10 Questions with ... Kelsea Ballerini
January 31, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Kelsea Ballerini hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, where she grew up listening to Pop and Country music. She drew inspiration from artists such as Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, and Rascal Flatts. Ballerini turned to songwriting when she was 12 to help her overcome her parents' divorce; she found strength and comfort in her writing. She moved to Nashville to pursue music at age 15, and with stubborn determination she met with everybody she could on Music Row. In 2013 Kelsea signed a publishing deal with Black River Publishing, and that December she was offered a record deal with Black River Entertainment.
After dropping her major debut album, "The First Time," taking her single, "Love Me Like You Mean It," to number one in the summer of 2015, being nominated for two CMA Awards, and receiving the Rising Star Award at Billboard's Women In Music event, Kelsea is slated to hit the road with Billy Currington on his upcoming, "Summer Forever Tour." On the heels of her incredible 2015 and selection to CRS 2016 "New Faces" show, Kelsea sat down with All Access Nashville Editorial Assistant Briana Galluccio to discuss her accomplishments and what is on the horizon for 2016.
1. Hi, Kelsea! Thank you for taking the time to talk to All Access. You've been voted in to the "New Faces" showcase for CRS 2016, and while you've played to most of this cast of characters before during your radio tour, this setting will be a bit different. Can you tell us what it means to you to be chosen to play this show, and how you will prepare for this performance?
Well, it's a big deal because A, it's in front of basically all of Country radio, but B, they are the ones that picked the five of us to see, and that's a huge honor that out of everyone in Country music they wanted to see the five of us. You know, I've gotten to do shows with these stations and their markets, so for me it means, what can I do different and what can I do that they haven't seen yet, and that's been a kind of fun thing to plan for.
2. Where were you when you found out that you had been selected to perform at CRS 2016 New Faces, and how did you react?
I was actually home, and someone called me-I don't remember who called me. I remember I went to the "New Faces" show the past 2 years, and every year I make a goal list, and this year it was on my goal list to be a part of the show this year, because I just remember sitting in the audience the last two years and watching Sam Hunt, Brett Eldredge, all these people, just blow it out of the water and just blow people away, and I was like, I just so want to do that... I want to try to do that. And so for me, that was a big goal because I've gotten to see it.
3. You grew up in East Tennessee. What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Who would you cite as your biggest musical influences, and what genres-if any-do you pull from when creating your own music?
I've always listened to everything - every genre. I just like knowing what's going on in music in general. My first concert was Britney Spears, so I've always loved Bubble Gum Pop; it's always been something that I've had a love for. My early memories of Country music are Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and Martina McBride... Those are like my staples in Country music from being a young girl.
4. Much has been made about the absence of females on Country radio in recent years. In your opinion, what is the key to getting more women integrated back in to Country radio, and how do you think you are playing or will play a role in that?
I think that there's a time for everything. I remember someone told me when I moved to Nashville that it kind of works like a pendulum, so like, one hugely successful guy will launch and then a bunch of guys will launch after him, and then a huge group will launch and a bunch of groups will launch. I think that the last few years, it's just been really successful for men, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I think that right now we're just kind of experiencing the pendulum swinging back over for women and it's been really cool to be part of that with Maddie & Tae and Cam and Mickey [Guyton], because we're all kind of, you know, doing it at the same time, and I think that it's not that there was like a lack; I think it's that men were thriving, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's cool to see women kind of do our thing right now.
5. You're only 22 and you've already done and achieved so much. You recently received the Rising Star Award at Billboard's Women In Music event in December, and you were just named Radio Disney's "Next Big Thing," which showcases young artists' journeys as they turn their dreams into careers. What does this all mean to you?
It's amazing. I really love also, with both the Billboard event and the Radio Disney thing, being able to represent Country in rooms with every other genre. Like with the Billboard event, it was me and Loretta Lynn, and everybody else was from other genres, and it was just so cool to be able to be the Nashville girl there. And same with Radio Disney "The Next Big Thing." It's so cool to be able to be the Country music artist on Disney Channel. That's cool to me and I'm so proud of that.
6. "Love Me Like You Mean It" was your first single and it hit #1 back in June, and by the end of the summer it was already a Gold certified record. Do you remember where you were the first time you found out you had the #1 song and what did it feel like?
I was on my bus, and I remember that was the week where it was sitting at #2 and we were either going to make it or we weren't, so I was trying to prepare for both. But I got a call and I don't know, just hearing the words, "You have the number one song in country music..." You really can't prepare for that emotionally. And I just remember bawling my face off. And there's a video. It not only was just my first number one song, it was like as an artist, as a songwriter with my cowriters with my producer, and my label-It was all of our first number one. It was just this massive victory. We felt like the under dogs. It was just this really cool moment for us as a team, where we really just had a victory.
7. You also were nominated for a couple CMAs - for Female Vocalist Of the Year as well as New Artist Of The Year. And you got to perform at the CMAs. What was all of that like for you?
It's cool. You know, I always say, I sat in section 204 the year before, and so the fact that I even got to put on the dress, walk the carpet, and sit down in the front was a big deal to me. To be nominated for New Artist and especially for Female Vocalist, and then to be able to perform, it was like a complete 180 from the year before. It was just cool to be a part of. Those award shows are like the epitome of Country music, and to be able to be a part of that this year is pretty cool.
8. Coming off of a stellar 2015, you've started 2016 strong, being named to the New Faces show at CRS. Your second single, "Dibs" continues to climb the charts. What can you tell us about your plans for 2016?
So, "Dibs" is Top 10 this week so I'm stoked about it. I'm starting touring again this week. I have GMA and Seth Meyers this week and then I start on the Billy Currington Tour and then I go to Australia. Then we have another tour in the summer. Then releasing the next single. It's going to be a busy year, but I'm really excited for it.
9. You've been "the young one" on a few tours now. Who did/do you look up to and what kinds of things did you learn?
I've always been drawn to Production. I've always been drawn to the bells and whistles of a show, because those were always the shows that I wanted to put on one day, so obviously Taylor [Swift]. I've watched a lot of Pop acts that put on tours that I love, just because they have so many elements that are like a show. You know, Beyoncé obviously, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake. But that's one thing I love about Rascal Flatts is I've seen a lot of their tours, and they always have really cool things. They pop out from under the stage, they have cool pyro, and they have elements of show.
10. After countless radio shows, is there a thing that radio does not know about you that you can-or would like to-share here?
Gosh, I don't know. I feel like I'm the most open book in the whole world. But maybe that's what they don't know, is that I'm the biggest open book. It's super important to me and it has been from the beginning, to be consistently the same person, like the same person that gets to play a show is the same person that is out at dinner in Nashville. There's a consistency that I really want to be there. That way I feel like nobody is ever disappointed.
Taylor swift brought you out on stage as a guest at one of her Nashville shows on her "1989 Tour." You've said before that you've always looked up to Taylor. What was that experience like for you?
Oh my gosh it was amazing! Taylor for me... I remember being 12 and going to buy her first record. As like a young, blond, singer songwriter, I mean, she was the one to look up to. She was the girl that wrote her own songs, and for me that's what I wanted to be, and so you know, I've watched her and her career so closely and I always just really looked up to her. I met her as a fan a lot and she tweeted about my EP before "Love Me [Like You Mean It]" was even charted, and has just kind of taken me under her wing a little bit. To have someone that I'm truly such a huge fan of become someone who just encourages me and is awesome as a person, is a really cool thing.