Music gives us the validation we often look for in other people. I was sixteen when I went to Nashville, searching for something, anything, to tell me that everything was going to work out. As a teenager, we’re automatically labeled as misunderstood or angry, sad, and that everything is supposed to be water under the bridge. Sometimes, we’re not old enough to have real problems. I went looking for my own solutions to problems people don’t like to talk about. I was with my mom in a crowded cafe when I found one of my answers.
People can find and listen to a lot of lyrics that they relate to, but finding an artist, another human being to relate to is a whole other genre. I was sixteen when I met Kalie Shorr at the Listening Room Cafe in Nashville. Despite all that Shorr has gone through within the past year, she keeps a self deprecating, witty sense of humor, and performs with the mindset that the founding of the Song Suffragettes will not even be close to her greatest achievement. At 25, Shorr released her debut album “Open Book” after ending a relationship of six years, and coping with her older sisters passing due to a heroin overdose. My mom and I found ourselves at this show last minute, and I think we do the greatest things, meet the greatest people when we’re supposed to be on our way to something better. One of the songs Shorr played that night was off of “Open Book” called “Big Houses.” One of the best on the album, it’s raw and real as country music is often described as. But hearing Shorr describe her relationship with her mom, wanting something more for the both of them, it resonated with me. After hearing the song on the album, I can’t shake the feeling when I heard it for the first time, tears threatening to spill out of the crowd’s eyes. She sang about fantasizing about living in big houses, thinking that everything would be better if they had better. Coming from a small town in New Jersey, I wanted the same things Shorr sings about. After leaving an in denial abuser and moving further south to Maryland, my mom and I made that life for us, because as Shorr says, my wonder woman is my superman too.
Every artist has one thing they’re known for other than the songs they sing. Michael Jackson had the glove, John Lennon had the glasses, and Kalie Shorr has the self deprecating humor that somehow, at the same time, makes someone feel less alone. Shorr’s song “Gatsby” shines light on all things bad in the most positive way possible. From having a weird relationship with her dad, to drinking wine out of the bottle because she didn’t feel like doing the dishes. The whole album is one that would comfort anyone, rectifying childhood issues before becoming the embodiment of them, unhealthy coping mechanisms, truly all the good, the bad, and the ugly. She hits on things we all have/deal with on a daily basis and the things or people that distract us from ourselves. We’re magnetized to things that aren’t good for us, for some it’s different substances and for others it’s the toxic relationships that could kill us faster than anything else.
Turning seventeen doesn’t change much. I still go to school, I already have my license, but everything becomes a little more stressful. Talking with Shorr on social media on a consistent basis, I truly have no doubt that her releasing her album the same week as my birthday was meant to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, starting in a suffocating small town, to me suffocating in my own mind practically rendering me helpless constantly by the time I reached high school. After seeing Shorr in Nashville, I acquired a new kind of hope. A month prior to my trip, I started taking medication for my anxiety (because therapy doesn’t always work) , worsened the relationship with my father, and questioned who was really on my side. Shorr encouraged me to do better, truly believing that I could. I can’t say that my anxiety has gone away or that my dad is even a character in my own open book, but Shorr is. Kalie Shorr has been the opener for small scale shows, but the messages she sends in her music could fill a stadium. If Shorr can be an open book, then there’s a story to be heard, and maybe just maybe, it’ll inspire someone else to share theirs.
Lyrics Worth Noting
“We would judge everyone else, like we were spotless//shiny and polished, this house is dishonest”
“Before you know it, every bottle says drink me, before you know it, you’re gonna start shrinking/ he’ll make you feel small/ and there’s so far to fall/ when you’re loving a mad man/ so hey Alice, how’s wonderland?
“I stopped listening to the little voices inside my head/ the angel fell right off my shoulder, and the devil’s paying rent/ Maker’s is my therapist, my best friend’s a cigarette/ I’ve been taking advice from my vices”