Knoxville, Tennessee natives Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney have paired for the former’s new single, “Half of My Hometown.” On a recent edition of Taste of Country Nights, Ballerini told the story of how she, a rising star vocalist and Chesney, with his 32 Billboard Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay chart No. 1 singles, collaborated.
While preparing to play at the Playstation Theater in New York’s Times Square, Ballerini remembered getting a text a few weeks prior from Kenny Chesney — who had played the venue prior, and saw her concert forthcoming — saying, “I’m so proud of you, hometown girl.” “Two and a half years ago, it was the most encouraging and magical thing that could’ve happened to me,” Ballerini says. “The fact that [Chesney] knew who I was was wild.”
Fast forward, and she was writing “Half of My Hometown” with people that Chesney has worked with in the past, like Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, and Jimmy Robbins. She continues, “We finished writing the lyrics at 2 AM, and I thought Kenny (her “hometown hero”) would be a perfect addition,” she remembers.
Still possessing his phone number, Ballerini texted Chesney then and there, thinking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” He replied the next day. The “Hole In The Bottle” vocalist recalls him stating, “I love this song. It made me emotional listening to it. Let me figure out my plans because I want to do [the collaboration] and do it right.” After a few months elapsed, the tandem joined forces in the studio.
For Ballerini, it was an extraordinary moment. “I wore my ’Knoxville’ t-shirt and [Chesney] face-timed my dad. It was wild,” she noted. “My dad still lives in Knoxville, so when he got that face-time [from me], he couldn’t keep it cool.”