31 Days of Women: Kalie Shorr

Credit: Catherine Powell

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Kalie Shorr’s 2019 self-financed debut album Open Book landed on countless year-end lists and was named The New York Times’ No. 7 best album of the year. On Dec. 4, she released the deluxe version, Open Book: Unabridged, which includes four new tracks. The project marks a new chapter for the longtime independent artist as it’s her first album release since signing with New York-based label TMWRK Records in October.

“From the minute I picked the songs for Open Book I was like, ‘I really want to do a deluxe version,’” she says. “I wanted to make the album successful enough that I could justify doing that and putting extra songs on it because, in a way, it is a concept album: It’s written chronologically, it’s all autobiographical, they’re all real stories, there’s no embellishments. It’s my perspective on people and events so I wanted to live in that world a little bit more because I don’t think my next album is going to be nearly as conceptual.”

The project’s first single is the bold “My Voice” where Shorr calls out country radio for not playing enough women. “If you want the radio to play ya/ Make it sweet like a cherry Life Saver/ But they’ll probably never play me cause I’m not a boy/ And guess what I can’t change the sound of my voice,” she sings in the first verse. Shorr admits she almost didn’t send the song to her new label for inclusion on the record.

“That song was so much more of a cathartic thing than it was me writing with the intent to cut it. I wrote it the week before we went into record Open Book April of 2019,” she says. “I’d already picked the songs for Open Book so I was just writing. We weren’t thinking about what other people were going to think … the mindset of that song and having written it, it gave me more confidence going into record Open Book because when I went to record I hadn’t had any of the validation for it yet. Now, in retrospect, I’m so proud of it. I sing the songs differently. That song was a huge part of me getting that first wave of confidence to go record the record.”

An outspoken advocate for equal representation within country music, Shorr has been sharing her perspective on the matter since she released “Fight Like a Girl” in 2015. While Shorr says the genre has had big moments recently with the success of Gabby Barrett’s No. 1 single “I Hope” and Ingrid Andress’ GRAMMY-nominated “More Hearts Than Mine,” there is still more to be done.

“I don’t think we’ve had a complete overturn of the system that’s been oppressing women and especially Black artists. I always want to mention that these days because of the facts and figures surrounding that are 10 times worse than anything having to do with white women,” she says. “I think that probably one of the places that has really, really improved is artists being able to talk about it. That is probably the biggest area of improvement I see when it comes to advocating for women in Nashville.”

For more of my interview with Kalie Shorr, visit Forbes. Her new single, “Amy,” is out now.