Kelsea Ballerini on Songwriting, Inspiration, and hoping to Empower Young Women

Kelsea Ballerini is an absolute powerhouse that took the world by storm with her hit ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ in 2014 and hasn’t slowed down since. In fact, on July 4th of 2015, she received an honor that only 11 other women in country music hold. Her first single debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart! That initial moment set her up to be a force to be reckoned with in the music industry, and ever since, she’s been working hard to earn every achievement she’s been rewarded with.

Kelsea has topped the charts in both country and pop music with hits like ‘Dibs’, ‘Peter Pan’, and ‘Yeah Boy’. Her songs are easily relatable and part of that comes from the way she embeds emotion in everything from her lyrics to her vocals. Kelsea’s talent is raw and tangible and that’s part of what makes her so special. She’s also an absolute sweetheart, and her upbeat personality is contagious.

Kelsea just found out that she won iHeart’s 2017 Best New Country Artist award and after a killer Grammy performance – and engagement to boyfriend Morgan Evans – she’s been riding out the last few months on an incredible high. To top off the chart toppers, award nominations, and performances, Kelsea’s album The First Time received incredible reviews from both pop and country fans. The First Time is available in the UK as well as the US and as of February of 2017, sales in the states hit 249,300 copies.

Kelsea is inspirational, she’s lovely, and she was gracious enough to chat with us about her music, her inspirations, and how it feels to be taking the world by storm.

Kelsea, first things first, congratulations on winning iHeart’s 2017 best new country artist! We were rooting for you. What did you do as soon as you heard the news?
Celebrated and picked out my outfit to go to the show. This award is really special because it was voted on by my friends at radio and radio has been such a big beautiful partner with us in releasing my music through my first record and so it meant a lot to get that from them.

You’re also up for Best New Artist at the award show – how does it feel to be nominated in a category amongst such talent?
I was just nominated for best new artist at the Grammys with The Chainsmokers and Chance The Rapper too, so it’s really cool to be back in that same category with them again and a bunch of new people that I’m really excited to get to know at the award show too.

Sometimes, a new artist will come out with one or two hits off the bat but four of yours have already total smashes. From ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ to ‘Yeah Boy’ – how does it feel to know your music is that appreciated?
I think when you make a first record, all you want is for it to be heard on whatever level people decide to let it be heard and the fact that we’ve had four singles off of it and three number ones is really beautiful and makes me want to make an even better second record.

‘Peter Pan’ is a song that makes us all think of someone. I’ve talked to friends about it, and it just strikes a memory for all of us. Did writing that song bring up old memories for you, and if so, did you feel better once you saw how many people could relate?
Peter Pan is definitely more of a heart song than the other songs I’ve gotten to release, but it has been a really important song to me and definitely to other girls that I’ve gotten to talked with that have been in a relationship with people that weren’t as emotionally invested as they were and it’s a sad kind of heartbreak.

Speaking of the same song, it’s earned you quite a following with other young adults – especially girls – who have experienced heartache. That also allowed them to get to know your other songs too. What impact do you hope to have on your young women fans?
I wanted the whole heartbeat of my first record, The First Time, to be really empowering and I wanted to talk about the really fun and flirty side of life, but also the heartbreak side of life and the awkward and insecure side of life. I wanted girls to be able to listen to this album and feel empowered through it.

Your recent performance at the Grammys was incredible. Were you a big fan of Lukas Graham before the show?
Seven Years is one of the most impactful songs of the last two years and to be able to share the stage with him as a fellow songwriter too and just be able to appreciate each other’s talent was a really beautiful moment. It also made it easier to split my nerves and share that with someone else.

You’re currently on tour with Thomas Rhett, how are you enjoying that and what has been your favorite stop so far?
This tour has been incredible. Just being able to open up for Thomas, who’s one of the biggest artists in country music right now and truly one of the nicest guys ever, and I feel like we have a really similar fan base and it’s been really fun to just have a party all weekend every weekend and be able to share our music with the same people.

In the Billboard Issue, they asked if your album not having ‘big names’ associated with it made a difference in your success. Your answer was perfect, you wrote it with your friends, one that you’re proud of’ – does that success feel better to you? Knowing that you did it from the heart?
I think that being able to make The First Time without any pressure and with a lot of people that didn’t have any track record and we were all so naïve just added a different approach to it. Because we all were so eager to just make something we were proud of, that’s what made it so special. So tapping back into that naiveness making the next record has been really important to us.

If you could collaborate with anyone in country music right now, who would it be? How about across the board, any artist from any genre?
I’m on tour with Thomas Rhett right now and he’s such an amazing artist and songwriter so I’d love to collaborate with him.

What is your guilty pleasure song at the moment?
It’s been Starving by Hailee Steinfeld for like two months now, I’m obsessed with that song.

Who do you draw the most inspiration from when it comes to songwriting?
I really love writing about my life, whether it’s a good or bad phase or day, I really love writing about that.

Your fans are pretty dedicated to you, is there anything you’d like to say to all of them?
Being able to watch my fans show up to my first ever headlining tour and continue to give life to the album that I made and continue to call radio stations, I mean they’ve given me a fourth top ten right now, that’s incredible. It’s been a really big gift to be able to write music that touches people and then to get to meet them and play it for them is a really cool thing.

After talking to Kelsea, it’s easy to see why she is – and will continue to be – a star in the industry. She’s humble, she’s hardworking, and she cares about her fans. With that attitude and her talent, she’ll go far. If you’ve yet to check out Kelsea’s latest hit, ‘Yeah Boy’, you can watch the video below. It’s a must have on your playlists and the perfect song for anyone who’s riding through life with butterflies in their stomach.

Are you a fan of Kelsea? Tweet us at @CelebMix and let us know.

Written by Ashley

Writer, coffee drinker, mother.