Before you even listen to Kelsea Ballerini’s music, just listening to Kelsea Ballerini talk about the music will kind of be like music to your ears.
Her third album Kelsea will be out on Friday (March 20), and in a recent radio interview, she had a lot to say about what went into her favorites from the 13 tracks, and what she set out to do with this project packed with oversharing.
But first, the title.
“The album kind of named itself. To be honest, I didn’t really have a theme like I did on my last record. I just wrote for two years,” she said, “and when I was sifting through my favorite songs it kind of seemed like it was a very self-aware, self-discovery period of my life. Which is why I named it Kelsea. Because it felt like if you listen to the 13 songs, we’d be on a first name basis after that.”
The first track “Overshare,” Ballerini admitted, is going to be exactly that.
The next one she talked about, “Homecoming Queen?” is more of a metaphor. “I wasn’t the homecoming queen. But I wrote it with Nicolle Galyon who was the homecoming queen in high school. So we kind of had both perspectives on that. But honestly, I was just in a season of my life where I put myself into this spiral of working and working and working and working,” she said, adding that Galyon reassured her, “You show up on time and you’re nice to everybody and you’re remember names and you’re successful. Like you’re the homecoming queen.” After hearing that, and having a good cry about it, Ballerini said she shared how insecure she was feeling. “And so it’s about having grace for yourself when you’re having those moments, but also having grace for everyone else not knowing their full story.”
Then she went into details about the last track, one she wrote by herself, called “LA.” “I’m proud that I was brave enough to put this on the album because I think it can be taken a lot of different ways. And honestly, one of the perspectives of the song is me being terrified that I am not experimenting musically. It’s me saying, ’If I pushed myself and I go outside of Nashville and I write with different people, and if I replace this banjo with a beat drop, is country music gonna be mad at me?’ There’s a line in it — one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written — and it says if I let down my hair in the ocean air, will Tennessee be mad at me? I know that I’m a country artist, I know where my roots are, I know what matters, but I understand perception is reality.”
Then she shared the story behind “Hole in the Bottle,” Ballerini’s first official drinkin’ song. “We (Ballerini, Steph Jones, Hillary Lindsey, Jesse Frasure, and Ashley Gorley) were in Florida writing and went out to dinner to celebrate having a productive trip writing. We had a bunch of wine. Then we got back to the house and Jesse Frasure was playing some tracks that he was excited about. And Hillary Lindsey just goes, ’There is a hole in the bottle,’ just joking, and we all just started adding lines. And then at the end of it we kind of looked at each other and we’re like, ’Wait. Is this really hooky? Maybe we should rewrite a couple of bits and tighten it up.’ And we did. And it’s one of my favorites on the album.”
After that, she gets into “Needy,” a song Ballerini considers the one with a yin and yang vibe. “This song is basically saying I need more people in my life than just my husband (Morgan Evans). My favorite line in the song is, ’The truth is me and you we’re wired different.’ There are things in my life that only my husband understands about me, but there are also things in my life that I need my friends for, I need my mom for, I need my dad for. I need those other relationships. I love being independent. I love being self sufficient. I have my routines. So it’s been really difficult for me to settle into the idea of needing someone else and sharing everything with someone else. So “Needy” says it’s actually okay to need somebody. It doesn’t mean you’re co-dependent, it means that you have the amount of trust with someone that you’ve allowed into your world that you’re saying, ’I’m going to allow myself to need you.'”
When the conversation turns to “Club,” it sounds like it’s the one that brings Ballerini’s past FOMO to life. “When I started on my radio tour, I was 20, I was still under age, so I never really had those crazy party college years or whatever. And I think because I didn’t and a lot of my friends did, I always thought I was missing out on something. And then over the last few years — whether it’s an after party from an awards show or occasionally getting to go out with friends — the mystery of the club scene was solved for me and I was like, ’Oh this is not fun. I don’t like this. I would have so much rather just be at home with my friends playing board games.'”
On “Half of My Hometown,” she opened up about growing up in Knoxville with Kenny Chesney as one of her biggest influences. “There’s a difference between home and hometown. Obviously I live in Nashville, but Knox was my hometown. I was so excited to leave when I was 15, because I just wanted to go to Nashville and be a country singer. I never took the time to miss it until recently. And I know Kenny grew up really similarly, and he’s my hometown hero. I had only had a couple of interactions with him before, but I had this random moment of boldness where I just texted him the song. That’s so not my personality, but I did it and he was nice enough to lend his voice to it, which is incredible.”
Then Ballerini talked about “Love and Hate,” one she started writing on a red eye flight, and then collaborated with Ed Sheeran and Ross Copperman to finish it. “I knew I wanted to write at least one ballad with (Sheeran). And I came in with what I thought was the chorus and I played it for him. And he just looks at me and he grabs the guitar and he’s like, ’What if that’s the verse and we write something even better for the chorus?’ And then like most of the chorus just falls out of his mouth.”
Check out the full track list for Kelsea:
1. overshare (Ballerini, Josh Osborne, Jesse Frasure, and Tayla Parx)
2. club (Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, and Jimmy Robbins)
3. homecoming queen? (Ballerini, Galyon, and Robbins)
4. the other girl, with Halsey (Ballerini, Shane McAnally, and Ross Copperman)
5. love me like a girl (Ballerini, Lauren Grieve, Copperman, Hillary Lindsey, and Jordan Minton)
6. love and hate (Ballerini, Ed Sheeran, and Copperman)
7. bragger (Ballerini, McAnally, Robbins, Galyon, and Copperman)
8. hole in the bottle (Ballerini, Steph Jones, Lindsey, Frasure, and Ashley Gorley)
9. half of my hometown, feat. Kenny Chesney (Ballerini, McAnally, Copperman, Robbins, and Galyon)
10. the way i used to (Ballerini, Jones, Cass Lowe, Marcus Lomax, Samuel George Lewis, Julian Bunetta, and Ian Kirkpatrick)
11. needy (Ballerini, Copperman, and Julia Michaels)
12. a country song (Ballerini, Galyon, and Robbins)
13. la (Ballerini)