Mixing a blend of pop, rock and country, Kalie Shorr is an artist on the rise in today’s country scene. Hailing from the small town of Portland, Maine, the 23 year-old Shorr has been at the forefront of the recent ‘Girl Power’ movement that’s being popularized in Nashville and the country world across the U.S. In 2016 her debut single, “Fight Like A Girl” written shortly after ‘Tomato-Gate’ (an event in which a country radio programmer galvanized female artists as rotten tomatoes), received major airplay on Sirius XM’s The Highway. Shorr is an active member of the Song Suffragettes, a weekly showcase which highlights the works of talented female singer/songwriters in Nashville.
Kalie released her third body of work, Awake, on January 26th. An EP that features her latest single, “Two Hands”, its melodies and riffs echo her many influences from 90’s and early 2000’s rock. A strong lyrical showing as well, the EP is proof to her status as a rising star. Matt Burrill spoke with Kalie about Awake, her current tour, and the path of being a young, unsigned female artist in country music. Check out the exclusive interview below:
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
First off, congrats on the release of Awake. It’s been out for a few weeks now, how has the response been for you so far?
KS: “Thank you! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to release a project, then immediately go on tour and share it with the fans. That doesn’t usually come together until further along in your career. So I’m just really excited to not only release a brand new project, but also bring it out on tour.”
2017 was a big, busy year for you. Now you’ve kicked off 2018 with the CMT Next Women of Country Tour. What has it been like being on the road with your friends RaeLynn and Sara Evans?
KS: “It’s been amazing. We just wrapped up the first run of the tour and now in literally like 10 minutes we’re heading back out on the bus and going to play 3 shows this weekend. We’re really excited about it – the first run was everything I could’ve asked for and more.”
You’ve always been big on meeting your fans and seeing the people that have supported your music. Has this tour been any different?
KS: “It’s been so many more people than I thought. I’ve always been the kind of person who stays to meet everyone after the show to thank everybody personally. To see not only the old fans who have been following you for a long time, but also the new ones too, that’s been really exciting.”
The first leg of the tour brought you up here to the Northeast and back near your home in New England. How was touring so close to home? Any familiar faces?
KS: “It was so much fun! Because not only was I playing for an audience that you get at a normal show, but I had some of my really good friends that I’ve known since middle school. People I grew up going to camp with came out for the show in Medford (Massachusetts), and we all got to hang out on the tour bus together. It was a special night on the tour. I didn’t realize going in how special it would be to be back home.”
I think you really hit it outta the park with ‘Awake’ ! What went into the process of piecing this project together?
KS: “Thank you Matt! Making this record was a completely new creative experience for me, and I’m really proud of the music I made. Since I moved to Nashville, it had been a bit of a curve for me. I grew up playing in rock bands in Maine, but country music was always what I wanted to do. I can’t deny that the rock route had, in a way, delayed the path that I’m on now. You write melodies and lyrics for songs that you grew up listening to, and that was a lot of what my iPod had on it. Having grown up with that in my background, going into this project made it come out as much more “me” than I anything else I had done before. I had taken the time off last summer to find the right sound and right producer to make it something I could be more proud of than anything previous, and we did that.”
The latest single ‘Two Hands” seems to have done well so far on Spotify and Sirius XM’s The Highway, I can tell you’re very proud of it. What’s it been like playing it live and hearing it on the radio?
KS: “We were really excited the other day when we heard it on The Highway while we were on the bus. It’s been really exciting having so much going on at once, like getting to see the fans reactions and being on the road so soon after the release. The song is true to the way that I love, which is “A little bit crazy, a little bit complicated, but always all-in” and that’s just been really exciting to have that out there.”
“I’m also really proud of the video. I went a little bit crazy on it, but the reaction has been very positive. CMT has been so supportive in getting it out there, and I’m so happy that this was the first single off Awake, because that’s really the perfect bridge from my last project and what’s to come from future singles.”
Speaking more about Awake, I know you have a writer-first mentality, which translates nicely into this record and the stories being told in the tracks. Track 4, “Backseat” is one of my personal favorites, and has a compelling story. Tell me more about it.
