Lola Kirke
Alexa King Stone

Move Over, Bro Country. On Lola Kirke's 'Country Curious,' Women Act Up — And Take Charge

The EP features a duet with Kirke's mentor, Rosanne Cash.

When Lola Kirke moved to Nashville in 2020, she added a new kind of country music to her long list of loves in the genre: bro country. Then she started to wonder, what would it sound like if a girl sang those songs?

Tongue firmly in her cheek, she decided to see for herself: bro country, but make it feminist.

Country Curious, Kirke's third studio album, out February 16, is a tidy, four-song, country romp. Borrowing bro country's beat and energy, it's as much inspired by women country power ballads of the '90s (Martina McBride's "Independence Day" and Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine").

"I actually realized I f—-ing love corny shit," Kirke says. "And I think a lot of the kind of corniness in some great country music is just really accurate and true, and when a good country song is able to express a very complicated sentiment in a very simple way."

Bro country songs are often about men behaving badly. In Kirke's music, the women take charge, owning moments of unapologetic fun and freedom. They're acting up only in the eyes of a world where rigid gender norms prevail.

Delivered in Kirke's unwaveringly powerful, husky voice, Country Curious' four tracks span immense musical range. Starting off with the folky, loping "All My Exes Live in L.A.," an homage to George Strait and duet with Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, Kirke hits the road for a new life. Next, "He Says Y'All," picks up the beat and twang, as Kirke coyly, joyfully makes fun of her taste in men and claps back at anyone who might question if she, a London-born New Yorker, can make country music.

"I guess I just wanted to make plain I'm not pretending I'm Southern, I just like the music," Kirke says. "So I wanted to write about why someone might be drawn to a world that they are not necessarily from. And I think for a lot of people, the inroad is often love."

Lola Kirke

Mama Hot Dog

By the album's third track, "My House," a high-octane, girl-power ode to owning your one space, Kirke's reached peak liberation, singing:

C'mon to my house/ It's all mine now/ I can do whatever I wanna / Call up the strippers / Take 'em to dinner / And sing out loud 'til the morning/ Shed a couple of tears/ Shotgun a thousand beers

Coming off the high of "My House," Kirke ends the album on a bittersweet note with "Karma," a sultry, wistful duet with Rosanne Cash. By far the album's slowest track, "Karma" gathers up the emotions from the album's previous tracks, plaiting them together into a deft, lilting serenade to payback.

Kirke, who reckons she's lived a somewhat charmed life, first connected with Cash when a psychic told her to listen to Seven Year Ache, Cash's 1981 GRAMMY-nominated album, which inspired Kirke's 2022 album, Lady for Sale. Not long after, Cash recruited Kirke to be a part of an unreleased musical adaptation.

Kirke discovered country music "through the back door," as she puts it. The daughter of rock drummer Simone Kirke (Bad Company, Free), she grew up in New York City, where she befriended now-country singer Elle King, who produced Country Curious. Through the vast, loosely organized territory of now-defunct peer-to-peer music sharing service LimeWire, musical wanderlust lead her from classic rock and roll to Laurel Canyon rock, to Graham Parsons and to traditional country music.

Soon she was deep in music by Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. Picking up first a ukulele ("Back in 2008, they kind of just gave them to you, if you had tiny bangs") then guitar, Kirke started to play, too, looking to classics like Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" as early musical primers.

Kirke, who's an actress too - she starred in Mozart in the Jungle and Mistress America alongside Greta Gerwig - loved the dynamism, emotional depth, and characters of country music. When she 'accidentally' moved to Nashville during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, she began listening to the Judds, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, and Miranda Lambert, and country music hooked her all over again.

"I think the art of the country song is to make that all sound incredibly simple, like anyone could do it," Kirke says. "The truth is, now that I've tried eight million times to write a perfect country song, I realized that's so hard."

And now, the same day Kirke releases her most country album to date, she'll step foot on country music's most storied stage, making her Grand Ole Opry debut wearing a dress that belonged to country music granddame June Carter Cash.

The dress, was a surprise gift from Rosanne Cash. Last November, minutes after receiving the news from Cash that she'd been invited to the Opry, Kirke filmed herself opening the box, which Cash arranged to have dropped off on Kirke's porch. In the video, Kirke kneels down to lift the shimmery gold sequin and tassel number out of the box, visibly choked up by its significance.

"It's in my closet right now. Sometimes I go and I just look at it. And then I cover it back up," Kirke says. "[Opening] it was shocking. I completely could not believe what was in the house. It felt like I was holding a piece of history."

Kirke's acutely and good-naturedly aware that she's not necessarily who people expect to make country music. But she sees it as an opportunity to share the genre's manifold iterations with more people. And as for the things people might say? She's already thought every bad thing herself, thanks to a case of imposter syndrome, which she's working to channel into love.

"I wanted to be able to introduce this thing that I love to people who might not listen to it otherwise," she says. "Maybe that's giving me myself a lot of credit, because I don't know how many people are gonna trust me anyway, but for those that will, I offer you some country music."

READ MORE: Brennen Leigh is Obsessed with the Golden Era of Nashville. She Wants You to be Too.