Kelsea Ballerini's Big Full Circle

"We Didn't Even Know at the Time"

Before Kelsea Ballerini became a bona fide country star, she was a 20-year-old songwriter just singing songs at Country Radio Seminar four years ago.

She took industry publication Country Aircheck down that memory lane in its February issue.

"My first CRS was four years ago, which is crazy. I had just signed my record deal, but I was introducing myself as a writer at that point," Ballerini said.

"I remember we sat on this little Bluebird stage, which was really cool because it was in this big convention center room, but it felt like the Bluebird Cafe," she said. "A couple of friends and I got to sing a few songs we had written, and I got to sing a part of 'Love Me Like You Mean It,' which ended up being my introduction to radio. It was my first single, my first No. 1, and we didn't even know at the time that it would be the song that kicked everything off for me."

Ballerini had written "Love Me Like You Mean It" with Josh Kerr, Forest Glen Whitehead and Lance Carpenter. And even though she thought of herself as a songwriter first, that song became her debut single just a few months after that 2014 CRS.

"Looking back now at that stage," she said, "almost four years ago, as a songwriter, introducing myself with that song, it's a big full circle."

Ballerini just launched the Unapologetically tour on Feb. 8 in Birmingham, Ala. Her headlining debut at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium is tonight (Feb. 14). And today not only marks her first Valentine's Day as a Mrs. with husband Morgan Evans; it's also the three-year anniversary of her Grand Ole Opry debut.

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