KS: “”Backseat”was a song that I had been trying to write for a very long time. Some songs, you just have the combination of great people in that room to get it to where it needs to be. With this one, I was with my producer Skip Black and another Song Suffragette Savannah Keyes, and I had been thinking about the title “Backseat” and how we could make it light and playful. Savannah had a pretty rough upbringing, with a single mother. She went through all of that and I was like “What if it was about feeling out of control of your life and your destiny?” – like being a kid and not making your own decisions. So we all just said “Well, let’s go there,” and we did and it was very emotional. we started playing it for people at our live shows and it became a crowd favorite. It feels so good to have it out there because it is 100% my story.”
I know you have quite a few dates left on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour and ‘Two Hands’ out right now. What else can we expect from Kalie Shorr as we continue into 2018?
KS: “All of the above! With this tour it’s just me, my electric guitar, and a pedal-board. That’s been really fun on this tour, but over the summer I’m really looking forward to working playing the new music with a full band, which we’ve only been able to do at the release show in Nashville.”
There has always been a debate over how to define “country”. For an artist who embraces pop and rock influences in your music, how would you answer what “today’s country” is?
KS: “Well I think at the end of the day, no matter what, when I open my mouth it sounds like country music. And that’s always been true. Growing up I listened to a lot of different artists, but my favorite vocalist ever will always be Alison Krauss. So I feel like one of my goals will always be to sound like her and do what she did. But I also liked rock music, and I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with loving more than one genre. Ask fans in the front row of any concert and they’ll probably say the same.”
“For me I grew up in a small town and watched a lot, and went through a lot of different things growing up, and I felt that when I listened to country music, I was understood. There’s a lot of rap music that I like but if it’s a song about “popping champagne and getting on a private jet,” I don’t really do that. For country music it’s always been about telling the true stories. Even in some of the newer more experimental country like Walker Hayes and Sam Hunt, you still here that truth all through their music. And I think at the end of the day that’s what makes it country.”
You’ve been involved with the Song Suffragettes for a while now at the forefront of the ‘Girl Power’ movement in country music. How has that evolved over the years? Do you still participate even though you’ve been on the road?
KS: “Song Suffragettes is really what got me started and gave me a place to find who I was in Nashville. I became a better performer and a better writer and honestly, a better woman, and learned how to support other girls. I’d be lying if I said I never tried to take another girl out because I thought she was my competition. I feel like everybody across the board has done that, but once you get a culture check, in Nashville, it’s just about women supporting each other.”
“You move here and you think it’s supposed to be all cat fights and competition, then you realize it doesn’t have to be, and no one said it did. Song Suffragettes has been an honor to be a part of, and it has grown so much. I hate when I have to take a Monday off, being on the road and stuff. Just seeing how far it’s come from the first show where there were like 15 people in the audience, to now, where it’s selling out every Monday, it’s like watching your baby walk a little bit. I’m still heavily involved – my management team also handles the Suffragettes, so it’s always there.”
Speaking of management, I noticed that you’re still working independently from a record label. What’s that journey been like for you as a young unsigned female artist working in Country Music?
KS: “Well it’s kinda crazy, I don’t think I realized it until this tour, how many people thought I had a record deal, and I had to correct them, like “Oh No, Honey.” It’s equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. The terrifying part is that it’s all your money and you’re paying to be out there, and if you don’t do well you don’t really get another shot. But the exhilarating part is that I get to make my own decisions and do things more creatively the way that I want to. There isn’t a room full of people trying to rein me in all the time. Well,occasionally, my manager does [laughs], but it’s a really exciting thing to do independently because you know that everything you’re doing is all yours.”
“I am such a team player and I really hope that a label comes into play at some point, but right now I’m enjoying the freedom and responsibility. The fact that I am an unsigned female on tour, the fans are the ones who are really keeping it all alive, and I owe so much to them.”
You can check out Awake via the embedded Spotify player below, and find Kalie’s upcoming tour dates on her website.