Song Suffragettes, Nashville Songwriting Collective Behind 'Times Up,' Boosts Work for Music City Women

Song Suffragettes, "Time's Up"
Courtesy Photo

Song Suffragettes, "Time's Up"

The 23 members of Nashville songwriting collective Song Suffragettes who contributed vocals on "Time's Up" have all either experienced some degree of workplace misconduct since arriving here, or offered emotional support to others who have endured it.

The song was self-released at midnight on Thursday by the group, and quickly became the talk of the local music industry, many of whom were hoping that the movement to end harassment would stay in Hollywood.

Adopting the mantra of #LetTheGirlsPlay, Song Suffragettes has become a lifeline for women trying to contend with a Music City full of songwriter nights booked by men who consider one woman on a 10-person bill to be fair representation. The weekly showcase of female talent has resulted in multiple publishing and record deals for some within the group, and many more of the 200 members still find that their writer's round remains the most likely chance of finding any work onstage in a given week.

Billboard interviewed the song's co-writer Kalie Shorr to discuss the impact she has felt the song make since its release. No stranger to spotlighting issues females have within the country music community, her 2016 self-penned hit "Fight Like a Girl" was a call to arms in the direct aftermath of #SaladGate, when a radio consultant said that women artists were the garnish to the lettuce -- in this case, male singers -- within the country music salad. Two years later, the unsigned Shorr hasn't witnessed a lot change within the working environment of country music.

Where did "Time's Up" originate?

We all watched the [Golden Globes] together, wanting to show solidarity with the women who had come out in Hollywood and beyond. I feel like that's when it really hit me that something big was happening. It’s been such an interesting time to watch this reckoning that is happening in the entertainment industry come about, and that night specifically made me felt like this was a moment that I would be telling my [future] daughters about. It led to the idea of trying to put this moment into a song. Lacy Green, a very good friend of mine that I met through Song Suffragettes, and I decided to give it a shot one morning to see if we could pull it off.

What about the moment were you hoping to capture?

We wanted to keep it positive, because I really feel that when you are going through a time like this, strength is so necessary. Everyone knows the nitty gritty of it, and the details that are uncomfortable and sad, and everything involved. We wanted to keep the message positive, while still sticking to a really strong conviction on it.

How important is a group like Song Suffragettes for female artists in Nashville?

Country radio featured solo female artists 10 percent of the time in 2017. Ten percent, when we are 50 percent of the population, which is crazy. We started Song Suffragettes four years ago over the things we saw happening at that time, and we've seen even more things happen since then. Things like TomatoGate lead to some great conversations being started, but we haven't seen a ton of change. We're a group of about 200 girls who play a show every Monday night in Nashville and make an effort to support the women around us. Having that infrastructure of women within the industry is invaluable. When I'm working with a new producer or songwriter, and I'm not completely sure that they only want to work with me, I'll ask [other members] if they have ever worked with them; often, you'll learn that the guy likes to feel your leg while try to write. We're the ones who see it, and these situations are always happening behind closed doors without witnesses.

As a recently announced member of the 2018 CMT Next Women of Country tour, how does it feel to represent a country music outlet that has been much friendlier to female acts in recent years than mainstream country radio?

CMT really makes an effort to be inclusive in who they support. If you were to solely follow country music through the videos that CMT plays regularly, you wouldn't know that there is a problem. We're not saying it has to be a 50/50 split [on radio], but a little bit more opportunity to get to that point would be great. So many of my friends are writing some of the most amazing music that I've heard come out of Nashville in forever, and the labels just aren't releasing it, and when you get to that point you have to take a step back and ask yourself if the same would be true if they were a guy.

What about those who say that there isn't a history of workplace harassment within country music?

I saw this one quote where someone called Nashville "an island of morality," and if you ask me, he had to have had his head buried in the sand of said island. I think there is a definite burying of the truth in Nashville, a refusal to acknowledge that anything is happening here, and anyone who tells you that nothing is happening here is wrong.