Exclusive Interview: Catching Up with Kelsea Ballerini


It had been way too long since I sat down with one of my favorite ladies in the industry, Kelsea Ballerini, and talked all things music. The first time (see what I did there?) we ever did an interview together was over a year ago and things had just started to pick up for the singer-songwriter. Her debut single “Love Me Like You Mean It” was heading to terrestrial radio; her EP was coming out; her dreams were taking shape before her, but she hadn’t quite stepped all the way into the haze.

That was then; this is now.

Kelsea and I sat down to catch up and reminisce on 2015 — the year that her life truly changed and her future took shape before our very eyes. What a surreal conversation it was, considering I remember quite clearly where she was just twelve months ago.

It’s been a crazy year! I really do feel like every day or week there’s something that happens that I’m like “what?!” I just can’t believe I get to be a part of things that I get to be a part of, honestly, and it’s really cool that this early on I’ve had two singles on the radio and I’ve been nominated for stuff. That’s insane to me still! It’s fun to start learning the ropes!

Learning the ropes was something Kelsea was catapulted into rather quickly, as her career accelerated so fast, she is still watching the cloud of dust settle behind her.

I’ve definitely never been so busy in my life. Honestly, everything’s changed. . . . As far as being able to go to awards shows, and hearing my song on the radio, and I don’t know, literally everything’s changed. Being able to get in the room with cool writers and being able to talk to, get advice from artists I looked up to for a long time, little things like that are really cool.

Another thing that can be classified as “really cool” that happened for Kelsea is experiencing a Number 1 song. Her gold record, “Love Me Like You Mean It”, soared to the top of the country music charts in July, making Kelsea the first solo female since Carrie Underwood to have a debut go Number 1. While having a Number 1 song on radio is meaningful enough, Kelsea was able to bask in the glory twofold, as she is not only the artist on the record, but a writer on the track (and of all the songs on her debut album, The First Time).

Having a song with your voice on it that people have heard that many times, that makes me proud as an artist, but hearing a song that you wrote that people have heard that many times, that’s really precious because it comes from you and the people you wrote it with. It’s something that you created together, truly from the beginning. So, to have that creation be heard by people, it’s a treat. I take such pride in being a songwriter, having written everything on my record, it makes me want to put it out and get it heard even more.

So, what’s a girl to do when she is overcome with that amount of pride?

Oh, I ugly cried! . . . There’s just something about them saying “you have the Number 1 song in country music this week.” Like, that’s a BIG DEAL. So, yeah, I ugly cried. It was really special too because it wasn’t just my first Number 1 as an artist and writer, but it was my label’s first Number 1, producer’s first Number 1, writers’ first Number 1. It was such a huge team victory. It was really special.

As a Number 1 artist, Kelsea’s songs have been spun on radio tens of thousands of times. With that being said, you would expect that perhaps Kelsea has gotten used to jumping in her car and hearing her own voice boom through the speakers; but that’s not so. In fact, it still surprises her to this day if she catches herself being played.

Hearing my song on the radio still. It’s weird, I never catch it so it’s still a very new feeling. That’s pretty crazy.

Other things Kelsea describes as “crazy”, “insane”, “cool”, and “amazing” and are land-marking career moments for one of the brightest stars of 2015 include: performing at the Grand Ole Opry; being nominated for New Artist and Female Vocalist at the CMA Awards; getting Billboard’s Women in Music Rising Star Award; singing with Taylor Swift; and so much more. Kelsea shared her feelings on her inclusion on the Billboard Women in Music list, explaining how special it is to be amongst those being honored.

It’s really cool because I, I don’t know, I’m so big on women empowering women. I think it’s a big deal, and to be with that group of women that are in every genre that are women that I look up to. I don’t know, to be in that group is really, really cool. And Ariana Grande got that award last year! Like what?!

With 2015 being so incredibly life-changing for Kelsea, it brings into question how 2016 can meet or beat her breakout year. Well, don’t worry — Kelsea is deep into plan mode and is ready to conquer her next 365 days in true superstar fashion. For starters, Kelsea has a new single that will be released after “Dibs” runs its radio course; one that she can’t quite reveal just yet.

Oh, I’m so excited. I can’t even tell you how excited I am! . . . I really wanted to give stuff up front that was easy to listen to and then I really wanted to add some depth. I am a songwriter and I want people to know that.

Also on the books for early in the new year is a performance at Country Radio Seminar‘s (“CRS“) coveted New Faces showcase. The show is reserved for the artists who country radio foresees as being the next big things in the industry, and also would give way for Kelsea to share some new material…if she so chose.

I definitely am working on new music and I don’t know when we are going to start bringing it out because I definitely want to keep getting songs off “The First Time”, as many as I can, but that might be a time to start giving some glimpses into some new stuff.

As for the rest of 2016 and moving forward, it only made sense for Kelsea and I to revisit the topic of discussion that has become a little anecdote between us since October 2014: her career goal of entering a stage on a hydraulic lift.

Oh my gosh, I got to do it!

Luckily, Kelsea sees further into the future, as well, and there are many more things she would like to accomplish, beginning with the aforementioned New Faces appearance.

It’s really funny! I really do have a goal list and New Faces was on it for this year, so that was a huge one . . . I freaked out when I found out that I got that. But yeah, I mean, I keep adding stuff because, honestly, the more I get into the music industry, the more I learn about, and so I can kind of create new goals, but New Faces is definitely one that I’m stoked about.

Also in the pipe is Kelsea’s sophomore album, one that she has been writing and planning for, though it doesn’t have a timeline on it at the moment. Kelsea will also be back on the road in 2016, with tour dates being booked at this time and an announcement to come once her calendar is set. In the mean time, if you will be in Nashville on December 31, 2015 and want to see Kelsea just before she rings in the next year of her successful career, she will be performing downtown with Kings of Leon at the Music City New Year’s Eve Bash on Broadway.

Just thinking about all of Kelsea’s achievements and appearances was mentally exhausting; I cannot even imagine walking a day in her stilettos. However, from a media perspective and as someone who saw the potential in Kelsea before everything took off for her, I would run a marathon in those stilettos to continue taking this journey with her. To this day, they do not get kinder, sweeter, and more humble than Kelsea Ballerini, and it makes me love what I do more each time I am able to connect with her because she is a glowing example of a genuine person who appreciates every ounce of support she receives, even with the outpouring of accolades.

Thank you to Kelsea for taking time out of a hectic life to catch up with me, and I can’t wait to do it again next year when you are ruling the world! Love you, mean it!

Make sure you are following Kelsea Ballerini on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and if you haven’t already, head over to iTunes and pick up her album “The First Time”, which includes twelve songs — all of which she had a hand in writing.