"Pawn Shop Queen" has been three years in the making, and Long Beach’s Katie Jo is ready to introduce her first solo country album to the public.
“It’s a record that encapsulates a period of time in my life when I had started to write songs,” she said. “I was going through a hard time and the way that I learned to cope was by putting my pen to paper and writing about it.”
Heartbreak, infertility and learning how to process emotions surrounding grief are a few of the topics that inspired this album, she said. The music gives listeners a glimpse into the sadness she’s experienced, with reminders that country music is more than drinking parties and heartbreak.
“When I started, I was playing more bluegrass,” she said. “But I also was listening to more classic and traditional country, so this album is a little more rockin’ and a little more old school country.”
Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn are among the classic artists that Katie Jo said she drew inspiration from while writing. And while her sad, yet upbeat, country tempo tells a story about a dark time in her life, she’s eager to point out that those moments helped shape her positive outlook on life today.
“Part of this record captures what I have dealt with regarding infertility,” she said. “I had a really bad experience with an unplanned pregnancy about six years ago and due to some conditions that I have, it turned into an emergency. I ended up in the hospital and it was a horrible experience.”
She said that she kept that experience to herself, until recently.
“I felt a lot of emotional isolation and confusion,” she said. “But once I started talking about it with other people, I realized there’s so much wrong with the way our world views women and reproductive rights.
“This is something scary and traumatizing, and if people fear backlash or they’re afraid of what others might think of their situation, do you think those people are getting the help they need?”
In an effort to tell her story and that of others, Katie Jo has teamed up with Long Beach radio station KLBP to produce a six episode series to discuss women’s reproductive rights. The program, called “The Making of a Pawn Shop Queen” is expected to air in July.
She also acknowledges that she’s taking a risk by discussing the political topic of women’s fertility rights as a country music singer.
“Playing country music overlaps in a Conservative fan base,” she said. “There’s definitely a risk of people not agreeing or not listening to this music because of that, but I believe that this is the right thing to do.”
Her "Pawn Shop Queen" lyrics lay out her own trauma in the form of a song:
“A precious diamond losing its gleam
Pretty picture in a broken frame
All this grace in a pile of shame
Just waiting to be given away”
But she added that she’s learned how to stand up for herself and not be ashamed of her own past.
“I was nervous at first to share this music and my story,” she said. “But so many people go through this, and it’s on my heart to share this with them.”
"Pawn Shop Queen" will be available for purchase and on most streaming platforms on Monday, April 12. For more information about Katie Jo, go to thekatiejo.com.
Note: This story was updated to correct the status of Loretta Lynn.