Country music hitmaker Kelsea Ballerini returned to Knoxville, TN, over the weekend to celebrate her 11-year reunion with her fellow classmates of Central High School. The “hole in the bottle” singer took to Twitter Sunday evening (May 8) to share photos and memories from the nostalgic affair.
“So after 13 years of being in Nashville, I decided to go to my reunion to be nostalgic with the people that made me love my hometown like I do. Go bobcats for effing ever,” Ballerini wrote on Twitter alongside a boomerang-like video of shot glasses.
The chart-topping artist created a thread on social media, where she documented every moment. The second snapshot featured Ballerini singing and dancing in a room, showing school spirit with her peers.
After Ballerini busted a move and flaunted her award-winning pipes, she posed in front of her school auditorium. The sacred stage holds sentimental value, because it was the first place she shared original material.
“Crushes. Music. Friendship. Heartbreak. Insecurity. Drive. The first time I played a song I wrote for anyone was in this auditorium,” she said while pointing to the theater.
It wasn’t long until the humble artist broke out the yearbook to reveal a black-and-white school portrait.
“There was tragedy and there was magic. And it made leaving this community to go chase down this naïve knowingness the truest meaning of bittersweet,” she uttered.
Ballerini shared that she never ended up receiving her diploma from Central High School, as she fled her tiny town to pursue her artistry in music city.
“Technically, I didn’t graduate from high school. I only spent my freshman and sophomore year there before moving to Nashville. But so much life happened here,” she explained with a sequence of photos featuring friends, a selfie, and a superlative for being a “world traveler.”
The reunion was not the first time the vocalist made an appearance at the high school, as she shot a portion of her music video for “half of my hometown” featuring East Tennessee native Kenny Chesney on the football field.
Ballerini penned the tribute track alongside Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally, and Jimmy Robbins. Following the release, the powerhouse songstress took home her first CMA Award win for Musical Event of the Year and Music Video of the Year for the heartwarming collaboration.
“I’m so proud that my first two CMAs are for a song that represents my roots and also celebrates the dream that made me leave to chase it down,” she said in a statement in November. “I remember growing up in Knoxville watching the CMAs…So this feels surreal and special to share this with so many of my songwriting friends, and my hometown hero Kenny Chesney. I can’t think of a better moment to keep on my shelf forever.”
The eight-time Entertainer of the Year, Kenny Chesney pointed out that the inspiration behind the lyrics is something that most listeners would have a difficult time resonating with.
“Growing up in East Tennessee, it’s a deeper kind of home. You have to have lived it to really understand," he shared. “Kelsea knows that, knows how hard it is to leave to chase a dream like music. It’s what made being part of “half of my hometown” so special! I know that feeling of everyone having an opinion, hating leaving all that love, and needing to go out and find your place in the songs.”
“half of my hometown,” which lives on Ballerini’s 2020 self-titled record “Kelsea,” also received nominations at the 2022 ACM Awards and the 2022 CMT Music Awards. The gold-certified hit marks Ballerini’s seventh No.1 song on the Mediabase Country Charts and has garnered 200 million + streams.