'Polished pop country with a feminist streak': Portland singer makes a splash in Nashville

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PORTLAND — It was a self-described “wow” moment for Kalie Shorr.

The graduate of Deering High School made a recent Rolling Stone magazine list of new country artists to know – a sign the 22-year-old is making a real mark in Nashville.

According to Rolling Stone, Shorr’s anthem “Fight Like a Girl” was “one of the best-selling debut tracks from a female country singer in 2016.”

The magazine described the song, the first to be released from Shorr’s independent debut record, as “a pop-country stunner that turned the titular insult into a rallying cry of strength.”

Overall, Rolling Stone called Shorr’s music “polished pop country with a feminist streak, with youthful energy and wit to spare.”

Shorr wrote “Fight Like a Girl” with friends and fellow artists Hailey Steele and Lena Stone, and said the song grew out of her experiences in Nashville.

She told Rolling Stone that, “all of us had separately gone into some stuffy Music Row office and had some person in a suit be like, ‘You’re so great, but we’ve already got a girl.’ Being a female is not a sub-genre. We wrote about that and it turned into something so much bigger.”

What has also thrilled Shorr about the success of her song, she said, is “the way people have taken it and interpreted it and attached it to their own stories,” which has made it “so much bigger than my problems with the music industry.”

Shorr never wanted to be anything other than a country music singer and all of her effort, from the age of 6, went toward improving her singing, learning to play the guitar and, once she was old enough, working two jobs to save for the move to Nashville.

She moved to the Music City soon after graduating from high school in 2013 and this week said it “was definitely a leap of faith. I gave up a lot my senior year of high school to pull off that move. Other kids were going to football games, I was working two jobs to save up. Then once I got to Nashville I had a slew of odd jobs that I did to make ends meet.”

But, Shorr said, “I am so thankful for those days because now that I make a living doing nothing but music, it gives me perspective.” Her advice to anyone wanting to make it in show business is to never give up.

“(That’s) a cliche, but it’s so true,” she said. “I really like to think that if you work hard, stay positive, stay focused and endure, success will always come your way. I have yet to see an example where those things didn’t turn into success.”

Shorr said she cried when she saw herself included in Rolling Stone.

“It was such a cool day,” she said. “It was such an amazing moment. I work really hard and sometimes forget to celebrate, and a lot of times in the music industry progress comes in the form of a coffee meeting, or a vague opportunity, but that was such a tangible ‘wow’ moment.”

Shorr describes her music as “country structure with pop melodies and a lot of rock influence. You can definitely tell I grew up listening to the Dixie Chicks, Michelle Branch, the Goo Goo Dolls and Nirvana.”

She said she hopes the other songs on her debut record will get as positive a response as “Fight Like a Girl.” She dropped a brand new song, “Slingshot,” on March 3; it’s available wherever digital music is sold, Shorr said.

Her mother, two brothers and most of her extended family all still live in Portland and Shorr credits her mother with first introducing her to music.

“My mom used to sing and book singers to do the national anthem at the now defunct Portland Wave,” Shorr said. “I went with her to work and heard the anthem so many times that eventually I picked it up and asked to sing it. So at 2 years old I got up and sang the national anthem in front of a crowd. I started writing songs at around 6, picked up guitar at 11 and I’ve been doing it all ever since.”

In addition to the guitar, Shorr also plays the mandolin “and a little piano.” There is nothing typical about her days, she said, although any day that she’s not on the road she can be found writing new material.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Portland native Kalie Shorr is making it as a country music artist. She now lives in Nashville and made Rolling Stone’s most recent list of new country artists to watch.

Kalie Shorr’s music career got its start in her hometown, singing with the church choir and creating a following on YouTube.