Kalie Shorr Voices Music Row’s Guilty Conscience in “My Voice”

Kalie Shorr started out trying to become a pop country starlet, and has now become one of the most pointed voices of dissent in Nashville. Starting with her previous album Open Book in 2019, the gloves came off, and so did the filter, and now Kalie Shorr is like the embodiment of mainstream country’s guilty conscience coming to life, giving a voice to all of its sins.

No, this is not country, and not even close. As Kalie Shorr says in this new song, “too rock for country, too country for punk.” Though really what you have here is a version of power pop that Kalie Shorr has perfected for herself in the extrajudicial realm outside of Music Row’s grasp.

But what it sounds like is not really the discussion point here. This isn’t a recommendation for your traditional country playlist or “Twang Tuesdays” podcast. With Shorr’s first track release since signing with tmwrk Records, she takes Nashville to task over a litany of grievances and tells it like it is in a manner that’s not only refreshing, it’s unprecedented from the pop country realm.

Written a week before she went into the studio to record Open Book, and imbued with her experiences within the insular country music industry, there are many lines in the song you can pick out and pump your fist to. “Sugar’s for suckers, and tricks are for kids, pretended that I liked it, but I never did,” Shorr says of mainstream country’s radio fare. “If you want the radio to play ya, make it sweet like a cherry Life Saver.”

She continues, “If I stick to the script when I’m talkin’, sit on some laps then my song’ll go top ten. Nashville’s cranking out Chryslers just like it’s Detroit,” likely driving nails in the coffin of her major Nashville record label and mainstream radio play prospects, but getting the last laugh, and word in edgewise.

Usually such pointed observations are reserved for the grizzly, bearded denizens of Outlaw and underground country. But in this case, the Nashville pop influence has built a monster that has turned against it. It’s breaking new ground in the effort to save country music where the criticisms are now coming from inside the belly of the beast.

And unlike some mainstream artists such as Kacey Musgraves or Maren Morris who’ve used their platforms to question the status quo, but roll off the edge, or get lauded for taking bold leadership when really they’re engaging in elements of social conformity like singing about smoking pot, Kalie Shorr is showing the signs of true protest, which is hanging your ass out there to speak the truth everyone else knows, but few have the guts, or frankly, the freedom to say without significantly damaging their careers.

Kalie Shorr never really had a mainstream country career, so she has nothing to lose. And now she’s out to build a career out of the ashes of her dreams, using the adversity she experienced as inspiration and fuel as opposed to elements of oppression and excuses for failure. Though the sound might be pop, this is exactly what the Outlaws did back in the 70’s, turning country music on its head, and what so many independent artists have done in the modern era to launch massive careers without the assistance of radio play.

Mainstream country has now become so monochromatic, even some pop-influenced artists are looking for alternative avenues forward where they get to be themselves instead of being shoved into a mold. There are opportunities for massive success in this realm like we’ve seen from artists like Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and Cody Jinks. Radio play is not the only way forward, which is usually where the argument resides when it comes to women in country. Being honest and unique, and building an audience up from the grass roots is another.

Kalie Shorr may not be your next favorite artist, but she is certainly making things a lot more interesting on the pop side of country. “My Voice” is part of an expanded version of Kalie Shorr’s recent album called Open Book: Unabridged, which will be released soon.

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