Alex Kline grew up without a country station available to her. Raised in Minneapolis, the singer/songwriter and producer listened to whatever her parents had on. When they moved to the Bay Area in her teen years, it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers that drove her to music. Beginning with “Under the Bridge,” she convinced her parents to buy her a cheap acoustic guitar.
“When The Chicks crossed over radio with “Wide Open Spaces,” I was struck by what great instrumentalists they were,” the 36-year-old tells American Songwriter over the phone. “By that time in high school, I had started writing songs. So when I started playing guitar, I realized I could combine those two loves.”
Hesitant to leave the Golden State after high school, Kline saw an opportunity on the East Coast and transferred from Sonoma State to Berklee College of Music in Boston. When she selected songwriting as her major, Kline did not yet have her sights set on Nashville. It was a spring break trip with the school that shifted her sails.
“I had never even been to the South, so I couldn’t imagine that I would come and fall in love with this city,” she says. “Coming off a cold winter in Boston, people were friendly and the weather was warm. We saw the Opry and Ocean Way. They held clinics at Warner Brothers. But the thing that got me, Charlie Worsham held an alumni show, which to this day was maybe the best show period at the Station Inn.”
She continues, “Gillian Welch played and I was just getting into that Americana left-of-center, Patty Griffin stuff. So the venue, her and David [Rawlings], it was life-changing— nothing short of a magical experience.”
When she arrived in Music City in 2008, Kline had no intentions of producing. In fact, the opportunity blossomed out of financial necessity.
In 2010, she met the Arciero sisters and formed The Lunabelles, an all-women country band. Kline played lead guitar, banjo, dobro, and mandolin. The group landed a Top 50 hit single with “A Place to Shine” as a signed act with Sony Music Nashville.
“We ended up breaking up like most bands do,” she laughs. “But doing the artist thing for a while, as a producer now, it’s invaluable experience. Seeing the inception of a record deal, writing, A&R meetings, I saw how unglamorous a lot of it is. There were cool moments I wouldn’t trade, but I realized I was happiest when I was home creating. My end goal was not living on a bus 200 days a year.”
Understanding this, she was able to focus on what she came to Nashville to do. While honing her craft, she found that a decent demo was running nearly $900.
“I needed something minimal to get the point across,” Kline explains. She bought Logic Pro and a cheap microphone, and slowly started to grow from there, working on her own demos, and then others.
When her friend Erin Enderlin approached her about producing an EP for her, she was surprised. “That was the moment I realized someone considered me a producer, and she saw it before me,” Kline recalls.
Enderlin’s EP, I Let Her Talk, got the artist onto the Opry stage—a life goal of hers. And as her producer, Kline went up on stage with her.
“Being a part of her journey, having her dreams come true, I was addicted,” she says.
In 2014, Kline signed a co-venture with Enderlin’s company 10,000 Hours and Reba McEntire’s Starstruck Publishing. Kline’s extensive success as a songwriter includes Ronnie Dunn’s “Damn Drunk,” Reba McEntire’s “The Bar Is Getting Lower,” Mitchell Tenpenny’s “I Get the Picture,” Gary Allan’s “Slide,” Bill Anderson & Meghan Patrick’s “Praying Right,” Mason Ramsey’s “On My Way,” and countless others.
While writing for Starstruck Entertainment, she continued producing music, becoming one of the few women to take the lead on production in the Nashville music community. She further developed this role producing albums for Terri Clark, Tara Thompson, Erin Enderlin, and Australian artist Adam Brand, who was Male Artist of The Year in 2018 and whose record “Get On Your Feet” was certified No.1. Taking her business to the next level, Kline established Alex Kline Entertainment in 2018. Additionally, she has produced sides for Maggie Rose, John King, and Riser House Recording artist, Logan Murrell.
But in April 2021, Kline’s efforts coalesced into a triumph when she made history as the first female to solely produce a No.1 country radio hit—Tenille Art’s “Somebody Like That.” The full-blown female outfit was complete with their co-writer, Allison Cruz.
“It’s obvious that it’s a man’s world when it comes to production. Looking around town, it’s glaring,” she says of the feat. When a colleague told her she would be the first to make it happen for years, she doubted she would be the one to make it happen. Kline believes there is a perspective the male-dominated music industry misses out on.
“I believe at least 50 percent, if not more, of the country music fan base is women, so it’s helpful for everyone to have women more involved,” she says. “There is a different vantage point that men and women have, not to say one is better but different. When I’m in a room with just other men, they might think they’re writing a song women want to hear, and sometimes I tell them I don’t hear that. They appreciate it.”
Her goal moving forward from this historic feat is to continue the conversation surrounding representation. According to Forbes, less than 3% of music producers are women. The gender differences within individual songs are even more drastic. For example, 56% of popular songs have no female writer. Less than one percent have only female writers.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Kline. “And when you don’t see people that look like you in your space or industry, you don’t know what opportunities are available to you.”
Her greatest strength, she says, is that she is “a guitar player first.” Kline also plays banjo, dobro, mandolin, bass, lap steel, and piano and often plays on the records she produces. Kline continues, “So I can speak the language with the artist. A lot of my production is me playing. Tenille’s single is mostly my demo, with my guitar overdubbed by session electric guitar. My style is sitting my studio and messing around with sounds. Some of the time, I’ll end up keeping a lot of what I did into the studio, having session players re-do it with that blueprint in mind.”
Kline’s 2021 projects in development include writing and producing the follow-up to Arts’ Love, Heartbreak & Everything in Between album and producing Stephanie Quayle‘s forthcoming album featuring her latest single, “Wild Frontier.”
“Even after a number one, I have plenty to learn. I don’t know if I feel like I’ll ever arrive, but I think that’s good for growth,” says Kline. Her advice to aspiring female producers include a “a willingness to learn from other people.” She adds, “Getting together with your friends to see how they’re doing things can be helpful and inspiring.”
Listen to Tenille Arts’ “Somebody Like That” below. Keep up with Alex Kline here.