PORTLAND — When Kalie Shorr moved from Portland to Nashville to pursue a career in music two years ago, no one who knew her was surprised.
That’s because Shorr, now 21, has been serious about making music pretty much her entire life.
She grew up singing in church, sang her first solo when she was 5 years old, and began writing her own songs at 6 as a way “to channel emotions.”
“You remember these moments,” Shorr said during a recent telephone interview from Nashville. “You know it will mean something to you someday.”
Shorr taught herself how to play guitar when she was 12. It was around that time she also began posting performances on YouTube, where she developed a fairly loyal following. According to her website, Shorr now has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube, and 10,000 subscribers.
Shorr said this helped push her out of her comfort zone. While she was in high school, she went to Nashville and met with recording industry executives.
“They all said you have to be in the game to win,” Shorr said. “That was the best advice I’ve gotten.”
Shorr, a member of the Deering High School Class of 2013, moved to Nashville a few months after she graduated. Elizabeth Picone, a childhood friend, said she and others were not surprised when Shorr graduated early to make the move.
“She’s very strong willed,” Picone said. “She’ll do what she needs to do … It wasn’t surprising to any of us when she finally did go.”
Shorr said she grew up listening to country music, and “latched onto it” at an early age. She said her sound has evolved since moving to Nashville; a lot of her songs have messages of confidence and female empowerment. She said she wants to make a conscious effort to create songs that say something, especially to young girls who are listening.
“Everything comes back to being confident,” Shorr said. “Girls spend too much time not seeing what they’re worth.”
Shorr’s move to Nashville was made possible in part by the Raina Jensen Deering High School Memorial Scholarship, which is named after a Deering graduate who died in 2010 in a Massachusetts car crash. Jeanette Davis Jensen, Raina’s mother, administers the Raina Jensen Foundation and said her daughter was “a young woman willing to work for what she wanted” and make a difference in the world, which are qualities she also saw in Shorr.
“She knows how to pull people in,” Jensen said of Shorr. “She lights up the room like my daughter did. … I’m so proud and honored she received my daughter’s scholarship.”
Jensen said she is a “huge supporter” of Shorr’s music, and “always will be.”
Building a country music career, however, isn’t easy.
Shorr said she writes every day, and every Monday she plays the Listening Room Cafe in Nashville with other female songwriters in a group known as the Song Suffragettes. According to her website, she plays more than 200 shows a year, and her music has been featured on PerezHilton.com, Taste Of Country, PopDust, Billboard and NashvilleGab.
She is also working on an eight-song “mixtape” due out in March, with the first single titled “Fight Like a Girl.” She ran a Kickstarter campaign for $3,000 to produce the collection, and raised around $4,500.
When she looks back, Shorr said she doesn’t think living outside Nashville was an option. She said the work and lifestyle is demanding, but it’s a “dream job” that’s paying off.
“(It’s) the best job I could ask for,” she said. “That’s all anyone can ask for in life.”