So what Ballerini did first was write songs like the ones she heard from Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Faith Hill. But as she quickly discovered, “No one wanted to hear what I had to say because it was already said.”
Her Plan B was to go away and figure out: What is it you want to say? What do you want to be about? What do you want to stand for?
And when she did that, and started taking herself really seriously, then people listened. “People were like, ’Oh, she means this,'” Ballerini said.
Looking back on the trial and error that paved the way for her in Nashville, Ballerini wouldn’t really want to do it any other way. “I think it’s OK to love (other artists) and OK to take notes from them and learn from them, but I think discovering what you want to say in your voice is the most important thing you can do as an artist,” she said, “especially as a female.”
Even after earning her bona fides and becoming an undeniable power player in country music, there’s one thing that never gets old for Ballerini.
“I still freak out when I hear my song on the radio,” she said.
Ballerini’s sophomore album Unapologetically arrives Nov. 3.