after all hearing the word “no” followed by “because you’re a woman”. I don’t truly understand where the issue started or when it will end, but I am incredibly hopeful.
Nashville in 2017 isn’t like Nashville ten years ago. These days, every girl in town knows how much harder and more rare it is for us to have the perfect storm of success required to have a hit song. One might think it would get more competitive, but it’s done the opposite: the rough climate for women has bred support and practice-what-you-preach unity like I’ve never seen before.
We know that we are stronger together so we are writing together, playing shows together, and sharing each other’s songs every chance we get. As hard as it is at times, I know when we all get to the top of the ladder we are climbing, we are going to reflect on this time as so special and unique because it taught us all a valuable lesson in girl power—and how much sweeter success is when you’re surrounded by your friends.
Fifteen years from now, a girl is going to move to Nashville. Maybe she’ll be from a small town with humble beginnings. Maybe she’ll be wearing cowboy boots, maybe she won’t.
What I do know is, when she was six, she turned on the radio and heard “Doin’ Fine” by Lauren Alaina and learned that ugly things like addiction and divorce can still make you stronger. She read a magazine with Carly Peace talking about the time her heart got ripped out but she wrote it down on paper and made in the number one song in the country. She saw Kelsea Ballerini on TV receiving an award for blazing a trail for women when no one else could see the path. Maybe she even heard “Fight Like A Girl” a time or two.
She needs us, just like we needed Shania and Reba and the Dixie Chicks. I’m not going to let her down. I’m going to keep pushing, even when it’s hard.
I’m going to keep writing about the things I’ve seen, even when they’re so honest it hurts. I’m going to keep fighting until I get there. Actually, scratch that. I’m going to keep fighting until we ALL get there.
Kalie Shorr burst onto the Nashville music scene in 2016 with her self-penned hit “Fight Like A Girl”. The Portland, Maine singer-songwriter became a Sirius XM Highway Find and was praised by Spotify, CMT, Radio Disney Country, Taste of Country, and even Billboard magazine. In 2017, Kalie released her Slingshot EP to rave reviews and was named a “New Artist You Need To Know” by Rolling Stone, “The New Nashville” by Teen Vogue, and one of “2017’s Hottest Artists Under 25” by Taste of Country. Her new single “Two Hands” just premiered on Radio Disney Country and will be followed by a new EP in December 2017. Kalie was also recently inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2018. Playing over 100 shows a year, Kalie’s message of female-empowerment has led to her being called the “next ‘Women of Country’ generation” [CMChat] and a “modern country woman [who will] continue to inspire in 2018” [TasteofCountry.com].
Kalie Shorr is featured in the newly released “Female”, a Keith Urban cover by the all-women Song Suffragettes. Watch the music video here!