At a recent showcase in Nashville, Tenn., Kalie Shorr's performance integrated both versions of her current single, "Awake." One is the country version of the song, which she released at the top of 2018; the other is a re-imagined pop version of the track, which came about after a writing stint in Los Angeles, during which Shorr got the idea to record the song as a duet with former American Idol contestant Jonny Brenns.

The singer is no stranger to pushback from traditionalist fans who criticize her for deviating from the format in her music. "I get pushback ... pretty much every time I put out a song," she says with a shrug. "I think maybe [with the release of the pop version of "Awake"] they were like, 'At least she's calling it pop!'"

Shorr isn't fazed by that kind of criticism: "I'm very secure in the fact that country is my genre, and I want to stay here," she continues. "Honestly, given what it's like for women in country, if I wanted to leave country, I would have done it a long time ago.

"Truthfully, it's because of the lyric. That's just it; that's what makes me stay here," she goes on to say, adding that there's no reason not to take advantage of the genre's current trend toward expanding boundaries.

"I love that we're in a place where we're making it a lot easier to experiment," she notes.

One thing that makes that experimentation easier is the fact that Shorr is an independent artist. "I don't have a label. I really can do something out the box like that," she points out. "My manager and I, when we posted the release, we were like, 'Hashtag why-the-hell-not.' And that's kind of why we did it. We were just like, 'Let's see what happens.'"

When Shorr let go of that desire to placate those who want her music to be different than it is, she realized that both she and her fans benefit. "I just feel like I'm at the point now where I ran out of f--ks to give. I'm not making music for anybody except me and my fans," she explains. "And I think when I make music for me, those are the songs that make the most sense to the fans anyway."

Shorr knows that things could have gone a very different way: She's had enough brushes with the music industry to see a glimpse of how her career might have been different if she'd focused on a different kind of success.

"I know that if I had gotten a deal after [my breakout single] "Fight Like a Girl," I would have gotten caught up in chasing radio," she relates. "You know, would I have ever even tried to be what I want to be? For a minute, I did fall into that. There were some songs, and it's not that I'm not proud of them, I just know that I outgrew them. Quickly.

"I think back on my career, and had I taken that different fork in the road three years ago, I wouldn't be here. And I need to be here. This is who I am," she muses. "This is who I was in high school, and the songs I'm writing now remind me so much of what I was writing in high school."

Still, Shorr adds, she's glad she took the long journey to end up where she is now.

"They say you need to learn the rules before you can break them," she says. "And I think this is more of the 'breaking the rules' point."

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